Avoiding Fiduciary Liability in 2019: Steps 401(k) Fiduciaries Should Take Now

Plan fiduciaries, regardless of their title, are expected to perform their duties solely in the best interests of plan participants and their beneficiaries. In addition, plan fiduciaries are expected to act prudently. Failing to do so, and failing to comply with Department of Labor (DOL) fiduciary responsibilities, can lead to a fiduciary liability lawsuit. What follows are actionable suggestions on avoiding fiduciary liability in 2019.

 

Hire and Monitor the Right People

Fiduciaries can’t know everything. Often, they must hire legal counsel, vendors, accountants, financial advisers, and appraisal experts to provide advice and assistance.

However, although fiduciaries may not be physically performing the work, they are (pursuant to ERISA’s fiduciary requirements) responsible for hiring qualified people who do so.

Invest Prudently

Plan fiduciaries are always expected to act prudently and in the best interests of the plan participants and their beneficiaries. This also applies to investments held by the plan.

Specifically, fiduciaries are expected to diversify the plan’s investments. It’s also critical to follow the terms of the plan if they are consistent with ERISA. In addition, plan fiduciaries must watch for and avoid conflicts of interests.

Watch Fees

Fees may be paid for a number of legitimate plan-related expenses. However, fiduciaries are responsible for making sure that services are necessary and reasonable. Periodic review is advisable.

Follow Plan Terms Carefully

It’s vitally important for plan fiduciaries to understand and follow the terms of the plan. After all, the plan is the foundation for everything that follows. The plan should be updated as needed. For example, any changes to the plan or to the fiduciaries overseeing the plan should be addressed in the plan documents immediately, if possible.

Avoid Fiduciary Liability Claims

If you hope to avoid claims and lawsuits, this is the time to review your plans and protocols. Make sure you are fully compliant and that everyone, especially plan fiduciaries, understands their role.

At Hall Benefits Law, we work extensively with employees to develop and maintain employee benefit plans.  Please call 678-439-6236 to discuss your concerns with an experienced attorney. Our website contains more information about our firm, a Contact Form, and free resources for your review. From our home office in Georgia, we assist clients throughout the United States, from New York to California.

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