DOL Allows Private Equity Investments in 401(k) Plans

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued an information letter stating that a fiduciary that complies with the requirements of Title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) may include private equity as an investment option for 401(k) plan participants.

In its information letter, the DOL noted that, “Private equity investments…present additional considerations to participant-directed individual account plans that are different than those involved in defined benefit plans. In making such a selection for an individual account plan, the fiduciary must engage in an objective, thorough, and analytical process that compares the asset allocation fund with appropriate alternative funds that do not include a private equity component, anticipated opportunities for investment diversification and enhanced investment returns, as well as the complexities associated with the private equity component.”

When making a determination regarding a private equity component, the DOL recommends that a plan fiduciary consider the following:

  • Whether adding the particular asset allocation fund with a private equity component would offer plan participants the opportunity to invest their accounts among more diversified investment options within an appropriate range of expected returns net of fees (including management fees, performance compensation, or other fees or costs that would impact the returns received) and diversification of risks over a multi-year period;
  • Whether the asset allocation fund is overseen by plan fiduciaries (using third-party investment experts as necessary) or managed by investment professionals that have the capabilities, experience, and stability to manage an asset allocation fund that includes private equity investments effectively given the nature, size, and complexity of the private equity activity; and
  • Whether the asset allocation fund has limited the allocation of investments to private equity in a way that is designed to address the unique characteristics associated with such an investment, including cost, complexity, disclosures, and liquidity, and has adopted features related to liquidity and valuation designed to permit the asset allocation fund to provide liquidity for participants to take benefits and direct exchanges among the plan’s investment line-up consistent with the plan’s terms.

The experienced, responsive team of ERISA attorneys at Hall Benefits Law helps plan administrators understand what regulations and rulings are relevant and how best to apply these rulings in practice. Learn more by calling 678-439-6236.

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Hall Benefits Law, LLC

HBL offers employers comprehensive legal guidance on benefits in mergers and acquisitions, Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs), executive compensation, health and welfare benefits, healthcare reform, and retirement plans. We counsel a wide spectrum of clients including small, mid-sized, and large companies, 401(k) investment advisors, health insurance brokers, accountants, attorneys, and HR consultants, just to name a few. HBL is passionate about advising clients, and we are dedicated to our mission: to provide comprehensive, personalized, and practical ERISA and benefits legal solutions that exceed client expectations.

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