Understanding what a fiduciary is, and what it means to be a fiduciary is key to being a good fiduciary. Unfortunately, the demands of day to day concerns as a business person makes switching gears and becoming a fiduciary on-demand almost impossible. We've developed a training program that:
Helps plan sponsors understand the distinction between fiduciary and "settlor" (corporate) functions, and to identify when the corporate "hat" needs to be removed (completely, or in part) to function appropriately with the fiduciary "hat" on.
Inventories the fiduciary functions that non-fiduciaries have been performing, and indentify those individuals who should be directly or indirectly responsible for completion or oversight of these functions.
Results in the establishment of a "best practices" approach uniquely tailored to their needs and desires as a plan sponsor and business operator, consistent with the precepts of ERISA.
Establishes parameters for documenting the processes undertaken in fiduciary decision making and the decisions produced, and appropriate approaches to communicating decisions to participants affected.
Works to minimize risks (first, by understanding the risks involved) and establish management parameters and protections to mitigate both sponsor and individual liability.
Having a "reference manual" of ERISA's requirements and the relevant case law isn't very useful to busy business professionals - who have many other, non-fiduciary, obligations on their plate. We take a different approach to providing fiduciary education that is highly customized to each employer's situation, and designed to help our clients "think like a fiduciary" and become keen issue spotters. When one "thinks like a fiduciary," they are cognizant of the right approach to decision making which generally leads to the right outcome - especially since ERISA's requirement are for a "prudent process."
By focusing on "thinking like a fiduciary" rather than simply providing a case book type reference of fiduciary regulations and litigation, our clients become more attuned to their obligations when they are wearing the "fiduciary hat" and are more able to remove the "employer hat" when appropriate.
Our program starts with a training session that ideally takes about 3 hours to complete. During this session, which typically includes committee members and members of senior management, an overview of fiduciary obligations, processes, documentation, and items of unique or special interest to the employer (such as company stock in plans, inclusion of "rank and file" employees on committees, etc.) are covered in depth, with ample time for discussion (Q&A). Following the training session, we work with clients to identify key fiduciaries (whether they know they are fiduciaries or not) and documenting processes for performing those functions and monitoring their performance. We also work to ensure that committee members and other fiduciaries understand the risks of their being a fiduciary and provide recommendations to the employer on matters concerning fiduciary/E&O liability coverage, indemnification agreements (and limits) and other risk mitigation strategies (including the benefits and risks of engaging co-fiduciaries).
On-going, we act as a resource/sounding board for fiduciaries to assist them in fulfilling their obligations, consistent with being employees/business professionals.
We are oft quoted as saying "it's not bad to be a fiduciary, it's just bad to be a bad fiduciary." We work hard to best ensure our clients are "good fiduciaries."