DOL issues final rule to help states establish workplace retirement savings programs

State plans would not be subject to ERISA, which some in the industry fear will give them a leg up on private plans

Aug 25, 2016 @ 12:52 pm

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

The Department of Labor released a final regulation Thursday that will make it easier for states to establish their own workplace retirement savings programs.

Introduced last November, the rule clarifies that state plans would not be subject to the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act and could not be pre-empted by the statute as long as they met certain conditions. This move eases liability risks.

Eight states — California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, Massachusetts and Washington — have approved legislation that establishes state-run retirement plans. Many of them require businesses that don't offer retirement programs to automatically enroll their workers in an individual retirement account overseen by the state.

The final DOL rule came out as California is poised to pass enabling legislation that sets up its plan.

The Obama administration hopes that the regulation will encourage more states to pass their own retirement programs in order to cover the approximately one-third of workers who don't have access to a workplace plan.

“Today's rule will pave the way for states to create and implement innovative new ways for workers to save,” Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said on a conference call with reporters Thursday.

The state plans will not run afoul of ERISA as long as they are established and administered by the state, require minimal participation by employers and are voluntary for employees. Employers do not have to contribute funds to the plans but do have to set up automatic deductions in their payroll systems.

The Financial Services Institute warned of “unintended consequences” of the DOL rule.

“The financial services industry already provides numerous, reasonably priced retirement savings options for Main Street Americans, including IRAs which are readily accessible,” David Bellaire, FSI executive vice president and general counsel, said in a statement. “We are also concerned that some employers may choose to drop strong existing plans in order to reduce their costs. This would be harmful to impacted workers because state-run plans do not provide for the matching funds that are common in employer-based plans.”

Mr. Perez shot back at the assertion that state plans would crowd financial advisers out of the retirement plan market.

“I find that criticism to be patently laughable. These people who figure out a reason to say 'no' have no alternative,” Mr. Perez said, referring to groups that oppose state-run plans.

But one expert countered that allowing state-run plans to operate outside ERISA while making private plans meet ERISA requirements tilts the playing field toward the states.

“They effectively push private providers out of the marketplace, and we don't think that's a good outcome,” said Judy Miller, director of retirement policy at the American Retirement Association. “There are providers that are geared up to [offer plans] on a very cost-effective basis. Subjecting them to ERISA makes it too expensive.”

The DOL also proposed a rule Thursday that would allow cities that are at least as big as the smallest state — Wyoming — to establish their own retirement programs for non-covered workers.

“These are two important steps to putting a secure and dignified retirement within the reach of tens of millions of Americans,” Mr. Perez said.

The administration moved ahead with the rule to catalyze activity at the state level because Republicans in Congress have ignored a provision in President Barack Obama's annual budget proposal that would establish a federal-level automatic IRA, according to Mr. Perez.

Republicans have resisted auto-IRA legislation because they assert that it is a mandate on small businesses.

“The Republicans don't seem to be on the side of ordinary Americans trying to save for retirement,” Mr. Perez said.

0
Comments

What do you think?

View comments

Recommended for you

RIA Data Center

Use InvestmentNews' RIA Data Center to filter and find key information on over 1,400 fee-only registered investment advisory firms.

Rank RIAs by

Upcoming Event

Nov 13

Conference

Best Practices Workshop

For the sixth year, InvestmentNews will host the Best Practices Workshop & Awards, bringing together the industry’s top-performing and most influential firms in one room for a full-day. This exclusive workshop and awards program for the... Learn more

Featured video

INTV

How men and women think differently about philanthropy

Women are more emotionally connected to their gifts, and want to donate time as well, says special projects editor Liz Skinner.

Latest news & opinion

The power of philanthrophy shifts to women, and advisers are taking notice

Philanthropic women are growing in number — and stature.

Cetera brokers may go elsewhere with no stay bonuses on horizon

Some may feel spurned and leave, while others will simply shrug off latest slight and stay.

Fidelity backs away from being 'point in time' fiduciary for 401(k) plans

Some advisers think this indicates other providers will pivot in light of DOL fiduciary rule's death.

Morgan Stanley CEO is happy that brokers are staying put

Firm has seen little attrition since it dumped the broker protocol last fall, Gorman says.

Bills to reform adviser regulation, increase sophisticated investors and protect seniors pass House

Measures included in package of 32 bipartisan bills meant to ease rules, spur investment

X

Hi! Glad you're here and we hope you like all the great work we do here at InvestmentNews. But what we do is expensive and is funded in part by our sponsors. So won't you show our sponsors a little love by whitelisting investmentnews.com? It'll help us continue to serve you.

Yes, show me how to whitelist investmentnews.com

Ad blocker detected. Please whitelist us or give premium a try.

X

Subscribe and Save 60%

Premium Access
Print + Digital

Learn more
Subscribe to Print