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FiduciaryNews Trending Topics for ERISA Plan Sponsors: Week Ending 12/30/11

January 03
00:13 2012

1020805_25983300_Trending_Topics_2012.01.03_stock_xchng_royalty_free_300Welcome to Fiduciary News Trending Topics. Each Monday, we’ll give you a quick synopsis of the major news events and trends impacting ERISA plan sponsors, 401k fiduciaries and those in the business of supporting these fine folks. If you smile when you read these entertaining snippets, well, that’s the idea. If you think we’re missing something important, then please let us know. But, note this well, we avoid press releases masquerading as news stories (even though they might be reported by journalists) as well as mass media pabulum that merely mouths investment myths and mistakes.

FiduciaryNews Lead Story:
Top Ten Most Widely Read FiduciaryNews.com Stories in 2011,” (Fiduciary News, December 27, 2011). We may have expected too much from 2011 but the popularity of these stories might reveal more than the news making headlines of the past year.

Compliance – Ch-ch-changes…:
A new year ushers in a new way of thinking. Actually, the way of thinking isn’t all that new, it’s just gaining more acceptance.
Conn Town to Switch to 457b,” (PLANSPONSOR.com, December 27, 2011) According to the article, this will save the town millions. Is this a harbinger of government retirement plans to come?
Retirement-plan changes coming in 2012,” (MarketWatch, December 28, 2011) A run-down of the usual suspects. A good article for those trying to catch up on things.
Three 401k Reforms That Can Help Save America’s Retirement,” (Forbes, December 28, 2011) All three suggestions make too much sense for a dysfunctional Washington to ever enact.

Fiduciary – Waiting for Washington:
Godot doesn’t have a chance when it comes to Washington tardiness. Let’s see if the promises of 2011 are kept in 2012.
Rules and Regs – Redefining ‘Fiduciary’,” (PLANSPONSOR.com, December 27, 2011) Although originally published in November, this article provides a good overview of the DOL’s retrenchment, which might not be as retrenching as we thought.
Outlook 2012: Washington — Final Outcomes on Fiduciary, SRO?” (AdvisorOne, December 29, 2011) A rehash of the usual suspects.

Investments – Remember this?:
With all the talk of fiduciary and 401k regulations, are we that much sooner to paying attention to investments again?
Mutual Fund Fees on Display,” (Wall Street Journal, December 24, 2011) The Wall Street Journal asks a bunch of indexers if they can explain the outperformance of actively managed funds over the last decade. These gurus naturally claim to have found the answer: the advantage of actively management funds can be isolated to three factors – beta, size and style – all of which, these indexers allege, can be duplicated with “cheaper” ETFs. Setting aside the whole ETF issue, the question is “Who’s going to decide how to manage the ever changing allocation of these ETFs? And how much will they charge for the service? And isn’t this the definition of an actively managed portfolio?” When will this moot debate ever stop?
Tales from the mutual-fund crypt,” (MarketWatch, December 25, 2011) Chuck Jaffe offers another fine dish, this time highlighting a couple of dead mutual funds. Read it then look at your due diligence list. Can you think of any things to add?
Exemptions for 401k investment advice become final,” (Pensions & Investments, December 28, 2011) The DOL’s rule is now final. Individual investment advice involving conflicts-of-interest will now be allowed either “through the use of a computer model certified as unbiased, or through an advisor compensated on a “level fee” that does not change based on investment choices.”

Major Plan Sponsor Moves and News:
What are other plan sponsors and fiduciaries doing with their plans? And how are participants responding? The latest in legal proceedings involving plan sponsors and fiduciaries.
University of Delaware Announces Investment Option Changes,” (PLANSPONSOR.com, December 30, 2011)

Wisdom from Some of Our Favorite Blogs:
fi360 Blog: Fiduciary Links: Our predictions for 2012

Hot Tips from Popular Web Resources:
Plan Sponsor Council of America: Yesterday Explains Today’s 401k

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About Author

Christopher Carosa, CTFA

Christopher Carosa, CTFA

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