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House Panel OKs 401(k) Disclosure, Investment Advice Rules

The investment-advice legislation was revised to make clear its provisions wouldn’t pre-empt existing advice arrangements that rely on the Department of Labor’s SunAmerica advisory opinion—or other DOL advice exemptions.

June 17, 2009
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A House subcommittee on Wednesday, June 17, approved two separate defined-contribution-related bills aimed at enhancing fee disclosure requirements and barring plans from offering participants investment advice that might be subject to conflicts of interest.

The fee disclosure measure approved by the House Health, Employment, Pensions and Labor Subcommittee retained a controversial provision that effectively requires defined-contribution plans to include at least one index fund as an investment option.

The investment-advice legislation was revised to make clear its provisions wouldn't pre-empt existing advice arrangements that rely on the Department of Labor’s SunAmerica advisory opinion—or other DOL advice exemptions. (The 2001 SunAmerica advisory opinion cleared the way for service providers to offer advice to defined-contribution plan participants through an affiliated adviser using an independently developed computer model. When Rep. Rob Andrews, D-New Jersey—the subcommittee’s chairman—introduced the measure April 21, he said it was intended to ensure that plan participants received untainted advice. But at the time, lobbyists expressed concern that Andrews’ bill would undermine existing advice arrangements.)

Each bill was approved by a 13-8 party-line vote, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.

Aaron Albright, a spokesman for Rep. George Miller, D-California, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said the bills now go to the full committee. He didn’t know when they would be scheduled for votes.

Filed by Douglas Halonen of Pensions & Investments, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

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