Articles, White Papers, and Other Published Works by Pete Swisher
Fiduciary Governance of a Qualified Plan
The ASPPA Journal, 2008
An introduction to the art and science of running a retirement plan. Addresses governance from a technical and legal perspective but enshrines participant retirement success as the fundamental goal.
Post-Modern Portfolio Theory
Journal of Financial Planning, 2005
Winner of the 2005 JFP Call for Papers and presented at the 2006 Financial Planning Association convention. A discussion of downside risk optimization and other successors to the tools and principles of Modern Portfolio Theory. Co-author Gregory W. Kasten.
What’s It All Mean?
ASPPA Advisor Update, 2010
A discussion of the flurry of new laws and regulations converging on the retirement plan world, and the implications for service providers, advisors, and plan sponsors.
Is Modern Portfolio Theory Dead?
Journal of Financial Planning, 2009
Pete Swisher is one of three authors addressing the question: is MPT Dead? Pete’s answer : “MPT Was Never Alive.” Highlights the silliness arising from the bear market of 2008-2009.
The Ethics of 401(k) Revenue Sharing and Disclosure
ABA Trusts & Investments, 2006
Before the new rules on disclosure emerged starting in 2007, retirement plan fees were mystifying and opaque to the typical plan sponsor, raising ethical questions for any provider whose clients were confused. Makes the case that an ethical disclosure results in a non-confused client.
Decision Time for 401(k) Brokers
ASPPA Advisor Update, 2011
This short piece states the broker’s dilemma plainly: choose your fiduciary status and services and get your broker/dealer to support that business model or find another broker/dealer. Modernize your book of business to conform to the new realities. And do it by the end of 2011, or else.
Automatic 401(k) Opportunities and Challenges: Using Behavioral Finance to Make 401(k) Plans More Successful
The ASPPA Journal, 2006
Introduces the use of “intelligent defaults” so that employees automatically make the right choices, unless they opt out. An introduction to the science of behavioral finance as applied to retirement plans on the eve of an upsurge in popularity for these programs due to the Pension Protection Act of 2006.
The 401(k) Broker’s Dilemma
ABA Trusts & Investments, 2008
The U.S. has the most successful private pension system on earth largely because brokers have sold so many 401(k) plans. But from a systemic governance perspective what this has created is a system of amateur fiduciaries (sponsors) advised by salespeople (brokers), and the brokers typically perform fiduciary functions without acknowledging fiduciary status—an untenable and soon to be prohibited business model. Co-author Gregory W. Kasten.
The Legality of Kickbacks: How 401(k) Vendors are Paid on the Eve of SEC and DOL Investigations
Employee Benefits News, 2004
There was a time when no one knew what “revenue share” was and why it created conflicts of interest in the retirement system. This article exposed common industry practices and discussed why they were mostly legal, albeit neither objective nor transparent, and why SEC and DOL chose to take a close look at practices they considered problematic.
Big News: SEC Study Recommends Uniform Fiduciary Standard
Unified Trust Investment Consultant Digest, 2011
Dodd-Frank required SEC to study the question of whether brokers should be held to a fiduciary standard, and SEC’s report says, “Yes.”
Top 12 New Year’s Resolutions for the Elite 401(k) Advisor
Unified Trust Investment Consultant Digest, December 2010
A to do list for retirement plan advisors and consultants looking to stay current with the changes sweeping through the industry.
Technical 401(k) Selling
ASPPA Advisor Update, 2010
An inside look at the mixed consulting/sales role that is the lot of advisors, and how technical excellence and the ability to apply it on clients’ behalf can lead to more new clients.
What the DOL’s New 408b-2 Rule Means
Unified Trust White Paper, 2010
A plain language assessment of what the “point of sale disclosure rule” says and how it will affect the various players in the retirement plan world. Focuses on the game-changing impact on advisors and consultants.
Socially Conscious Investment Mandates and ERISA
Unified Trust Web Article, 2009
Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) is a neat idea, but ERISA law and practice do not permit social mandates to override procedural prudence. So SRI is OK so long as you apply the same standards as to other investments, without exception.
Death to the Prospectus Requirement! The Future of 401(k) Disclosure
The ASPPA Journal, 2010
A broad look at retirement plan disclosures drawn from a study of the 404(c) prospectus requirement, its impending death, and why that death cannot come too soon.
Pros and Cons of Open Option Investing
Unified Trust White Paper and Program Piece, 2009
Professional practices and small businesses—but especially doctors—are sometimes prone to “open option” plan designs, in which participants can invest wherever and however they like. It sounds appealing on the surface, but this is a plan design fraught with peril.
The Goofy Doctor Plan: Brokers, Self-Direction, and Fiduciary Duty in Qualified Plans
Wealth Strategies Journal, 2009
Discusses the “open option” plan design from a fiduciary and legal perspective to highlight common misconceptions and hurdles.
Eliminating Optional Forms of Benefit: An Analysis of Treasury Regulations Published Under IRC 411(d)(6)
The ASPPA Journal, 2007
When companies want to change the benefits, rights, or features (BRFs) available to participants in their retirement plans, they must follow certain rules and may generally only eliminate BRFs prospectively. Shows sponsors and advisors how to follow the “protected benefit” rules when making changes. Co-author Barry Kozak.
Can Advisors (Or Their Clients) Receive Compensation From Their Own Qualified Plans for Services Rendered?
Unified Trust White Paper, 2007
Short answer: no. There are potential exceptions, but the basic rule is that it is a prohibited transaction for a sponsor to be compensated for services to its own plan. But naturally the story is more complicated than that.
PPA for 401(k) Advisors: A Business Summary
Unified Trust White Paper, 2006
An overview of the Pension Protection Act of 2006 focused on evaluating the impact on the business of consulting or advising retirement plans.
How to Build a Fee-Based Pension Practice
Unified Trust White Paper, 2001; abridged version published in Financial Planning magazine as “The Bridge Over the River (K)”
A view of service to retirement plans that was 5-10 years ahead of its time in 2001 and is still valid today.
Analysis of Guaranteed Investment Contracts and Fixed Accounts in Qualified Plans: A Fiduciary Guide
Unified Trust Plan Sponsor Bulletin, 2003
Guaranteed Investment Contracts and other fixed income investment products seem simple, but are actually some of the most complex and poorly monitored assets in retirement plans. A brief guide for plan sponsors and their advisors.
Fiduciary Breaches and Prohibited Transactions Involving Revenue Sharing—and How to Avoid Them
The ASPPA Journal, 2006
Revenue sharing and other commissions create potential conflicts of interest in ERISA retirement plans, and such conflicts are often prohibited transactions. Failing to understand how providers get paid and ensure the compensation is reasonable is a fiduciary breach for a plan sponsor. This article examines the problem, outlines a solution, and provides case studies.
Solving an Employer’s Fiduciary Dilemma
Journal of Financial Planning, 2004
Plan sponsors are amateur fiduciaries and rarely understand what’s expected of them. The ideal governance solution is therefore a combination of outsourcing to a professional fiduciary with the help of a professional consultant or fiduciary advisor.
Marketing Co-Fiduciary Services to Qualified Plans
Center for Due Diligence Newsletter, 2004
First of a three part series that Pete never completed. He wrote the book (401(k) Fiduciary Governance: An Advisor’s Guide) instead. Discusses the basics of what you need in order to hold yourself out to sponsors as a fiduciary advisor.
The Evolving Business Model for Broker/Dealers and RIAs
Companion Piece for Center for Due Diligence Presentation, 2010
As new fiduciary standards and disclosure rules come into effect in the next two years, brokers and their broker/dealers have some decisions to make, and new business models are beginning to emerge.