S. 1232, introduced by Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) in June 2011, is a bill to modify the definition of fiduciary under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 to exclude appraisers of employee stock ownership plans. This bill is a response to the Department of Labor’s (DOL) proposed anti-ESOP regulation mandating all private ESOP company appraisers be ERISA fiduciaries. If the proposed regulation were to be finalized as is, there would be extreme confusion over whether the appraiser or the trustee[s] and other current fiduciaries make the decisions about acquisition of shares, and most troubling, would leave private ESOP companies open to lawsuits. More information can be found here.
On August, 9, 2012, the President and CEO of AICPA, Barry C. Melancan, CPA, CGMA, wrote to Senators Tom Harkin and Mike Enzi to ask for their support of S. 1232. Senator Harkin is Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and Senator Enzi a Ranking Member. The letter states:
“…the DOL’s 2010 proposed definition of fiduciary, which would contradict more than 35 years of accepted practice, will not solve the agency’s quality concerns regarding a limited number of ESOP appraisals. Rather, it takes a one-size-fits-all approach to correct an admittedly small potential problem which would benefit from a far more specific solution.”
“We have said it over and over again, but the DOL does not want to listen. The officials at DOL need to wake up to the fact that private company ESOPs have tremendous positive records of creating jobs that are locally controlled in high performing companies. ESOPs are good for employees, companies, and our communities,” said ESOP Association President J. Michael Keeling. “While a new version of the regulation has not been proposed yet in 2012, the DOL continues to state that ESOPs will be closely examined and incorrect valuations are of particular concern. DOL officials refuse to listen and we have heard they have no intent to alter their views toward ESOPs. We thank the AICPA for their support of S. 1232 and ask members of The ESOP Association to reach out to their Senators and ask for their support of this bill.”