The Advantages of a Fee-Based Independent Fiduciary

Richard Shafer pic

Richard Shafer
Image: wellandgoodria.com

Richard (Dick) Shafer is executive director of Well and Good LLC, located in Madison, Wisconsin. Under the leadership of Dick Shafer, Well and Good LLC, is a registered investment advisor to retirement plan fiduciaries nationwide — principally independent schools, colleges, and other non-profit organizations.

The terms “advisor” and “conflict-of-interest” might seem innocuous. However, they are very important when fiduciaries seek advice on plan investment decisions.

Under ERISA, a 1974 federal law that directly governs most non-public retirement plans and influences almost all other plans, a plan fiduciary may rely upon the advice or recommendations that meet certain standards. Among them: the advisor should have been duly registered, i.e., with the Securities and Exchange Commission; the advisor should accept a fiduciary responsibility to the plan and in writing, and; the advisor must act in the exclusive interest of the plan and its participants.

A plan fiduciary may consider information provided by a representative of a plan service provider. However, where there is a conflict — for instance the representative would be compensated by a provider if/how the plan fiduciary accepts the proffered service — the fiduciary may not rely upon those representations. In other words, any input from “advisor” must be considered in light of possible “conflict of interest.” Where conflict is present, the representative should disclose. The fiduciary must then reach an independent decision, whether the offering advances the (best) interest of the plan and participants.

To deliver reliable advice to plan fiduciaries, Madison WI Well and Good LLC avoids conflicts or appearance of same. Drawing upon extensive experience of Dick Shafer and other firm resources, Well and Good LLC may recommend specifically whether or nor not a plan service provider’s offer satisfies the interests of the plan and its participants. The plan fiduciary should not “rubber stamp” the recommendation. However, when the plan fiduciary reaches a decision, under ERISA it may rely heavily upon Well and Good’s advice and recommendations.

Getting Started with 403bcompare.com

Richard Shafer presently serves as the executive director of Well and Good LLC, a Madison, Wisconsin-based provider of investment advice to retirement plan fiduciaries. Richard Shafer previously worked for CUNA Mutual Group, also headquartered in Madison, as director of retirement plan solutions. Prior to his work with retirement plans in Madison, as a leader in disclosure and transparency of products made available to plans operating under code section 403(b)in California, he helped to develop the award-winning website 403bcompare.com.

At 403bcompare.com, employees of California’s public schools and community colleges can easily find and compare retirement products. That is because, in order to make a product available in California public education, vendors (annuity or mutual fund companies) must register with the site. Information not duly registered, such as a sales charge or withdrawal penalty, cannot be enforced.

Participants may access 403(b) product information across five main areas of the website. Under My Employer, individuals can select their current employer and view all approved product vendors. Using the My Compare page, website visitors can tag various vendors and products in order to obtain and compare current information. With Product Search, a specific product name can be entered in order to bring up more detailed information. Similarly, the Browse Vendor function allows users to research their vendor of choice. Finally, the Education section of 403bcompare.com offers general information about retirement planning and effective saving strategies.