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December 13, 2007
Proposed Rules Would Increase Disclosure of Fees Affecting 401(k) Plans

The U.S. Department of Labor has proposed rules that would enhance disclosure to fiduciaries of 401(k) and other employee-benefit plans to assist them in determining the reasonableness of compensation paid to plan service providers and conflicts of interest that may affect a service provider's performance under a service contract or arrangement.

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"One of the department's top priorities is improved disclosure in order to ensure that participants and fiduciaries have the information they need to make informed decisions," says U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "We are working quickly to implement regulations that foster fair, competitive and transparent prices for services as well as combat excessive or hidden plan fees."

The proposed regulations would enhance disclosure to plan fiduciaries by requiring that contracts between certain service providers and plans provide for specific and detailed information. The proposal requires that all services furnished to a plan and all compensation, direct and indirect, to be received by the service provider be disclosed in writing. The proposal also requires the disclosure of possible conflicts of interest of the service provider that may affect the performance of plan services.

In addition, the department is proposing a class exemption to provide relief to plan fiduciaries who enter into deficient contracts with service providers that, unbeknownst to the plan fiduciary, failed to comply with their disclosure obligations.

"401(k) savings and other employee benefit plans are critical to the retirement and health security of American workers and their families," said Bradford P. Campbell, assistant secretary for the Labor Department's Employee Benefits Security Administration. "This initiative enhances disclosure of fees and conflicts of interest that can affect workers' interests and is an important part of our continued efforts to enhance workers' benefit security."

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