Following the release in 2015 of the US Department of Labor’s proposed fiduciary rule, many commentators feared that communications that had previously been characterized as “investment education” would now constitute “investment advice,” thereby giving rise to fiduciary status and potential liability under ERISA. The DOL incorporated into the final rule, almost without change, an Interpretative Bulletin issued by the DOL in 1996 (“IB 96-1”), which drew a thin line between advice and education in four areas: (1) plan information, (2) general financial and investment information, (3) asset allocation models, and (4) interactive investment materials. The incorporation of the principles of IB 96-1 into the final rule is helpful but limited, as the final rule leaves a number of interactions between financial institutions and retail retirement clients in a gray zone, particularly when it comes to information provided on web sites and call centers where specific funds or investment products may be mentioned by name. This publication provides a description of non-fiduciary education under the final rule.
View full memo, The DOL’s New Fiduciary Rule: The Thin Line Between Education and Advice