Service Providers May Allow Investment in Cryptocurrency, but Plan Administrators Should Proceed with Extreme Caution
Recently, one of the country’s largest retirement plan providers announced they were adding a digital assets account to their retirement plan platform that would allow employers to make cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, a potential investment option for plan participants. As we previously reported here, prior to that announcement, the DOL had issued guidance cautioning plan fiduciaries to “exercise extreme care” before adding a cryptocurrency option to a retirement plan’s investment lineup or even through a plan’s brokerage window. The DOL guidance went so far as to say that it expected to investigate plans that offer “participant investments in cryptocurrencies and related products, and to take appropriate action to protect the interests of plan participants and beneficiaries with respect to these investments.” The DOL cautioned that plan fiduciaries who allowed cryptocurrency as a plan investment option “should expect to be questioned” about how their decisions to allow investments in cryptocurrency align with their… Continue Reading
The DOL issued guidance reminding responsible 401(k) plan fiduciaries of their ongoing duty to monitor investments and cautioning that the DOL “has serious concerns about the prudence of a fiduciary’s decision to expose a 401(k) plan’s participants to direct investments in cryptocurrencies, or other products whose value is tied to cryptocurrencies.” The DOL listed five reasons why cryptocurrency investments and their derivatives (collectively, “Crypto”) may not be a prudent selection at this time and threatened that 401(k) plan fiduciaries who allow Crypto as an investment option (even if through a brokerage window) “should expect to be questioned about how they can square their actions with their duties of prudence and loyalty.” Accordingly, 401(k) plan fiduciaries who are contemplating including or retaining Crypto as a plan investment option should factor this DOL guidance into their decision-making process. Compliance Assistance Release No. 2022-01 is available here.