The bill aims to make clear appraisers of employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) are not ERISA fiduciaries. H.R. 2041 is the companion bill to S. 273 introduced by Senator Kelly Ayotte in February 2013. The legislation is a response to the Department of Labor’s (DOL) proposed new definition of fiduciary (see “Fiduciary Expansion Proposal Could Hurt ESOPs”).
According to the ESOP Association, while the original proposal was withdrawn, if any regulation was finalized to make appraisers ERISA fiduciaries, there would be extreme confusion about whether the appraiser or the trustee[s], and other current fiduciaries, make the decisions about acquisition of shares on behalf of average pay employees. The Association claims it would leave private ESOP companies open to lawsuits. Leaders at the DOL say a new proposal will be issued sometime in 2013. It is expected that the DOL will not alter the proposed regulation’s mandate that all appraisers of ESOP stock be ERISA fiduciaries.Text of H.R. 2041 will be online here.