ERISA Assets: QPAM and INHAM Audit Legal Requirements and Best Practices

I am happy to announce that I will be joined by esteemed colleagues Howard Pianko, Esquire (Seyfarth Shaw) and Virginia Bartlett (Bartlett O'Neill Consulting) on September 10, 2013 from 1:00 to 2:30 pm EST to talk about QPAM and INHAM compliance audits. See below for more information. Click to register for this forthcoming educational event about ERISA requirements. (Note: I am given a few complimentary guest passes. Contact me if you are interested and they are still available.)

This CLE webinar will prepare counsel to advise asset manager clients regarding Qualified Professional Asset Manager (QPAM) and in-house asset manager (INHAM) audits as required by the Department of Labor. The panel will review the new exemption rules, who can conduct an audit, what the process entails, and how to showcase good practices with existing and prospective plan sponsors.

Description

An opportunity to manage part of the $17 trillion retirement industry assets is a key business strategy for many financial organizations. ERISA plans present a number of unique challenges due to the rules, regulations and increasing litigation brought against asset managers. Compliance is critically important.

The U.S. DOL has changed rules on activities asset managers can undertake if they manage ERISA assets. Entities like banks, insurance companies, hedge funds and SEC-registered investment advisors must have documented policies and procedures for types of trading, parties in interest and internal controls.

In addition, a regular audit of the activities of a QPAM and/or INHAM must be conducted by persons who are knowledgeable about ERISA and can render an objective assessment as to whether the exemption is justified.

Listen as our ERISA-experienced panel provides a guide for counsel on this recent mandate, why it is important, how to comply, and what an asset manager can learn from the audit process to mitigate litigation risk.

Outline
  1. QPAM and INHAM rules
    1. Definition
    2. Exemption allowances before 2010
    3. Exemption allowances after 2010
    4. Consequences of not getting a QPAM or INHAM audit or getting one and failing
  2. Nature of the QPAM and INHAM audit
    1. Qualifications for who can perform the audit
    2. Components of the audit
    3. Documents, timetable and process of the audit
    4. Involvement of outside and internal counsel
  3. How the audit is used
    1. What the U.S. Department of Labor looks for
    2. Correcting deficiencies
    3. Using the audit as a marketing tool
    4. Lessons learned from the audit as a way to mitigate litigation risk

Benefits

The panel will review these and other key questions:

  • Who is a QPAM or INHAM?
  • What determines when a QPAM or INHAM audit is required?
  • What is the audit process like in terms of length of time it takes to complete, the documents needed, and the role of outside counsel and the QPAM or INHAM auditor?
  • How can the QPAM or INHAM audit be used to mitigate suits about procedural prudence and fiduciary breach?

Following the speaker presentations, you'll have an opportunity to get answers to your specific questions during the interactive Q&A.

Faculty

Dr. Susan Mangiero, AIFA, CFA, FRM
Fiduciary Leadership, Trumbull, Conn.

She has provided testimony before the ERISA Advisory Council, the OECD and the International Organization of Pension Supervisors, as well as offered expert testimony and behind the scenes forensic analysis, calculation of damages and rebuttal report commentary for various investment governance, investment performance, fiduciary breach, prudence, risk and valuation matters.

Howard Pianko, Partner
Seyfarth Shaw, New York

He advises clients on matters relating to employee benefits, executive compensation, fiduciary responsibility and benefit related litigation.

Virginia Bartlett, Partner
Bartlett O'Neill Consulting, Atlanta

She has over 30 years of experience in working with all types of employee benefit programs. She has extensive experience in the design and implementation of employee benefit programs, consulting on mergers and acquisitions issues that relate to employee benefit plan issues, and conducting IRS and ERISA compliance reviews.

Qualified Professional Asset Manager (QPAM) Webinar Slides

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The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that there are roughly 4,400 financial organizations relying upon the DOL’s Qualified Professional Asset Manager (“QPAM”) class exemption when managing the assets of their own employee benefit plans. Maintaining QPAM status is important for these asset managers as this class exemption facilitates their ability to make investment decisions with respect to their plans without the need to monitor compliance with the prohibited transaction rules of Section 406(a) of ERISA.  Following an amendment to the QPAM class exemption by the DOL that went into effect in 2012, to secure their QPAM status when they manage the assets of plans they sponsor, financial firms must satisfy an additional hurdle to be able to meet the QPAM exemption requirements - an annual compliance audit conducted by an independent party.

With an impending June 30, 2013 deadline to complete their QPAM audits, financial firms managing assets of their sponsored ERISA plans are confronting the intricacies of this audit process. The goal of this informative and timely webinar is to help asset managers understand what is required to maintain QPAM status with respect to transactions they direct for their own plans.  Join an inter-disciplinary panel of legal, auditing and economic experts to learn about these QPAM audit requirements and how to conduct a QPAM audit.  Topics that will be covered include:

  • The QPAM exemption, why and when an audit is required;
  • QPAM audit requirements;
  • How trading activity is tested;
  • What policies and procedures must be reviewed;
  • Logistics of data gathering and examination of this data;
  • Type of report that an organization is likely to receive; and
  • Correcting any deficiencies uncovered by the audit team.

On May 1, 2013, Dr. Susan Mangiero co-presented as part of a webinar entitled "QPAM Compliance Audits: How Asset Managers Can Minimize Regulatory Risks and the Cost of Breach." Sponsored by Seyfarth Shaw, LLP, the program described the consequences of non-compliance as well as the governance and risk management benefits associated with a QPAM audit.

Click to download the QPAM webinar slides from May 1, 2013.

DOL Issues Advisory Opinion About Use of Swaps by ERISA Plans

ERISA plans have long relied on over-the-counter swaps to hedge or to enhance portfolio returns. Given the high level of attention being paid to de-risking solutions these days, the role of swaps is even more important since these derivative contracts are often used by insurance companies and banks to manage their own risks when an ERISA plan transfers assets and/or liabilities. Big dollars (and other currencies) are at stake. According to its 2012 semi-annual tally of global market size, the Bank for International Settlements ("BIS") estimates the interest rate swap market alone at $379 trillion. Click to access details about the size of the over-the-counter derivatives market as of June 2012. It is therefore noteworthy that regulatory feedback has now been provided with respect to the use of swaps by ERISA plans.

In its long awaited advisory opinion issued by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration ("EBSA"), ERISA plans can use swaps without fear of undue regulatory costs and diminished supply (due to brokers who do not want to trade if deemed a fiduciary).

In its rather lengthy February 7, 2013 communication with Steptoe & Johnson LLP attorney Melanie Franco Nussdorf (on behalf of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association), EBSA officials (Louis J. Campagna, Chief - Division of Fiduciary Interpretations, and Lyssa E. Hall, Director - Office of Exemption Determinations) made several important points about whether a swaps "clearing member" (a) has ERISA 3(21)(A)(i) fiduciary liability if a pension counterparty defaults and the clearing member liquidates its position (b) is a party in interest as described in section 3(14)(B) of ERISA with respect to the pension plan counterparty on the other side of a swaps trade and (c) will have created a prohibited transaction under section 406 of ERISA if it exercises its default rights. These include the following.

  • Margin held by a Futures Commission Merchant ("FCM") or a clearing organization as part of a swap trade with an ERISA plan will not be deemed a plan asset under Title 1 of ERISA. The plan's assets are the contractual rights to which both parties agree (in terms of financial exchanges) as well as any gains that the FCM or clearing member counterparty may realize as a result of its liquidation of a swap with an ERISA plan that has not performed.
  • An FCM or clearing organization should not be labeled a "party in interest" under ERISA as long as the swap agreement(s) with a plan is outside the realm of prohibited transaction rules.

There is much more to say on this topic and future posts will address issues relating to the use of derivatives by ERISA plans. In the meantime, links to this 2013 regulatory document and several worthwhile legal analyses are given below, as well as a link to my book on the topic of risk management. While it was published in late 2004 as a primer for fiduciaries, many of the issues relating to risk governance, risk metrics and risk responsibilities remain the same.

QPAM and INHAM Compliance Audit 101 For ERISA Asset Managers

In this timely and informative webinar hosted by FTI Consulting, legal and compliance experts will provide critical information about the Qualified Professional Asset Manager ("QPAM") exemption and related compliance audit requirement that applies to numerous financial institutions that manage or want to manage ERISA pension money. Speakers will likewise address the merits of managing money for captive ERISA benefit plans and what it means to be an In House Asset Manager ("INHAM").

Getting the right team to conduct the required audit is one important way to mitigate litigation and enforcement risk and to attract and retain institutional dollars. Having a proper audit conducted and using the information to correct deficiencies is another critical step for anyone who understands that non-compliance can be costly.

This timely and informative webinar will address issues that include the following:

  • Background information about the new ERISA rule for a Qualified Professional Asset Manager (“QPAM”) audit;
  • What it means to be a Qualified Professional Asset Manager or In-House Asset Manager ("INHAM");
  • Who must comply and in what timeframe;
  • Who can carry out a QPAM /INHAM audit;
  • What a QPAM audit entails in terms of information-gathering and scheduling;
  • Case study discussion; and 
  • How the results of a QPAM audit can be used to improve operations and client relationships.

Who Should Attend:

  • Chief Compliance Officers of asset managers
  • Business development executives for asset managers
  • Internal legal counsel for asset managers and other financial firms
  • ERISA consultants and investment advisors

Please join Timothy Brennan, Assistant General Counsel at The Hartford; Howard Pianko, Partner, Seyfarth Shaw LLP; and Susan Mangiero, Managing Director, FTI Forensic & Litigation Consulting as they address these issues and your questions. To attend this free webcast scheduled for Tuesday, October 23, at 1:00 pm Eastern, please click to register for "Managing ERISA Pension Money - QPAM and INHAM 101."

For further information, click to read "Amendment to Prohibited Transaction Exemption (PTE) 84-14 for Plan Asset Transactions Determined by Independent Qualified Professional Asset Managers," Federal Register, July 6, 2010.

ERISA Assets: QPAM and INHAM Audit Legal Requirements and Best Practices

Please join us for a timely and information webinar entitled "ERISA Assets: QPAM and INHAM Audit Legal Requirements: Navigating DOL Rules for Pension Asset Management Compliance" on August 29, 2012 from 1:00 PM EST to 2:30 PM EST. 

This CLE webinar will prepare counsel to advise asset manager clients regarding QPAM and INHAM audits as required by the Department of Labor. The panel will review the new exemption rules, who can conduct an audit, what the process entails, and how to showcase good practices with existing and prospective plan sponsors.

Description

An opportunity to manage part of the $17 trillion retirement industry assets is a key business strategy for many financial organizations. ERISA plans present a number of unique challenges due to the rules, regulations and increasing litigation brought against asset managers. Compliance is critically important.

In 2010, the U.S. DOL changed rules on activities asset managers can undertake if they manage ERISA assets. Entities like banks, insurance companies, hedge funds and SEC-registered investment advisors must have documented policies and procedures for types of trading, parties in interest and internal controls.

In addition, a regular audit of the activities of a Qualified Professional Asset Manager (QPAM) and/or in-house asset manager (INHAM) must be conducted by persons who are knowledgeable about ERISA and can render an objective assessment as to whether the exemption is justified.

Listen as our ERISA-experienced panel provides a guide to this recent mandate, why it is important, how to comply, and what an asset manager can learn from the audit process to mitigate litigation risk.

Outline

1. QPAM and INHAM Rules: Definition, Exemptions and Consequences of Not Getting Audit

2. Nature of the QPAM/INHAM Audit: Qualifications of Auditor, Components of Audit and Role of Counsel

3.Use of Audit: Regulatory Scrutiny, Correcting Deficiencies, Marketing Audit Results, Lessons Learned

Benefits

The panel will review these and other key questions:

  • Who is a QPAM or INHAM?
  • What determines when a QPAM or INHAM audit is required?
  • What is the audit process like in terms of length of time it takes to complete, the documents needed, and the role of outside counsel and the QPAM or INHAM auditor?
  • How can the QPAM or INHAM audit be used to mitigate suits about procedural prudence and fiduciary breach?

Following the speaker presentations, you'll have an opportunity to get answers to your specific questions during the interactive Q&A.

Faculty

Susan MangieroManaging Director
FTI Consulting, New York

She has provided testimony before the ERISA Advisory Council, the OECD and the International Organization of Pension Supervisors as well as offered expert testimony and behind-the-scenes forensic analysis, calculation of damages and rebuttal report commentary for various investment governance, investment performance, fiduciary breach, prudence, risk and valuation matters.

Terry OrrSenior Managing Director
FTI Consulting, Dallas

He provides forensic and investigative due diligence services to companies and their counsel in a variety of industries. His twenty-five years of experience as an independent auditor of both public and private businesses includes the examination of numerous ERISA plans.

David E. PicklePartner
K&L Gates, Washington, D.C.

He represents clients in matters dealing with ERISA’s prohibited transactions and exemptions and ERISA’s fiduciary rules. He represents investment managers, financial institutions and plan sponsors in a variety of matters including investments and other transactions with ERISA plans and in litigation and government enforcement actions.

William A. SchmidtPartner
K&L Gates, Washington, D.C.

He works in the areas of institutional investing and employee benefits, with particular emphasis on fiduciary responsibility matters under ERISA. He advises major financial institutions, including banks, insurance companies, registered investment advisers, and large employee benefit plans about ERISA restrictions relating to plan investments and to fee arrangements for investment management.