With new Erisa retirement plan requirements fast approaching, investment advisors and plan providers are still sorting out how they will comply.

RIA Compliance Consultants, a consulting firm based in Omaha, Neb., and Hill Law Firm offered advice to advisors and plan providers during a webinar today that focused on the new requirements, which go into effect July 1.

The bottom line, they said, is that plan providers and investment advisors should do as much as possible to make the new regulations meaningful for retirement plan providers and easy to understand. Plan sponsors, meanwhile, have new reporting requirements meant to provide meaningful information to plan participants.

The new regulations require investment advisors and plan providers to report clearly what their fiduciary status is, what services they provide in the retirement plan, and the fees they charge for each service.

Bryan Hill of Hill Law predicted the new fee disclosure requirements will give participants more clarity on what they're paying, eventually leading to lower fees.

The new regulations may create an overwhelming task for small business owners to evaluate the new information and make decisions on what plans are best and what fees are reasonable, said Christina Heller of Hill Law. Advisors should strive to make this task as easy as possible for employers, she said.

In addition to helping plan sponsors evaluate fees, plan providers should provide fiduciary benchmarking services to show how plan expenses compare to similar plans, she said. The plan provider or advisor also should assist the employer in fulfilling his duties to the plan participants under the new Erisa regulations. All disclosures to plan participants by the employer must be done by Aug. 30, including information on all designated investment alternatives and investment managers.

Plan providers or the investment advisors should review their errors and omissions policy to make sure all contingencies are covered and should determine their Erisa bond coverage, the speakers said. Advisors should not use a general asset management agreement to try to meet these new requirements, but should create a new reporting agreement that sets out all fees and services for the retirement plan.

All compensation for providing the plan, both direct and indirect payments, needs to be disclosed.

The U.S. Department of Labor is not requiring the information be provided in any specific format, but if it is to be electronic, a written agreement to that affect should be obtained, Heller said.