Author Archives: jwatkins

About jwatkins

I am a securities and ERISA attorney. I am a Certified Financial Planner(r) professional (32 years) and an Accredited Wealth Management Advisor. I am a 1977 graduate of Georgia State University and a 1981 graduate of the University of Notre Dame Law School. I am the author of "CommonSense InvestSense: The Power of the Informed Investor" and " The 401(k)/403(b) Investment Manual: What Plan Sponsors and Plan Participants REALLY Need To Know. " As a former compliance director, I have extensive experience in evaluating the legal prudence of various types of investments, including mutual funds and annuities. My goal is to combine my legal and compliance experience in order to help educate investors on sound, proven investment strategies that will help them protect their financial security.

Redefining Fiduciary Prudence for 401(k) Plan Sponsors

by James W. Watkins, III, J.D., CFP®, AWMA® The legal requirement for prudence, as defined in ERISA Section 404(a)(1)(B), is for a fiduciary to discharge his or her duties with: “the care, skill, prudence, and diligence under the circumstances then prevailing that a prudent man acting in a … Continue reading

Posted in 401k, 401k compliance, 401k investments, 403b, Active Management Value Ratio, AMVR, closet index funds, compliance, consumer protection, cost consciousness, cost efficient, cost-efficiency, DOL fiduciary rule, ERISA, ERISA litigation, fiduciary compliance, fiduciary duty, fiduciary law, fiduciary liability, fiduciary liability, Fiduciary prudence, fiduciary prudence, fiduciary responsibility, investment advisers, investments, pension plans, plan sponsors, prudence, retirement plans, risk management | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

At What Cost?: Annuities, Cryptocurrency, and Fiduciary Law

A [fiduciary] is held to something stricter than the morals of the market place.  Not honesty alone, but the punctilio of an honor the most sensitive, is the standard of behavior….1 Fiduciary law is a combination of three types of … Continue reading

Posted in 401k, 401k compliance, 401k investments, 403b, Active Management Value Ratio, AMVR, Annuities, consumer protection, cost consciousness, cost efficient, cost-efficiency, Cost_Efficiency, ERISA litigation, evidence based investing, fiduciary compliance, fiduciary duty, fiduciary law, fiduciary liability, fiduciary liability, Fiduciary prudence, fiduciary prudence, fiduciary responsibility, fiduciary standard, investment advisers, pension plans, prudence, retirement plans, risk management, securities compliance, wealth management, wealth preservation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Heuristics, Cognitive Biases and 401(k)/403(b) Fiduciary Decision-Making

The number of 401(k)/403(b) cases continues to grow. And it will continue to do so unless and until plan sponsors take the time to truly understand their legal responsibilities and adjust their plans accordingly.  I am on record as saying … Continue reading

Posted in 401k, 401k compliance, 401k investments, 403b, Active Management Value Ratio, ERISA, ERISA litigation, fiduciary compliance, fiduciary duty, fiduciary law, fiduciary liability, fiduciary liability, Fiduciary prudence, fiduciary prudence, fiduciary responsibility, fiduciary standard, investments, retirement plans, wealth management, wealth preservation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CommonSense 401(k) Prudence and Risk Management

Whenever I perform a forensic fiduciary advice on a 401(k) or 403(b) plan, I invariably find myself asking the plan sponsor and/or the plan’s investment committee the same two questions: Why do you have so many investment options? Why did … Continue reading

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1Q 2022 AMVR “Cheat Sheets”

On the 5-year cheat sheet, only one fund, Dodge & Cox Stock (DODGX), posted positive incremental returns on both nominal and risk-adjusted returns. While DODGX passed the AMVR screen on nominal returns, the fund failed to pass the AMVR screen … Continue reading

Posted in 401k, 401k compliance, Active Management Value Ratio, cost efficient, cost-efficiency, DOL fiduciary standard, ERISA, fiduciary duty, fiduciary liability, fiduciary liability, Fiduciary prudence, fiduciary prudence, fiduciary responsibility, pension plans | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Less Is More: Plan Sponsors and the Art of Fiduciary Thinking

When I read about the House passing the SECURE 2.0 bill, I had three immediate thoughts: “Annuities are sold, not bought.” “So, plan sponsors are going to be able to automatically force employees to contribute to non-compliant 401(k) plans loaded … Continue reading

Posted in 401k, 401k compliance, 401k investments, Active Management Value Ratio, Annuities, ERISA, ERISA litigation, fiduciary compliance, fiduciary duty, fiduciary law, fiduciary liability, fiduciary liability, Fiduciary prudence, fiduciary prudence, fiduciary responsibility, fiduciary standard, pension plans, prudence | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Connecting the Dots: Correlation of Returns and Fiduciary Prudence

With SCOTUS’ recent decision in Hughes v. Northwestern University1, we now have what I like to refer to as the “fiduciary responsibility trinity” (Trinity). The Trinity consists of the Tibble v. Edison International2 (Tibble), Brotherston v. Putnam Investments, LLC3(Brotherston), and … Continue reading

Posted in 401k, 401k compliance, 401k investments, 403b, Active Management Value Ratio, closet index funds, compliance, consumer protection, cost consciousness, cost efficient, cost-efficiency, ERISA, ERISA litigation, fiduciary compliance, fiduciary duty, fiduciary law, fiduciary liability, fiduciary liability, Fiduciary prudence, fiduciary prudence, fiduciary responsibility, pension plans, prudence, wealth management, wealth preservation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The “Fiduciary Prudence Trinity”: A Blueprint for Evaluating the Prudence of Fiduciary Investments

In my last post, I discussed the significance of three ERISA related decisions-Tibble, Hughes/Northwestern and Brotherston. I like to refer to these three cases as the “fiduciary responsibility trinity,” because I believe that, collectively, they will shape the future of … Continue reading

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The “Fiduciary Responsibility Trinity”: ERISA Fiduciary Law After the Hughes/Northwestern Decision

SCOTUS recently announced its much anticipated decision in the case of Hughes v. Northwestern University.1The significance of the decision cannot be overstated, as it dramatically changes the “rules of the game” for 401(k) and 403(b) retirement plans, Hughes was the … Continue reading

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The #Northwestern403b Decision: What Next For Plan Sponsors?

This past Monday, SCOTUS issued its much anticipated decision in Hughes v. Northwestern University (#Northwestern403b) The original issue before the Court was whether or not the plan participants had properly plead their case in their complaint. The lower courts had … Continue reading

Posted in 401k, 401k compliance, 401k investments, 403b, Active Management Value Ratio, best interest, compliance, consumer protection, cost consciousness, cost efficient, cost-efficiency, Cost_Efficiency, ERISA, ERISA litigation, fiduciary compliance, fiduciary duty, fiduciary law, fiduciary liability, fiduciary liability, Fiduciary prudence, fiduciary prudence, fiduciary responsibility, investments, wealth management, wealth preservation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment