Tag: Fiducary

Department of Labor Issues Relief Guidance for Victims of California Wildfires

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued benefit plan guidance and relief for plans and participants affected by the 2018 California Wildfires. The DOL recognizes that plan sponsors and participants may be affected in their ability to achieve compliance with various regulatory requirements. The guidance generally applies to all parties involved in employee benefit plans located in areas identified by FEMA as disaster areas, listed here: www.fema.gov/disasters.

The guidance provides relief from procedures related to plan loans and loan repayment, distributions, contributions and blackout notices. In general, the DOL will not take enforcement actions if plans follow the guiding principle to act reasonably, prudently and in the best interests of workers and families who rely on the plans for their economic well-being.
Specific guidance is offered in certain areas:
• Loans and Distributions: Plan sponsors must make a good faith effort to follow procedural requirements under the plan, but the DOL will not assist with requirements and if unable, make a reasonable attempt to assemble any missing documentation as soon as practicable.
• Participant Contributions and Loan Repayments: The DOL recognizes that some employers in these disaster areas may not be able to forward amounts withheld from employee wages within prescribed timeframes. Employers are required to act reasonably, prudently and in the interest of employees and comply with the regulations as soon as practicable. The DOL will not take enforcement action if timelines were not met solely due to the 2018 California Wildfires, in the FEMA-identified areas.
• Blackout Notices: Generally, 30 days’ advance notice is required when a participant’s rights under a plan will be temporarily suspended, limited or restricted due to a blackout period. The DOL regulations provide an exception to this requirement when the inability to provide notice within the required timeframe is due to events beyond the plan sponsor’s or fiduciary’s control.

The full DOL fact sheet can be found here. Your advisor is available to answer any questions you may have or help you determine practical approaches to meeting fiduciary duties and requirements.

Strategic Retirement Partners Embraces Fiduciary Excellence

Our firm was founded on the principles of integrity, professionalism and exceptional client service. We are also deeply committed to continuous improvement. Our dedication to doing what is best for you, our clients, prompted us to engage CEFEX, the Centre for Fiduciary Excellence, LLC to audit our processes.

We contacted the CEFEX organization and requested an independent analyst provide us with a comprehensive independent review. The process was rigorous and their assessment took months to complete. Now, after going through the audit and carefully evaluating our procedures, we are proud to share with you that Strategic Retirement Partners is a CEFEX certified Investment Advisor.

This certification signifies our commitment to uphold the highest level of fiduciary care and that has a direct impact on you, your plan and your employees. As a plan sponsor, the Department of Labor (DOL) identifies the following as your fiduciary responsibilities:

  • Act solely in the interest of plan participants and their beneficiaries and with the exclusive purpose of providing benefits to them;
  • Act prudently in the faithful performance of all duties;
  • Follow the plan documents (unless inconsistent with ERISA);
  • Diversify plan investments; and
  • Pay only reasonable plan expenses.

By working with Strategic Retirement Partners, you can rest assured that our actions align with these responsibilities; our prudent process aims to help you limit liability and build a retirement plan that strives to improve retirement outcomes.

CEFEX is an independent global assessment and certification organization. They work closely with industry experts to provide comprehensive assessment programs designed to improve the fiduciary practices of investment advisors, stewards (retirement plans, foundations and endowments, etc.), investment managers, and other financial service providers. CEFEX confers a formal certification for those firms that are willing to undergo an independent audit and able to demonstrate that they fully conform to high standards which are substantiated in case law and fiduciary best practices.

At Strategic Retirement Partners, we follow well-defined processes, grounded in best practices, so that we can make sound, objective, and consistent decisions in service to our clients. CEFEX certification offers testament to the fact that we understand the importance of paying close attention to everything from high level strategies and policies all the way down to the details of our business practices. The CEFEX Mark seeks to make our clients confident that we are worthy of their trust.

We wanted to share news of the important recognition of our commitment to fiduciary excellence and continuous improvement. CEFEX certification is yet another way we tangibly demonstrate that serving our clients’ best interests is our highest priority.

 

 

1 Department of Labor. “Meeting Your Fiduciary Responsibilities.” DOL.gov. Sept. 2017

CEFEX and Strategic Retirement Partners are separate, unaffiliated entities.

SRP Earns Fiduciary Excellence Certification

Strategic Retirement Partners is honored to announce our certification from the Centre for Fiduciary Excellence, LLC (CEFEX). This certification is only granted by CEFEX to firms that demonstrate adherence to fiduciary best practices. It is a hallmark accomplishment for Strategic Retirement Partners as it signifies conformity to a recognized global standard of fiduciary excellence.

Strategic Retirement Partners was subject to a rigorous, multi-month audit and certification process guided by the “Prudent Practices® for Investment Advisors”, an industry-recognized handbook that is grounded in law, regulation and professional best practices.

“CEFEX is pleased to add Strategic Retirement Partners to an elite group of investment advisors who have demonstrated adherence to professional practices that define a standard of fiduciary excellence,” said CEFEX Managing Director Carlos Panksep. “They have earned the right to use the CEFEX Mark which indicates the firm’s established practices are aligned with investors’ interests and worthy of trust and confidence.”

Jeffrey Cullen, Managing Partner and Managing Director, Great Lakes of Strategic Retirement Partners said, “Strategic Retirement Partners applied for CEFEX to verify our practice is trustworthy and transparent. Receiving the CEFEX certification, we uphold the global fiduciary standard. We embrace an orderly and efficient process, so we are positioned to help our clients make better business and financial decisions.”

Strategic Retirement Partners is certified for Investment Advisor Certification, which is registered and can be viewed at www.cefex.org.

CEFEX certification standards are substantiated by legislation, case law and regulatory opinion letters from the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, the Uniform Prudent Investor Act (UPIA), the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act (UPMIFA) and the Uniform Management of Public Employee Retirement Systems Act (UMPERSA) in the U.S. A full copy of the standard can be downloaded from CEFEX at www.cefex.org and a summary can be viewed by clicking on Strategic Retirement Partners online CEFEX certificate.

 

Records and Their Expiration Dates

“What records should I keep? How long should I keep them? How should I organize my files?”

Advisors have been asked these questions time and time again by plan sponsors looking for a general guideline for record expiration dates.

Record retention doesn’t need to be a mystery, and the filing system doesn’t need to become a tomb. For audits, remember the following requirements.*

As for organizing your fiduciary file, we suggest a format that includes the following sections:

1. Documents with all plan documents, amendments, tax filings and so on.

2. Administrative for all audit results, contribution records, Fiduciary Plan Review meeting minutes, fee benchmarkings, participant complaints.

3. Participant Communication containing copies of enrollment materials, communications and memos, and meeting sign-in sheets.

4. Investments with a listing of fund menu with expenses, Fiduciary Investment Review meeting minutes.

If a participant, auditor, or DOL agent requested plan information, could you find it quickly? The key is twofold: keep the things you need and store them so you can find them easily.

Of course, these are only general guidelines. For questions about your specific case, contact your plan advisor to discuss best practices for keeping records.

*For litigation purposes, we recommend that documents be retained indefinitely.