Whether we’re talking fashion or music or architecture or barber shops, it seems things that have faded from existence eventually come back around. See if this cycle looks familiar: cutting edge becomes status quo becomes so last week becomes so [insert decade] becomes retro becomes vintage.
Topic Archive: Qualified Plan
If you’ve spent any time working with retirement plans, you know how complicated they can be. It seems like every rule has an exception and an exception to that exception. It is no wonder that accidents occasionally happen despite everyone’s best efforts to follow the rules.
“Real estate doesn't interest me. It's no doubt a great flaw in my personality, but I can't think in terms of boundaries. Those imaginary lines are as unreal to me as elves and pixies.” -- Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
I was recently asked to write an article on ERISA Section 404(c). As I contemplated how to approach the article, I recalled many situations in which I have heard 404(c) pitched as the mythical silver bullet to save plan fiduciaries from the specter of liability associated with participant-directed investments.
An article appeared yesterday on CFO.com entitled “New 401(k) Obligations Heaped on CFOs” and it carried a tagline stating “New disclosure rules abound, but pay close attention or you could be sued by plan participants.”
After my weekend post on "easy" plans not being so easy, I happened across this post by Ary Rosenbaum. It is a variation on the theme and focuses more on the size of the plan rather than its design complexity. The conclusion...size often matters when it comes to the quality of service. Small plans (often viewed by many as being synonymous with "easy" plans) often encounter more compliance issues simply because they are not receiving the level of expert attention as larger plans. They also tend to view their plans as being less expensive, because they are not aware of the various undisclosed costs being charged against plan assets.
Qualified plans are complicated beasts regardless of size or design. This truth is sometimes forgotten at this time of year when sponsors and service-providers are busy dealing with nondiscrimination testing and contribution calculations. I've many situations in which a plan sponsor decided to skip testing for a year, because their plan was so easy there was no way it could fail. Similarly, I've seen service-providers decide to skip the critical peer review step in their process, because nothing could possibly have been missed on such an easy plan.
As the EGTRRA restatement window closes for pre-approved DC plans and begins to open for pre-approved DB plans, I thought I would pontificate on the importance of the plan document. Qualified plans are required to be maintained pursuant to a written plan document. Operating the plan inconsistent with terms in that document is an operational failure that can threaten a plan’s qualified status.