Conversation Toolkit

Protecting plan sponsors from liability

Topic overview

As fiduciaries, business owners who sponsor workplace retirement plans are legally obligated to follow a prudent process for selecting, monitoring and replacing investment alternatives for their plans. If they fail to fulfill their fiduciary duties, they can be held personally liable for investment losses and face civil and criminal penalties.

By allowing participants to self-direct the investment of their account balances and by following the other provisions of ERISA Sec. 404(c), plan sponsors can reduce their fiduciary risk with respect to investment performance.

Use this toolkit to help your plan sponsors mitigate their fiduciary risk by understanding and adhering to the necessary requirements.

Is this relevant to my clients?

Individuals could benefit from these tools if they:

  • Maintain certain retirement plans:
    • 401(k) and other defined contribution plans
    • Defined benefit plans
  • Do not maintain plans at this time but are considering establishing workplace retirement plans

How to use your toolkit

  1. Schedule client meetings to discuss this opportunity.
  2. Email the Pre-Meeting Overview to your clients to set their expectations.
  3. Print out the Meeting Worksheet and review it together.


This material is for educational purposes only. It cannot be used for the purposes of avoiding penalties and taxes. Columbia Threadneedle Investments does not provide tax or legal advice. Consumers should consult with their tax advisor or attorney regarding their specific situation.