Last April I wrote a piece on what a bad idea I thought it was to Rothify 401K plans (see “Trump Administration Looking at Changing the 401K Tax Rules“). As you probably know already, participant 401k contributions are taken out of your pay before federal and state income taxes. They are taxed for FICA but not for income tax purposes. Then when you withdraw the funds, they and the income earned is taxable. The current administration is considering making 401k contributions work like Roth plans work today where you contribute after tax dollars, but when you withdraw your funds at retirement, they are tax-free, including the income. The purpose behind changing the rules would be to raise income taxes to support other spending initiatives by the administration. In other words, if they are successful in changing the law, the billions of dollars contributed each year to 401k plans would all of a sudden become subject to income taxes. The Joint Committee on Taxation has shown that the tax preferred treatment of defined contribution plans will cost 58.6 billion in foregone revenue between 2016 and 2020. Read more
The Trump administration has been clear in stating its objective to reduce individual and corporate tax rates. But to fund the reduction in tax revenue, one of the items they are looking at changing is the deductibility of employee 401(k) deferrals. The Joint Committee on Taxation, which acts as an advisor to Congress with research on the tax code, has shown that tax-preferred treatment of defined contribution plans will cost 583.6 billion in foregone revenue between 2016 and 2020. This could be very tempting for congress as it looks at ways to fund the tax cuts. Choosing to change the 401(k) tax rules by doing away with the tax deferral benefits of employee 401(k) contributions would be shortsighted and very harmful to the retirement system in the US.
Almost a year ago I posted a blog entitled SEC, Dodd Frank, Money Market Reform and FSOC: Connecting the Dots Between the Acronyms. In the post, I expressed my dismay with the passing of the Money Market Reform (MMR) laws, and how it seemed to me that the cure was worse than the disease it was trying to cure. Typically, the SEC does an OK job at assuring us with cost/benefit analysis of its rules. However, something about the MMR rule did not feel right, so I decided to do a little research on how the MMR rule came to be. Read more
The SEC, as part of their initiative around the new liquidity rule, has given the green light for funds to implement Swing Pricing. For those not familiar with the Swing Pricing concept, basically it allows a fund to bump up or down their end of day NAV to help cover their increased transactional costs when market volatility causes higher than normal purchases or redemptions. It will be voluntary for a fund company if they want to implement Swing Pricing. Funds are prohibited from implementing it until November 19, 2018, in order to give those funds that do not have experience with Swing Pricing time to implement needed system changes. Swing Pricing is popular in Europe and those funds with a presence in Europe would perhaps have an advantage in being able to implement earlier than other funds, hence the delayed date.
In light of the upcoming DOL Rule, the SEC recently issued guidance to funds on disclosure issues and certain procedural requirements with offering variations in fund sales loads and new share classes. The SEC IM Guidance Update appears to be an attempt by the SEC to not only provide needed guidance to funds, but to also to alleviate for SEC staff what could become an avalanche of new filings. Read more
The new DOL Fiduciary rule has barely gone into effect, and it is already starting to shake things up. One of the first changes we are starting to see is a new set of mutual fund share classes. American Funds and Franklin Templeton have already announced new share classes to help advisors deal with the new fiduciary rule. Rest assured, there will be more.
These new share classes are what some are calling “stripped down” share classes as they carry no sales load, no 12b-1 fees and no sub-TA fees. Bare bones. Absolutely no compensation from the fund to the distributor. It is up to the distributor to figure out how to charge their clients and in turn compensate the advisor.
The Money Market reforms promulgated by the SEC became effective October 14, 2016. The implications of the reforms go deep and wide, both with the mutual funds that offer money market funds, but also for the firms that offer money market funds on their platforms. One segment of firms particularly hard hit by the reforms is banks. Bank trust accounts receive untold cash items every day, from everything from dividends to rental income. There are just too many of these small transactions to invest individually in mid or long term investments. Banks have used money market funds as sweep vehicles for many years to park this constant flow of cash receipts until ready to invest in longer term investments. Money market funds have been a convenient vehicle to park cash and earn interest while still being considered similar to cash, as the funds always maintained a one dollar per share value. Read more
The phrase, “knowledge is power,” takes on a special meaning when a paucity of knowledge leads to potential issues that leave a company fumbling around in a dark room, looking for a black cat, only to be saved when someone turns the lights back on. When Mutual Funds companies’ clients started moving away from trading in fully disclosed accounts to consolidated omnibus accounts, they lost their ability to monitor their fund trade activity. Compliance with prospectus defined rules became impossible to monitor and data became the black cat in the black room. However, due to market demand for more than summarized trade activity, transparency has reemerged within omnibus accounts. How this happened, who it impacted and what has been done to remediate the problem is the focus of this week’s journey into the fund industry’s Twilight Zone. Read more
In the last couple of years, FINRA has been taking a hard look at brokers that have been selling A shares to retirement plans to make sure they were waiving the load, if the fund allowed such a waiver. Well, it turns out that a lot of brokers have been selling A shares into retirement plans at POP (Public Offering Price), that is, the participants in the plan paid a front end load when the fund’s prospectus allowed those shares to be sold with no load. What’s the result of this activity? A FINRA investigation into broker dealer firms. So why is this happening now? Let’s take a step back and examine the players in this party. Read more
Burton’s Blog: SEC, Dodd Frank, Money Market Reform and FSOC: Connecting the Dots between the Acronyms
The Money Market Reform (MMR) rules being enacted by the SEC have left me feeling a little like we have a cure that is worse than the disease. The SEC generally does a fair job in weighing the costs versus the benefits of enacting regulations (I am stretching a little here) but this one just doesn’t feel right, so I decided to do a little research to see what made this rule change seem so different from prior SEC rule changes.
In part one of this post I opened the lid on the Pandora’s Box of mutual fund share classes (from A-Z, without U), currently floating around the industry; in part two we’ll examine why, beyond sheer confusion, this marketing practice is problematic.
Other than just being able to clearly identify the type of share class you are investing in, there are other issues with all multiple share classes. A lot of penalties have been imposed on firms by the SEC and FINRA for utilizing the wrong share class, either in retirement plans or Wrap accounts. With all the share class options available, is it any wonder they are being utilized improperly, either by design or by accident? Let’s look at some of the issues around using the wrong share class. Read more
What’s The Matter with U: “U” is absent in the current offering of 375 Mutual Fund Share Class names
Personally, I don’t like going to a restaurant where the menu just goes on and on, making me wonder if they can really prepare all those selections equally well! I also have a problem with mutual fund share classes, on a number of levels. Like certain restaurant menus, they are endless.
I recently looked at a common mutual fund industry database and found over 375 share class names. Back in the old days you had A, B and C shares. Today you’ve got share classes named after every letter in the alphabet, except the letter U. The letter R appears to be very popular, like appetizers; you can have an R, R1, R2, R3, R4, R5 or R6 share class. Looking for a main course? The names include some nice descriptive examples such as Ultra, Select, Retail, Prime, Premier, Direct, Classic, VIP and hundreds more. I am left to ponder, is U like monkey brains: something found in movies, but not on real menus? And why do we need all these names in the first place?