DO YOU HAVE?
No more late nights worrying about your workplace retirement plan.
Do you know what revenue-sharing is and if it exists in your plan
Did you hire a fiduciary or a broker for your 401(K)
Am I the Employee Fiduciary to my plan
Is it time to transform your target-date offering
What is my Fiduciary responsibility as a plan sponsor
Workplace Financial wellness, do you offer it
Understanding Your Business NEEDS
WORKPLACE RETIREMENT SOLUTIONS.
At Ashton Thomas, we know every company has specific priorities and objectives for its retirement plan. But some concerns are universal. Such as, you don’t have a lot of time to think about—much less manage—your retirement benefit plan. You don’t know all the legalities behind being “a plan sponsor” by offering a retirement plan to employees, or how regulatory authorities view your responsibilities. You don’t know how much it really costs, or whether or not the underlying investments offered are really sound or managed well.
That’s where we come in. We have a team committed to helping you provide retirement benefits for yourself and your employees in the most efficient and economical way possible. We know that every plan needs to be properly structured and clearly focused on specific outcomes. We take a “team” approach to pursue desired results, educate and deliver professional advice, keep abreast of today’s changing economic and legislative environment, and provide ongoing plan monitoring and service.
How FIT Is Your 401(k) Plan?
EMPLOYER’S ROLE AS A FIDUCIARY IS IMPORTANT. WE’RE HERE TO HELP.
As an employer your fiduciary duties are continuously evolving. Ashton Thomas offers guidance and materials that can help navigate the ever-changing fiduciary challenges presented to workplace retirement plan sponsors. To help you meet these challenges, our fiduciary guide, fiduciary checklist, along with other materials, provide high-quality education that reflects the latest thinking in this area.
Your Fiduciary GUIDE
Helping employers understand their fiduciary duties.
Fiduciary duties and responsibilities are a growing responsibility for employers and Ashton Thomas is here to help you meet these challenges. We are committed to providing high quality education that reflects the latest and best thinking in this area.
WHO IS A FIDUCIARY?
Many individuals involved in running the company 401(k) or other retirement plan are not fiduciaries under ERISA (The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974), such as the people who handle the day-to-day activities but do not exercise discretion. A person will generally be considered a fiduciary only to the extent the person applies discretionary authority or control over plan management or administration.
Basic ERISA Fiduciary Duties
LOYALTY & PRUDENCE
ERISA requires that fiduciaries act solely in the interest of plan participants and beneficiaries, for the exclusive purpose of providing benefits to them, and that participants pay only reasonable plan expenses. “Prudence” is the cornerstone of a fiduciary’s duty under ERISA and the test for evaluating a fiduciary’s prudence is whether the fiduciary arrived at his or her decision by way of a diligent investigatory process.
Most plans are set up to allow participants to decide how to invest their plan accounts. Nonetheless, plan fiduciaries do have responsibility for choosing the investment options that will be made available to participants. Some decide to appoint an investment committee responsible for selection and oversight, or hire an investment adviser to provide professional advice, or outsource decision-making authority to an investment manager.
Overseeing Service Providers
As an ERISA fiduciary, there are a wide range of potential service providers you may need to employ to properly operate your plan. You should consider your plan’s specific needs in light of the resources internally available to determine what kinds of service providers you should seek to hire.
Required participant communications and disclosures are the responsibility of the plan and are intended to ensure that participants have been informed of their rights and obligations under the plan. These include periodic benefit statements, distribution of the Summary Plan Description and the Summary of Material Modifications, Black-Out Notices, and 404a-5 participant disclosure notices.
You may choose to oﬀer a matching contribution (or not) as well as develop specific eligibility criteria fitting your workforce. You can also choose whether to provide participant education or investment advice (or not).
401(k) plans have increased pressure and scrutiny on their performance due to ERISA-based litigation challenging plan fees and the selection of investments oﬀered in the plans, and more employee plaintiffs collectively bringing suit and winning awards. ERISA can impose personal liability on fiduciaries for losses caused by fiduciary breaches.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has more than 300 investigators in 10 regional oﬃces across the country who focus on ERISA plans. The DOL has broad powers to subpoena records and compel personnel to testify. The DOL can bring suit in federal court as well, which can include claims to recover monetary losses or disgorge profits, and for civil penalties and injunctive relief.
Subject to certain exemptions, ERISA imposes mandatory bonding requirements. If you are the plan fiduciary, you are responsible for ensuring that these bonding requirements are met both for yourself and for any non-exempt service provider who handles plan funds. Because the bond (often called a fidelity bond) is to protect the plan, the plan may pay for the bond costs.
Unlike fidelity bonding, fiduciary insurance is not required. It is often advisable, however, because ERISA can impose personal liability on fiduciaries for losses caused by fiduciary breaches. Many insurance policies (e.g., Director and Oﬃcer’s or Employment Practices Liability Insurance) specifically exclude coverage for ERISA fiduciary claims, so it is important to review your insurance coverage to make sure you are covered by a fiduciary rider or a separate policy.
Your Fiduciary CHECKLIST
Assessing the risks employers face as a fiduciary.
There are risks involved with offering an employee retirement plan. At Ashton Thomas, we know that knowledge is power, and hiring the right experienced and qualified team members is key to mitigating risk. Unless you put the right team in place, you will be 100% responsible for every part of your retirement plan, from the investments chosen to the record-keeping to the auditing.
We’ve developed this scorecard to help make you aware of the risks and arm you with information. The Ashton Thomas team exists to help employers meet their fiduciary responsibilities in an easy-to-manage way. We go through an extensive checklist—much longer than this score card—to help ensure that your fiduciary risk is spread among qualified parties.
Workplace Retirement Plan BLUEPRINT
A guide to fees, investments and your fiduciary responsibility
Ashton Thomas designs an overarching plan for employers that we call our “Workplace Retirement Plan Blueprint.” The Workplace Retirement Plan Blueprint serves to outline the criteria for selecting and monitoring the various providers and investment options, and is an easy-to-follow guide to best-practice principles so you can confidently take the right steps forward. It provides the strategy, tactics and advice you need as an employer to help you take your business to the next level—one step at a time.