Skip to page content
Employee Benefits Security Administration

News Release

Printer Friendly Version

Release Date: October 16, 2008
Release Number: 08-1448-NAT
Contact Name: Gloria Della/Richard Manning
Phone Number: 202.693.8664/202.693.4676

U.S. Department of Labor updates fiduciary guidance on exercising shareholder rights and investing in economically targeted investments

Washington – The U.S. Department of Labor today announced the issuance of new guidance under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) clarifying the obligations of plan fiduciaries when considering shareholder rights and investments in economically targeted investments. The guidance is being issued in the form of two interpretive bulletins detailed below.

“Recent events highlight the importance of ensuring secure and transparent retirement savings plans for American workers, retirees and their families,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Employee Benefits Security Administration Bradford P. Campbell. “Today the department reiterates and clarifies its longstanding view that workers’ money must be invested and used solely to provide for retirements, not for political, corporate or other purposes.”

The bulletin on economically targeted investments supplements earlier guidance issued by the department addressing the limited circumstances under which ERISA fiduciaries may, in connection with investment decisions, take into account factors other than the economic interests of the plan. The supplement further clarifies, through explanation and examples, that fiduciary consideration of non-economic factors should be rare and, when considered, must comply with ERISA’s rigorous fiduciary standards.

The bulletin on shareholder rights updates prior guidance issued by the department on the application of ERISA’s fiduciary standards to proxy voting. The new bulletin includes clarifications of the earlier guidance, as well as interpretive positions issued by the department since 1994 on shareholder activism and socially-directed proxy voting initiatives.

The guidance reiterates that plan fiduciaries, who are charged by law with the responsibility for operating employee benefit plans on behalf of plan participants, may never increase expenses, sacrifice investment returns, or reduce the security of plan benefits in order to promote legislative, regulatory or public policy goals that have no connection to the payment of benefits or plan administrative expenses.

The interpretive bulletins are to be published in the October 17 edition of the Federal Register.

U.S. Department of Labor news releases are accessible on the Department's Newsroom page. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the COAST office upon request. Please specify which news release when placing your request at 202.693.7828 or TTY 202.693.7755. The Labor Department is committed to providing America's employers and employees with easy access to understandable information on how to comply with its laws and regulations. For more information, please visit the Department's Compliance Assistance page.