2011 in Review: ERISA Individual Prohibited Transaction Exemptions

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In 2011, the Department of Labor (DOL) continued a fairly active program of issuing individual exemptions from the prohibited transaction rules of ERISA. These rules generally prohibit, among other things:

-Sale and lending transactions between (i) certain retirement and other plans specified in ERISA and/or the Internal Revenue Code and (ii) a “party in interest” or “disqualified person” to that plan; and

-Self-dealing or conflicted interests on the part of a plan “fiduciary.”

DOL is, however, authorized to grant a conditional or unconditional exemption for an otherwise prohibited transaction if DOL determines that the exemption is (i) administratively feasible, (ii) in the interests of the plan and of its participants and beneficiaries, and (iii) protective of the rights of plan participants and beneficiaries. (On October 27, 2011, DOL published updated procedures for filing and processing individual prohibited transaction exemptions.

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