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DOL to soon propose rules for open multiple employer plans, will revisit fiduciary rule in 2019

The Department of Labor will soon propose rules expanding the use of open multiple employer plans, according to its latest fall regulatory agenda, which also said it will revisit its now-vacated fiduciary rule by September 2019.

The proposal aimed at encouraging wider use of MEPs by clarifying the statutory definition of employer was approved Oct. 16 by the Office of Management and Budget. The proposed definition includes direct employers "and any other person acting indirectly in the interest of the employer in relation to an employee benefit plan, including a group or association acting for an employer in such a capacity."

DOL officials said in the regulatory agenda that they also will conduct a cost/benefit analysis of "potentially effective and reasonably feasible alternatives" proposed by the public.

On Aug. 31, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing officials at the departments of Labor and Treasury to expand retirement savings options by revisiting existing rules on multiple employer plans that require employers to share a common interest.

On the fiduciary rule, an updated standard that was issued April 8, 2016, to replace a 1975 regulation was vacated in March because of a court challenge led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans vacated the entire rule in a 2-1 decision, saying it represented regulatory overreach. The DOL declined to challenge the court ruling.

Now, according to the regulatory agenda, "the department is considering regulatory options in light of the Fifth Circuit opinion."