The passage of the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act (SECURE Act) includes provisions on pooled individual account plans whose participating employers lack a common nexus (PEPs). PEPs should be particularly appealing to small employers who were previously daunted by the cost and complexity of sponsoring, and the fiduciary duty risk from managing, their own retirement plan. A pooled plan provider (PPP) would serve as plan administrator and “named fiduciary” under ERISA of the PEP. In this capacity, a financial services firm operating as a PPP would have various fiduciary responsibilities, including all administrative functions and the selection of investment options in the plan lineup. A PPP must also ensure that all persons/firms handling plan assets are properly bonded under ERISA. The DOL will issue regulations over the coming months on the exact contours of a PPP’s duties. Financial services firms looking to gain market share of the plan market may wish to watch these developments closely, particularly as we gauge interest in these types of plans by small employers.
Brian Croce of Pensions & Investments recently reported on a new ISS study. As reported, the study establishes a link between a high/favorable ISS ESG rating and profitability. Similarly, companies with higher ESG ratings are less volatile. The Department of Labor, rather rightly, in Field Assistance Bulletin 2018-01, cautioned fiduciaries against making too many assumptions or wishful thinking in establishing a nexus between an ESG risk factor and investment performance. The ISS study is worthwhile because it helps build a case for fiduciaries that use integration as an ESG strategy. As a reminder, integration is when one “incorporates ESG-related data and/or information in respect of an ESG factor into the usual process when making an investment decision where such data or information is material to investment performance and where the exclusive purpose is to enhance portfolio return or reduce portfolio risk.” See this glossary for more information and context.
"We believe a portfolio that focuses on sustainability and climate change will be a portfolio that outperforms," says Larry Fink. "The main component of the letter is saying this is going to be a great investment over the next 10 years, and it will also help the planet. pic.twitter.com/UVOGFZuN0I
— Squawk Box (@SquawkCNBC) January 14, 2020