Accountants Come Out Against New 401(k) Fiduciary Standard

Thursday, March 03, 2011 01:04
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Accountants Come Out Against New 401(k) Fiduciary Standard

Tags: 401(k)

We know the broker groups have been fighting the Labor Department's proposal to make the fiduciary standard apply to all professionals who advise ERISA retirement plans. But the accountants have a different concern.

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The AICPA, or American Institute of CPAs, sent a representative to the recent DOL hearings on the subject to argue that its members cannot serve 401(k) plans in a fiduciary capacity when they evaluate company stock used in those plans.

 

This is not because they consider the fiduciary alignment of interest between advisor and client onerous or inconvenient.

 

No, the accountants worry that if they are expected to act in the best interest of their clients, their independence will be compromised and they will be unable to satisfy their existing duty to give an unbiased and accurate valuation of what company stock is really worth.

 

Forcing accountants to choose between their responsibilities to the IRS and any fiduciary obligation would only make many drop out of the plan evaluation business, making the process more expensive to plan providers and ensuring a lower overall level of work.

 

From here, the AICPA's argument aligns with other industry complaints about a fiduciary 401(k) advice standard: less competition, higher costs to the end users.

 

But what's interesting is the very different route the accountants took to get to that point. It's not about them and their profit margins. It's about their duty to something even higher than their client relationships: the truth.

 

 

Comments (1)

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jeffkostis
The AICPA finally gets it, sort of.

No one, CPA's, brokers, lawyers, etc. can act in the interest of the plan participants if the bill for their services is being paid by someone who has different priorities. The real problem that I see is that the AICPA should be backing the proposal to make sure ALL parties maintain their independence and the participants get the protection they deserve and expect.

As a wise person said, "if you're not paying their bill, who does the person really working for?"
jeffkostis , March 03, 2011

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