29 CFR 2550.408b-1 - General statutory exemption for loans to plan participants and beneficiaries who are parties in interest with respect to the plan.

§ 2550.408b-1 General statutory exemption for loans to plan participants and beneficiaries who are parties in interest with respect to the plan.
(a)
(1) In general. Section 408(b)(1) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (the Act or ERISA) exempts from the prohibitions of section 406(a), 406(b)(1) and 406(b)(2) loans by a plan to parties in interest who are participants or beneficiaries of the plan, provided that such loans:
(i) Are available to all such participants and beneficiaries on a reasonably equivalent basis;
(ii) Are not made available to highly compensated employees, officers or shareholders in an amount greater than the amount made available to other employees;
(iii) Are made in accordance with specific provisions regarding such loans set forth in the plan;
(iv) Bear a reasonable rate of interest; and
(v) Are adequately secured.
The Internal Revenue Code (the Code) contains parallel provisions to section 408(b)(1) of the Act. Effective, December 31, 1978, section 102 of Reorganization Plan No. 4 of 1978 (43 FR 47713, October 17, 1978) transferred the authority of the Secretary of the Treasury to promulgate regulations of the type published herein to the Secretary of Labor. Therefore, all references herein to section 408(b)(1) of the Act should be read to include reference to the parallel provisions of section 4975(d)(1) of the Code.
Section 1114(b)(15)(B) of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 amended section 408(b)(1)(B) of ERISA by deleting the phrase “highly compensated employees, officers or shareholders” and substituting the phrase “highly compensated employees (within the meaning of section 414(q) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986).” Thus, for plans with participant loan programs which are subject to the amended section 408(b)(1)(B), the requirements of this regulation should be read to conform with the amendment.
(2) Scope. Section 408(b)(1) of the Act does not contain an exemption from acts described in section 406(b)(3) of the Act (prohibiting fiduciaries from receiving consideration for their own personal account from any party dealing with a plan in connection with a transaction involving plan assets). If a loan from a plan to a participant who is a party in interest with respect to that plan involves an act described in section 406(b)(3), such an act constitutes a separate transaction which is not exempt under section 408(b)(1) of the Act. The provisions of section 408(b)(1) are further limited by section 408(d) of the Act (relating to transactions with owner-employees and related persons).
(3) Loans.
(i) Section 408(b)(1) of the Act provides relief from the prohibitions of section 406(a), 406(b)(1) and 406(b)(2) for the making of a participant loan. The term “participant loan” refers to a loan which is arranged and approved by the fiduciary administering the loan program primarily in the interest of the participant and which otherwise satisfies the criteria set forth in section 408(b)(1) of the Act. The existence of a participant loan or participant loan program will be determined upon consideration of all relevant facts and circumstances. Thus, for example, the mere presence of a loan document appearing to satisfy the requirements of section 408(b)(1) will not be dispositive of whether a participant loan exists where the subsequent administration of the loan indicates that the parties to the loan agreement did not intend the loan to be repaid. Moreover, a loan program containing a precondition designed to benefit a party in interest (other than the participant) is not afforded relief by section 408(b)(1) or this regulation. In this regard, section 408(b)(1) recognizes that a program of participant loans, like other plan investments, must be prudently established and administered for the exclusive purpose of providing benefits to participants and beneficiaries of the plan.
(ii) For the purpose of this regulation, the term “loan” will include any renewal or modification of an existing loan agreement, provided that, at the time of each such renewal or modification, the requirements of section 408(b)(1) and this regulation are met.
(4) Examples. The following examples illustrate the provisions of § 2550.408b-1(a).
Example 1:
T, a trustee of plan P, has exclusive discretion over the management and disposition of plan assets. As a result, T is a fiduciary with respect to P under section 3(21)(A) of the Act and a party in interest with respect to P pursuant to section 3(14)(A) of the Act. T is also a participant in P. Among T's duties as fiduciary is the administration of a participant loan program which meets the requirements of section 408(b)(1) of the Act. Pursuant to strict objective criteria stated under the program, T, who participates in all loan decisions, receives a loan on the same terms as other participants. Although the exercise of T's discretion on behalf of himself may constitute an act of self-dealing described in section 406(b)(1), section 408(b)(1) provides an exemption from section 406(b)(1). As a result, the loan from P to T would be exempt under section 408(b)(1), provided the conditions of that section are otherwise satisfied.
Example 2:
P is a plan covering all the employees of E, the employer who established and maintained P. F is a fiduciary with respect to P and an officer of E. The plan documents governing P give F the authority to establish a participant loan program in accordance with section 408(b)(1) of the Act. Pursuant to an arrangement with E, F establishes such a program but limits the use of loan funds to investments in a limited partnership which is established and maintained by E as general partner. Under these facts, the loan program and any loans made pursuant to this program are outside the scope of relief provided by section 408(b)(1) because the loan program is designed to operate for the benefit of E. Under the circumstances described, the diversion of plan assets for E's benefit would also violate sections 403(c)(1) and 404(a) of the Act.
Example 3:
Assume the same facts as in Example 2, above, except that F does not limit the use of loan funds. However, E pressures his employees to borrow funds under P's participant loan program and then reloan the loan proceeds to E. F, unaware of E's activities, arranges and approves the loans. If the loans meet all the conditions of section 408(b)(1), such loans will be exempt under that section. However, E's activities would cause the entire transaction to be viewed as an indirect transfer of plan assets between P and E, who is a party in interest with respect to P, but not the participant borrowing from P. By coercing the employees to engage in loan transactions for its benefit, E has engaged in separate transactions that are not exempt under section 408(b)(1). Accordingly, E would be liable for the payment of excise taxes under section 4975 of the Code.
Example 4:
Assume the same facts as in Example 2, above, except that, in return for structuring and administering the loan program as indicated, E agrees to pay F an amount equal to 10 percent of the funds loaned under the program. Such a payment would result in a separate transaction not covered by section 408(b)(1). This transaction would be prohibited under section 406(b)(3) since F would be receiving consideration from a party in connection with a transaction involving plan assets.
Example 5:
F is a fiduciary with respect to plan P. D is a party in interest with respect to plan P. Section 406(a)(1)(B) of the Act would prohibit F from causing P to lend money to D. However, F enters into an agreement with Z, a plan participant, whereby F will cause P to make a participant loan to Z with the express understanding that Z will subsequently lend the loan proceeds to D. An examination of Z's credit standing indicates that he is not creditworthy and would not, under normal circumstances, receive a loan under the conditions established by the participant loan program. F's decision to approve the participant loan to Z on the basis of Z's prior agreement to lend the money to D violates the exclusive purpose requirements of sections 403(c) and 404(a). In effect, the entire transaction is viewed as an indirect transfer of plan assets between P and D, and not a loan to a participant exempt under section 408(b)(1). Z's lack of credit standing would also cause the transaction to fail under section 408(b)(1)(A) of the Act.
Example 6:
F is a fiduciary with respect to Plan P. Z is a plan participant. Z and D are both parties in interest with respect to P. F approves a participant loan to Z in accordance with the conditions established under the participant loan program. Upon receipt of the loan, Z intends to lend the money to D. If F has approved this loan solely upon consideration of those factors which would be considered in a normal commercial setting by an entity in the business of making comparable loans, Z's subsequent use of the loan proceeds will not affect the determination of whether loans under P's program satisfy the conditions of section 408(b)(1).
Example 7:
A is the trustee of a small individual account plan. D, the president of the plan sponsor, is also a participant in the plan. Pursuant to a participant loan program meeting the requirements of section 408(b)(1), D applies for a loan to be secured by a parcel of real property. D does not intend to repay the loan; rather, upon eventual default, he will permit the property to be foreclosed upon and transferred to the plan in discharge of his legal obligation to repay the loan. A, aware of D's intention, approves the loan. D fails to make two consecutive quarterly payments of principal and interest under the note evidencing the loan thereby placing the loan in default. The plan then acquires the real property upon foreclosure. Such facts and circumstances indicate that the payment of money from the plan to D was not a participant loan eligible for the relief afforded by section 408(b)(1). In effect, this transaction is a prohibited sale or exchange of property between a plan and a party in interest from the time D receives the money.
Example 8:
Plan P establishes a participant loan program. All loans are subject to the condition that the borrowed funds must be used to finance home purchases. Interest rates on the loans are the same as those charged by a local savings and loan association under similar circumstances. A loan by P to a participant to finance a home purchase would be subject to the relief provided by section 408(b)(1) provided that the conditions of 408(b)(1) are met. A participant loan program which is established to make loans for certain stated purposes (e.g., hardship, college tuition, home purchases, etc.) but which is not otherwise designed to benefit parties in interest (other than plan participants) would not, in itself, cause such program to be ineligible for the relief provided by section 408(b)(1). However, fiduciaries are cautioned that operation of a loan program with limitations may result in loans not being made available to all participants and beneficiaries on a reasonably equivalent basis.
(b) Reasonably equivalent basis.
(1) Loans will not be considered to have been made available to participants and beneficiaries on a reasonably equivalent basis unless:
(i) Such loans are available to all plan participants and beneficiaries without regard to any individual's race, color, religion, sex, age or national origin;
(ii) In making such loans, consideration has been given only to those factors which would be considered in a normal commercial setting by an entity in the business of making similar types of loans. Such factors may include the applicant's creditworthiness and financial need; and
(iii) An evaluation of all relevant facts and circumstances indicates that, in actual practice, loans are not unreasonably withheld from any applicant.
(2) A participant loan program will not fail the requirement of paragraph (b)(1) of this section or § 2550.408b-1(c) if the program establishes a minimum loan amount of up to $1,000, provided that the loans granted meet the requirements of § 2550.408b-1(f).
(3) Examples. The following examples illustrate the provisions of § 2550.408b-1(b)(1):
Example 1:
T, a trustee of plan P, has exclusive discretion over the management and disposition of plan assets. T's duties include the administration of a participant loan program which meets the requirements of section 408(b)(1) of the Act. T receives a participant loan at a lower interest rate than the rate made available to other plan participants of similar financial condition or creditworthiness with similar security. The loan by P to T would not be covered by the relief provided by section 408(b)(1) because loans under P's program are not available to all plan participants on a reasonably equivalent basis.
Example 2:
Same facts as in example 1, except that T is a member of a committee of trustees responsible for approving participant loans. T pressures the committee to refuse loans to other qualified participants in order to assure that the assets allocated to the participant loan program would be available for a loan by P to T. The loan by P to T would not be covered by the relief provided by section 408(b)(1) since participant loans have not been made available to all participants and beneficiaries on a reasonably equivalent basis.
Example 3:
T is the trustee of plan P, which covers the employees of E. A, B and C are employees of E, participants in P, and friends of T. The documents governing P provide that T, in his discretion, may establish a participant loan program meeting certain specified criteria. T institutes such a program and tells A, B and C of his decision. Before T is able to notify P's other participants and beneficiaries of the loan program, A, B, and C file loan applications which, if approved, will use up substantially all of the funds set aside for the loan program. Approval of these applications by T would represent facts and circumstances showing that loans under P's program are not available to all participants and beneficiaries on a reasonably equivalent basis.
(c) Highly compensated employees.
(1) Loans will not be considered to be made available to highly compensated employees, officers or shareholders in an amount greater than the amount made available to other employees if, upon consideration of all relevant facts and circumstances, the program does not operate to exclude large numbers of plan participants from receiving loans under the program.
(2) A participant loan program will not fail to meet the requirement in paragraph (c)(1), of this section, merely because the plan documents specifically governing such loans set forth either (i) a maximum dollar limitation, or (ii) a maximum percentage of vested accrued benefit which no loan may exceed.
(3) If the second alternative in paragraph (c)(2) of this section (maximum percentage of vested accrued benefit) is chosen, a loan program will not fail to meet this requirement solely because maximum loan amounts will vary directly with the size of the participant's accrued benefit.
(4) Examples. The following examples illustrate the provisions of § 2550.408b-1(c).
Example 1:
The documents governing plan P provide for the establishment of a participant loan program in which the amount of any loan under the program (when added to the outstanding balances of any other loans under the program to the same participant) does not exceed the lesser of (i) $50,000, or (ii) one-half of the present value of that participant's vested accrued benefit under the plan (but not less than $10,000). P's participant loan program does not fail to meet the requirement in section 408(b)(1)(B) of the Act, and would be covered by the relief provided by section 408(b)(1) if the other conditions of that section are met.
Example 2:
The documents governing plan T provide for the establishment of a participant loan program in which the minimum loan amount would be $25,000. The documents also require that the only security acceptable under the program would be the participant's vested accrued benefit. A, the plan fiduciary administering the loan program, finds that because of the restrictions in the plan documents only 20 percent of the plan participants, all of whom earn in excess of $75,000 a year, would meet the threshold qualifications for a loan. Most of these participants are high-level supervisors or corporate officers. Based on these facts, it appears that loans under the program would be made available to highly compensated employees in an amount greater than the amount made available to other employees. As a result, the loan program would fail to meet the requirement in section 408(b)(1)(B) of the Act and would not be covered by the relief provided in section 408(b)(1).
(d) Specific plan provisions. For the purpose of section 408(b)(1) and this regulation, the Department will consider that participant loans granted or renewed at any time prior to the last day of the first plan year beginning on or after January 1, 1989, are made in accordance with specific provisions regarding such loans set forth in the plan if:
(1) The plan provisions regarding such loans contain (at a minimum) an explicit authorization for the plan fiduciary responsible for investing plan assets to establish a participant loan program; and
(2) For participant loans granted or renewed on or after the last day of the first plan year beginning on or after January 1, 1989, the participant loan program which is contained in the plan or in a written document forming part of the plan includes, but need not be limited to, the following:
(i) The identity of the person or positions authorized to administer the participant loan program;
(ii) A procedure for applying for loans;
(iii) The basis on which loans will be approved or denied;
(iv) Limitations (if any) on the types and amount of loans offered;
(v) The procedure under the program for determining a reasonable rate of interest;
(vi) The types of collateral which may secure a participant loan; and
(vii) The events constituting default and the steps that will be taken to preserve plan assets in the event of such default.
Example 1:
Plan P authorizes the trustee to establish a participant loan program in accordance with section 408(b)(1) of the Act. Pursuant to this explicit authority, the trustee establishes a written program which contains all of the information required by § 2550.408b-1(d)(2). Loans made pursuant to this authorization and the written loan program will not fail under section 408(b)(1)(C) of the Act merely because the specific provisions regarding such loans are contained in a separate document forming part of the plan. The specific provisions describing the loan program, whether contained in the plan or in a written document forming part of a plan, do affect the rights and obligations of the participants and beneficiaries under the plan and, therefore, must in accordance with section 102(a)(1) of the Act, be disclosed in the plan's summary plan description.
(e) Reasonable rate of interest. A loan will be considered to bear a reasonable rate of interest if such loan provides the plan with a return commensurate with the interest rates charged by persons in the business of lending money for loans which would be made under similar circumstances.
Example 1:
Plan P makes a participant loan to A at the fixed interest rate of 8% for 5 years. The trustees, prior to making the loan, contacted two local banks to determine under what terms the banks would make a similar loan taking into account A's creditworthiness and the collateral offered. One bank would charge a variable rate of 10% adjusted monthly for a similar loan. The other bank would charge a fixed rate of 12% under similar circumstances. Under these facts, the loan to A would not bear a reasonable rate of interest because the loan did not provide P with a return commensurate with interest rates charged by persons in the business of lending money for loans which would be made under similar circumstances. As a result, the loan would fail to meet the requirements of section 408(b)(1)(D) and would not be covered by the relief provided by section 408(b)(1) of the Act.
Example 2:
Pursuant to the provisions of plan P's participant loan program, T, the trustee of P, approves a loan to M, a participant and party in interest with respect to P. At the time of execution, the loan meets all of the requirements of section 408(b)(1) of the Act. The loan agreement provides that at the end of two years M must pay the remaining balance in full or the parties may renew for an additional two year period. At the end of the initial two year period, the parties agree to renew the loan for an additional two years. At the time of renewal, however, A fails to adjust the interest rate charged on the loan in order to reflect current economic conditions. As a result, the interest rate on the renewal fails to provide a “reasonable rate of interest” as required by section 408(b)(1)(D) of the Act. Under such circumstances, the loan would not be exempt under section 408(b)(1) of the Act from the time of renewal.
Example 3:
The documents governing plan P's participant loan program provide that loans must bear an interest rate no higher than the maximum interest rate permitted under State X's usury law. Pursuant to the loan program, P makes a participant loan to A, a plan participant, at a time when the interest rates charged by financial institutions in the community (not subject to the usury limit) for similar loans are higher than the usury limit. Under these circumstances, the loan would not bear a reasonable rate of interest because the loan does not provide P with a return commensurate with the interest rates charged by persons in the business of lending money under similar circumstances. In addition, participant loans that are artificially limited to the maximum usury ceiling then prevailing call into question the status of such loans under sections 403(c) and 404(a) where higher yielding comparable investment opportunities are available to the plan.
(f) Adequate security.
(1) A loan will be considered to be adequately secured if the security posted for such loan is something in addition to and supporting a promise to pay, which is so pledged to the plan that it may be sold, foreclosed upon, or otherwise disposed of upon default of repayment of the loan, the value and liquidity of which security is such that it may reasonably be anticipated that loss of principal or interest will not result from the loan. The adequacy of such security will be determined in light of the type and amount of security which would be required in the case of an otherwise identical transaction in a normal commercial setting between unrelated parties on arm's-length terms. A participant's vested accrued benefit under a plan may be used as security for a participant loan to the extent of the plan's ability to satisfy the participant's outstanding obligation in the event of default.
(2) For purposes of this paragraph,
(i) No more than 50% of the present value of a participant's vested accrued benefit may be considered by a plan as security for the outstanding balance of all plan loans made to that participant;
(ii) A plan will be in compliance with paragraph (f)(2)(i) of this section if, with respect to any participant, it meets the provisions of paragraph (f)(2)(i) of this section immediately after the origination of each participant loan secured in whole or in part by that participant's vested accrued benefit; and
(iii) Any loan secured in whole or in part by a portion of a participant's vested accrued benefit must also meet the requirements of paragraph (f)(1) of this section.
(g) Effective date. This section is effective for all participant loans granted or renewed after October 18, 1989, except with respect to paragraph (d)(2) of this section relating to specific plan provisions. Paragraph (d)(2) of this section is effective for participant loans granted or renewed on or after the last day of the first plan year beginning on or after January 1, 1989.
(Approved by the Office of Management and Budget under control number 1210-0076)
[54 FR 30528, July 20, 1989]

Title 29 published on 2014-07-01

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Title 29 published on 2014-07-01

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  • 2014-08-21; vol. 79 # 162 - Thursday, August 21, 2014
    1. 79 FR 49469 - Request for Information Regarding Standards for Brokerage Windows in Participant-Directed Individual Account Plans
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      DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, Employee Benefits Security Administration
      Request for information.
      Comments must be submitted on or before November 19, 2014.
      29 CFR Parts 2520 and 2550