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Cypen & Cypen
NEWSLETTER
for
January 16, 2020

Stephen H. Cypen, Esq., Editor

1. PENSION FUNDING INDEX JANUARY 2020:
The year 2019 was characterized by strong investment returns alongside sharply decreasing discount rates that resulted in an overall $30 billion drop in funded status. Discount rates have declined in seven of the last 10 years. The Milliman 100 discount rates fell 99 basis points to 3.20% at the end of 2019 from 4.19% at the end of 2018. The discount rate at year-end 2019 was the lowest year-end discount rate and the fifth lowest monthly discount overall that has been recorded in the 19-year history of the Milliman 100 Pension Funding Index (PFI). Assets outperformed expectations during 2019, posting an annual return of 15.66% following the disappointing 2018 investment loss of 2.94%. By comparison, the 2019 Milliman Pension Funding Study reported that the monthly median expected investment return during 2018 was 0.53% (6.6% annualized). The year 2019 was favorable for both fixed income and equity investment classes. The PFI has observed investment returns above expectations in six of the last 10 years. With the year-over-year $30 billion funded status drop noted above, the year-end 2019 funded ratio declined to 89.0% from 89.4% at the end of 2018. While plan assets were up $174 billion for the year, plan liabilities increased $204 billion due to the aforementioned declining interest rates. The projected asset and liability figures presented in this analysis will be adjusted as part of Milliman’s annual 2020 Pension Funding Study, including summarizing and reporting the most recent plan sponsor SEC financial reports. The 2020 Pension Funding Study will also reflect reported pension settlement and annuity purchase activities that occurred during 2019. De-risking transactions generally result in reductions in pension funded status because the assets paid to the participants or assumed by the insurance companies as part of the risk transfer are larger than the corresponding liabilities that are extinguished from the balance sheets. To offset this decrease effect, many companies engaging in de-risking transactions make additional cash contributions to their pension plans to improve the plan’s funded status. During 2019, the cumulative investment return was 15.66% while the cumulative liability return (e.g., the projected benefit obligation [PBO] increase) was 17.35%. The $30 billion funded status increase during 2019 resulted in a year-end funded status deficit of $201 billion. Taking a closer look by quarter, 2019 was off to a promising start as the investment return for the Milliman 100 plans was 6.30% in the first quarter, but discount rates sharply fell in March, eroding the funded status gains from earlier in the quarter. The resulting funded ratio was 89.7% as of March 31, 2019. Positive investment experience continued during the second quarter of 2019, but funded status declined throughout as discount rates continued their descent. The funded ratio fell to 88.4% as of June 30 in spite of a stellar six-month return of nearly 10%. The third quarter was by far the worst quarter of the year as investment returns were flat while discount rates achieved new all-time lows. The lowest discount rate ever recorded in the 19-year history of the Milliman 100 PFI of 2.95% occurred at the end of August. Funded status declined by $64 billion during the third quarter and the funded ratio was 85.4% as of September 30. Luckily, things turned around during the fourth quarter as pension assets posted above average returns and discount rates rallied in December. December’s $14 billion increase in market value brings the Milliman 100 PFI asset value to $1.618 trillion at year-end 2019. The Milliman 100 PFI liability value settled at $1.819 trillion at the end of December 2019. The funded ratio climbed to 89.0% by the end of the year, just slightly behind where it started the year at 89.4%. While investment returns were superb, the low discount rate environment exerted itself and ended up having a more dominant effect on the funding ratio during 2019. Pension plan accounting information disclosed in the footnotes of the Milliman 100 companies’ annual reports for the 2019 fiscal year is expected to be available during the first quarter of 2020 as part of the 2020 Milliman Pension Funding Study. We expect to publish our comprehensive recap in April 2020 as part of the 2020 Milliman Pension Funding Study.
 
If the Milliman 100 PFI companies were to achieve the expected 6.6% median asset return (as per the 2019 pension funding study), and if the current discount rate of 3.20% were maintained during years 2020 through 2021, we forecast that the funded status of the surveyed plans would increase. This would result in a projected pension deficit of $132 billion (funded ratio of 92.7%) by the end of 2020 and a projected pension deficit of $61 billion (funded ratio of 96.6%) by the end of 2021. For purposes of this forecast, we have assumed 2020 and 2021 aggregate annual contributions of $50 billion. Under an optimistic forecast with rising interest rates (reaching 3.80% by the end of 2020 and 4.40% by the end of 2021) and asset gains (10.6% annual returns), the funded ratio would climb to 104% by the end of 2020 and 121% by the end of 2021. Under a pessimistic forecast with similar interest rate and asset movements (2.60% discount rate at the end of 2020 and 2.00% by the end of 2021 and 2.6% annual returns), the funded ratio would decline to 82% by the end of 2020 and 76% by the end of 2021.
 
For the past 19 years, Milliman has conducted an annual study of the 100 largest defined benefit pension plans sponsored by U.S. public companies. The Milliman 100 Pension Funding Index projects the funded status for pension plans included in our study, reflecting the impact of market returns and interest rate changes on pension funded status, utilizing the actual reported asset values, liabilities, and asset allocations of the companies’ pension plans. The results of the Milliman 100 Pension Funding Index were based on the actual pension plan accounting information disclosed in the footnotes to the companies’ annual reports for the 2018 fiscal year and for previous fiscal years. This pension plan accounting disclosure information was summarized as part of the Milliman 2019 Pension Funding Study, which was published on April 16, 2019. In addition to providing the financial information on the funded status of U.S. qualified pension plans, the footnotes may also include figures for the companies’ nonqualified and foreign plans, both of which are often unfunded or subject to different funding standards than those for U.S. qualified pension plans. They do not represent the funded status of the companies’ U.S. qualified pension plans under ERISA.  Charles J. Clark and Zorast Wadia, January 8, 2020.
 
2. LONGEVITY IS THE BIGGEST RISK FACING CLIENTS TODAY:
Trade tariffs with China. The Federal Reserve’s stance on monetary policy. The slope of the yield curve. Geopolitical risk with North Korea and the Middle East, plus countless other issues are all concerning factors that impact the daily movement of financial markets. This volatility can cause your clients to lose sleep at night. However important and uncertain these issues may be, they pale in comparison to the biggest risk your clients face, outliving their money. In 2020, the federal estate and gift tax exemption will be $11.58 million per person (or $23.16 million per married couple)--more than double the amount it was five years ago. On the other hand, if you have clients based in New York or other states with an estate tax, you need to take that tax into account when planning. For example, the New York gift tax remains at zero while the New York estate tax, which also reaches gifts made three years before death, approaches rates as high as 16%. With such a large federal exemption (that’s scheduled to go back down to roughly half the amount in 2026) and such a potentially large disparity between the a state’s estate tax and the gift tax (a 16% difference in New York), many of your clients will undoubtedly consider making substantial gifts during their lifetime rather than following the typical “they’ll get it when I die” motto. It makes a lot of sense. Not only will your clients avoid the hefty New York (or other states’) estate tax (assuming estate tax rates don’t substantially decrease), but also, all the appreciation of assets gifted will occur outside of their estates. It seems like a win/win. They’ll make gifts using a portion of their $23.16 million federal exemption incurring zero federal or state taxes, either to their heirs directly or, more likely, to trusts created for their heirs’ benefit. But can your clients really afford to do this? How will they be protected from outliving the assets they have left after these gifts are made?
Aging Population
An aging population is putting strains on the intended legacy of passing down financial assets to support future generations. In addition, people are retiring earlier yet living longer. Health care costs continue to rise. The expectation to help fund the education of children and grandchildren to confront the ever-rising costs of college tuition continues. To maintain their desired standard of living after a substantial gift is made, your clients’ remaining financial assets could be stretched. Moving from the accumulation phase of their financial life to the distribution phase can be unsettling. Given interest rates in the global bond market have been at or near historic lows for over a decade, in general, your clients have been forced to take on more risk by owning equities, when it might not typically fit their investment profile. We believe that the days when your clients could simply take “100 minus their age = their Equity/Fixed Income allocation” are gone and that a more thoughtful approach to risk management and total return is imperative to preserve and grow your clients’ financial assets to continue building generational wealth. According to an analysis by J.P. Morgan, there’s a 90% chance that one spouse of a married couple will live into their 80s, and a 49% chance of one of them living into their 90s. Think about that: if a client retires at age 65, chances are he and/or his spouse will live for another 20 years. Nearly 30% of his life could be without earning an income. Your clients are relying on their financial assets to fund their current cash flow needs yet trying to protect or create generational wealth and, at the same time, attempting to protect their heirs from paying substantial estate taxes. We must ask the question: Are your clients’ financial assets positioned to achieve this triple objective? Many assume holding cash is a way to protect against potentially volatile financial markets. This may be true in the short term, but over time, the “silent risk” of holding cash is that inflation and taxes will eat away its purchasing power. Fixed income has proven to be the port in the storm when equity markets become volatile and provides an important level of diversification for a portfolio. However, with interest rates low, bonds can no longer be solely relied upon for income. With the need for higher returns comes higher risk, but the scars of 2008, and even the fourth quarter of 2018, are still fresh on our minds, so taking on a higher allocation to stocks can be unsettling. What are your clients to do?
Manage Risks
Stay focused on managing risk, but not just among stocks, bonds and cash. Diversify their cash flow streams. Investing in a mix of securities such as bonds, stocks, real estate investment trusts, master limited partnerships, preferred stocks, bank loans, emerging markets debt and high-yield bonds that are earning a higher yield than that of an investment-grade bond portfolio, yet are historically less volatile than a pure stock portfolio, is a prudent way for your clients to achieve their goals. Focusing on protecting the “quality” of the income stream by favoring companies with a strong balance sheet, business models that generate high levels of free cash flow and management teams committed to the dividend, is also of utmost importance. Today’s environment is markedly different than it was a generation ago. The financial world was turned upside down in 2008. Your clients are living longer, and their next-gen heirs may be relying on inheritance to provide for their growing families. In response, your clients need an active approach to their cash flow needs to live out their financial legacy. Michael Meltzer and John Petrides, portfolio managers at Tocqueville Asset Management L.P., WealthManagement.com, January 08, 2020.
 
3. IRS ISSUES 2019 ANNUAL REPORT; HIGHLIGHTS PROGRAM AREAS ACROSS THE AGENCY:
WASHINGTON − The Internal Revenue Service today released a new annual report highlighting accomplishments across the nation’s tax agency during Fiscal Year 2019. “Internal Revenue Service Progress Update/Fiscal Year 2019 – Putting Taxpayers First”provides an overview of a variety of operations across taxpayer service, compliance and support areas. The 41-page document is built around the agency’s six strategic goals. “This report is about more than what happened during the past year,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig wrote in the report’s opening message to taxpayers. “It’s also designed to provide insight into the people serving this country on behalf of the IRS and provide a glimpse into the future.” The report highlights the work of IRS employees supporting the nation’s tax system during the past year. This covers a variety of taxpayer service efforts, including development of a new Taxpayer Withholding Estimator, as well as operations support efforts on areas involving Information Technology modernization, Human Capital Office initiatives and others. The report also focuses on Criminal Investigation results and efforts involving civil enforcement. Ongoing compliance areas, among them micro-captives, syndicated conservation easements and virtual currency, are also included in the publication. The report also covers IRS implementation of new tax laws, ranging from steps to put in place provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to ongoing work underway on the new Taxpayer First Act of 2019. The resource document is designed to complement other documents, including the annual IRS Data Book. “We continually strive to put taxpayers first,” Rettig said. “The IRS leadership team and our entire workforce are excited about the direction of our agency as outlined in this report.”  IRS Newswire, Issue Number: IR-2020-01, January 6, 2020.
 
4. MCCLATCHY CUTS BACK ON EXECUTIVE BENEFITS DUE TO PENSION DISTRESS:
McClatchy has asked for legislative relief and is in discussions with the PBGC about a distress termination of its defined benefit (DB) plan.  The media company has disclosed that it will not be releasing certain nonqualified supplemental executive retirement benefits to a small number of participants at this time as it continues to address its long-term liquidity pressures arising from its qualified pension obligations due in the third quarter of 2020. In reporting its third quarter 2019 results, the company said it submitted an application for a waiver of the minimum required contributions to its defined benefit (DB) plan with the IRS for plan years 2019, 2020 and 2021. As of March 31, 2019, the latest measurement date of the plan, it held assets of $1.32 billion, of which approximately $580 million came from voluntary contributions made by McClatchy over and above the minimum required contributions. Still the plan was underfunded by approximately $535 million as of March 31, 2019, with approximately $124 million of contributions due over the course of 2020. “The amount due greatly exceeds the company’s anticipated cash balances and cash flow given the size of its operations relative to the obligations due, and creates a significant liquidity challenge in 2020,” the report said. McClathy disclosed that the IRS has declined to grant the company’s three-year waiver request. The company said, “Management continues to explore other means of pension relief including working productively with many members of Congress in search of legislative relief that would mitigate the burden of the minimum required contributions. The company and its advisers are exploring all available options to address these liquidity pressures.” At the time, Craig Forman, McClatchy’s president and CEO, noted that the company’s current workforce of nearly 2,800 employees represents about one in ten pensioners. Those who joined the company in the last 10 years do not participate in a plan they are working to support--one that was frozen to new participants in 2009. “Since there can be no assurance of a legislative solution to the company’s liquidity challenges,” the company said it has started discussions with the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) and its largest debt holder, “for the purpose of exploring other alternatives that would provide a more permanent, rather than temporary, solution to its qualified pension obligations, nonqualified pension obligations and capital structure.” It is in discussions with the PBGC regarding a distress termination, allowing it to reach payment terms with the PBGC that will relieve the current liquidity pressures of the minimum required contributions under Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The report said, “There can be no assurance that the ongoing discussions with PBGC, its debt holder, and other parties will result in any restructuring transaction, that the company will obtain any required stakeholder consent to consummate a restructuring transaction, or that the restructuring transaction will occur on a timely basis or at all.” Regarding the withholding of certain nonqualified supplemental executive retirement benefits, Elaine Lintecum, the company’s chief financial officer, said, “This decision is not taken lightly, but at a time when the company is actively negotiating the future of the qualified pension plan, it would be inconsistent with our culture to continue payments on the non-qualified plans.”  Rebecca Moore, Plansponsor, January 7, 2020.
 
5. INSPECTOR GENERAL WARNS PUBLIC ABOUT NEW TWIST TO SOCIAL SECURITY PHONE SCAM:
The Inspector General of Social Security, Gail S. Ennis, is warning the public that telephone scammers may send faked documents by email to convince victims to comply with their demands. The Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has received reports of victims who received emails with attached letters and reports that appeared to be from Social Security or Social Security OIG. The letters may use official letterhead and government “jargon” to convince victims they are legitimate; they may also contain misspellings and grammar mistakes. This is the latest variation on Social Security phone scams, which continue to be widespread throughout the United States. Using robocalls or live callers, fraudsters pretend to be government employees and claim there is identity theft or another problem with one’s Social Security number, account, or benefits. They may threaten arrest or other legal action, or may offer to increase benefits, protect assets, or resolve identity theft. They often demand payment via retail gift card, cash, wire transfer, internet currency such as Bitcoin, or pre-paid debit card. Inspector General Ennis urges continued vigilance against all types of phone scams no matter what “proof” callers may offer. As we continue to increase public awareness of phone scams, criminals will come up with new ways to convince people of their legitimacy. Social Security will never:

  • threaten you with arrest or other legal action unless you immediately pay a fine or fee;
  • promise a benefit increase or other assistance in exchange for payment;
  • require payment by retail gift card, cash, wire transfer, internet currency, or prepaid debit card; or
  • send official letters or reports containing personally identifiable information via email.

If there is ever a problem with your Social Security number or record, in most cases Social Security will mail you a letter. If you do need to submit payments to Social Security, the agency will send a letter with instructions and payment options. You should never pay a government fee or fine using retail gift cards, cash, internet currency, wire transfers or pre-paid debit cards. The scammers ask for payment this way because it is very difficult to trace and recover. If you receive a call or email that you believe to be suspicious, about a problem with your Social Security number or account, hang up or do not respond. We encourage the public to report Social Security phone scams using our dedicated online form, at https://oig.ssa.gov. Please share this information with your friends and family, to help spread awareness about phone scams. For more information, please visit https://oig.ssa.gov/scam.  Tracy Lynge, Acting OIG Communications Director, Social Security Administration, January 9, 2020.
 
6. ARIZONA STATE PENSION IS HEADED FOR ‘COMPLETE DESPERATION,’ RESEARCH GROUP WARNS:
The Arizona Chamber Foundation (ACF), a research group, decries the Arizona State Retirement System’s (ASRS) dwindling funded ratio, which it claims is trending toward “complete desperation.” As a direct result of the ASRS’ situation, the state’s educational environment degraded in an effort to help cover the pension’s unfunded liabilities. The ASRS quadrupled state teachers’ contributions to help mitigate their dwindling funded ratio, subsequently hampering the state’s ability to attract and retain teachers. The pension used to have a $1 billion funding surplus in 2002,the group’s report contended, but since its issues began, it looked to teachers’ paychecks for help. “By 2002, ASRS…had 104.% funds needed to fund beneficiaries, despite taking a modest 3% of payroll from ASRS participants,” the ACF said in its “Modernizing Teachers Pensions for the 21stCentury” report. “Starting in July 2019, the system will have increased the burden on classroom teachers, taking 12.11% directly from teachers and other contributors and another 12.11% from teachers’ schools.” Additionally, the ASRS increased contributions from the schools themselves to 12.11%. The school contribution has a compound effect on teachers’ salaries, the ACF explained, meaning they have less room in their budget to provide pay raises for staff. Despite schools and teachers paying four times more than they used to, the solvency of the system has continued to decline. “Arizona’s pension system for teachers has not yet reached the precipice of complete desperation, but it is trending in that direction,” the report reads. One of the major consequences is lessened attraction of Arizona’s educational market to prospective teachers. “By reducing take-home pay, the pension system can deter teacher recruitment efforts even if prospective teachers lack awareness of details regarding factors constraining take-home pay. In other words, prospective teachers don’t need to understand that pensions absorbing a large portion of payrolls contributes to a lower teacher pay--they may be deterred simply because they believe it is low,” the AFC report said. Also, the structure of the ASRS’ payment scheme is duly antiquated. Currently, teachers must pay out contributions but won’t be completely vested in the system until they spend five years working under the system – a benchmark that only 30% of workers reach. As a result, the average teacher forgoes pay, but doesn’t receive the corresponding pension benefit. “ASRS, in short, is built for an era in which people signed on with an employer, worked in a multi-decade career with the same organization, and then retired. This does not typify the modern American labor market in general, nor the current teaching profession,” the report said. “ASRS, in short, requires modernization.” The AFC did not propose any solutions and said that is better to be suggested and coordinated by the pension’s staff.  Steffan Navedo-Perez, Chief Investment Officer, January 6, 2020.
 
7. CITY OF JACKSONVILLE URGED TO ADD NEW HURDLES FOR ANY FUTURE JEA SALES TALKS:
The continuing fallout from JEA’s collapsed sales negotiations shifted toward potential changes in the City Charter that would give the City Council a decisive voice in whether a “for sale” sign ever again goes on JEA in the future. The Jacksonville Civic Council, a group of leading business executives and civic leaders, issued a statement Tuesday by its executive committee that said the City Council should get more control by requiring any future sales consideration to first get super-majority support by City Council before heading down that path. The JEA board voted in July to seek offers without seeking any authorization from City Council. The changes sought by the Civic Council would prevent a repeat of JEA deciding on its own to put the utility up for sale. The Civic Council also said the City Council should have the ability to directly appoint members of the JEA board. The Civic Council backed the concept put forward by City Council member Garrett Dennis for the council to gain power to appoint three of the seven JEA board members. Dennis is proposing legislation that would put a referendum on the November ballot for Duval County voters to decide if they want council to appoint three JEA board members. In the current set-up, the mayor appoints all seven board members and the City Council votes to confirm or reject the mayor’s appointees. The Civic Council’s statement said the JEA board should include some appointees from City Council, and board members should have “relevant professional experience” for overseeing the utility. “A balanced and well-qualified board is necessary to JEA’s future success and will help to restore the confidence of the public,” the statement said. The proposed changes to the City Charter came as JEA continues to release documents from the recently canceled sales talks. The latest batch of documents unveiled the offers put forward by top-ranked respondents, but redactions to the documents blacked out the purchase prices submitted by most of the respondents who made it to the latest round of talks in December, weeks before the JEA board canceled negotiations and rejected all responses on Dec. 24. Two respondents allowed the amount of their offers to be public. Emera offered to pay $5.5 billion for the electric side of JEA’s utility. JEA Public Power Partners offered to pay $8 billion in a proposed 50-year concession agreement in which the partnership would manage all parts of JEA electric and water operations. JEA would remain city-owned. JEA Public Power Partners says City Hall would have netted $4.4 billion in net cash proceeds from its deal after other costs such as paying off debt were taken care of. JEA Public Power Partners comprises Emera, Bernhard Capital Partners and Suez. Documents released by JEA redacted the dollar amounts offered by NextEra Energy, which is the parent company of Florida Power & Light, American Water, Duke Energy and Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets. The topic of possibly selling JEA has come up every few years for more than a decade, but it got farther this time than ever before because the JEA board voted in July to seek offers. City Council members later said JEA had moved too fast and failed to consult with City Council or seek public support before putting the utility up for sale. The Jacksonville Civic Council’s executive committee said the City Charter should be changed to require support by at least two-thirds of the 19-member City Council before there is any future consideration of selling JEA. By requiring City Council approval at the front-end of any sales process, the change add another lay of council review beyond its current role of voting on any sales deal after negotiations are completed. In 2018, a vote referendum supported changing the City Charter to also give voters the final say in whether they back the terms of a JEA sale.   David Bauerlein, The Florida Times-UnionJacksonville.com, January 7, 2020.
 
8. SCHWAB-TD AMERITRADE MERGER CHALLENGED IN ANTITRUST LAWSUIT:
In November 2019, the Charles Schwab Corporation and TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation announced their entrance into a definitive agreement for Schwab to acquire TD Ameritrade in an all-stock transaction. At the time, Schwab President and CEO Walt Bettinger said the deal shouldn’t be a surprise to the industry, given the shared ethos of the two companies. Bettinger further noted that the combined entity “will be uniquely positioned to serve the investment, trading and wealth management needs of investors across every phase of their financial journeys.” Now that the firms are taking their first steps towards integration, it appears that the mega M&A transaction is not without its critics--and in fact at least one lawsuit has already been filed seeking to halt the combination of Schwab and TD Ameritrade. Court documents show BlackCrown Inc., an independent minority owned and operated Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registered wealth management firm, has filed a civil antitrust action to prevent Charles Schwab from acquiring TD Ameritrade “in its current proposition for all of TD Ameritrade’s assets.” Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the lawsuit states that Schwab and TD Ameritrade both have their respective custodian businesses, called Schwab Advisor Services and TD Ameritrade Institutional, that today compete aggressively and vie to provide custodian services for the wealth management industry. “This competition has bolstered the American wealth management industry that oversees approximately $23.7 trillion in assets and contributes billions of dollars a year to the financial services economy, directly helping custody assets for independent registered investment advisers (RIAs) and independent investment adviser representatives (IARs) so they may deliver retirement and financial planning services for American citizens seeking to retire and to manage their personal assets,” the complaint states. “If allowed to proceed, the proposed acquisition would negatively transform the wealth management industry and directly harm and disenfranchise BlackCrown whilst equally harm and disenfranchise a great majority of assets (all independent wealth management firms below $200 million in assets under management) and all minority owned business owners of RIAs and IARs, whereas the entirety of the independent wealth management market is legally defined as small to medium sized businesses.” The complaint states that, most prominently and damaging to BlackCrown, the acquisition would eliminate competition within the custodian market for independent wealth management firms to deliver and administer regulatory required and innovative custodial services for the entire independent wealth management industry. BlackCrown’s leadership says this would disenfranchise a great segment of wealth management firms with assets under management less than $200 million, “thereby effectively establishing a caste system (rich to play model) for independent wealth management firms, wherefore directly harming BlackCrown and other firms similar to BlackCrown in providing financial planning and wealth management services within the entire wealth management industry.” According to BlackCrown, TD Ameritrade’s custodian services and technology are the only competitive alternatives to Charles Schwab for independent wealth management firms with smaller assets under management. “The forward-looking combination of Schwab Advisor Services and TD Ameritrade Institutional would result in removing of general technology innovation, and the absolute removal of competitive pressures by and between Schwab Advisor Services and TD Ameritrade Institutional to launch either technology innovations and/or service innovations that directly benefit and help independent wealth management firms operate efficiently and scale profitability at lower costs,” the complaint continues. “Such a proposed combination and removal or diminished technological innovation will directly damage BlackCrown and all independent wealth management firms with AUM below $200 million.” The lawsuit states that Charles Schwab has already preemptively announced plans, as of December 2, 2019, to downgrade the bulk of its RIA clients to a 1-800 call center service model to adjust to the TD Ameritrade acquisition. The complaint suggests that Charles Schwab will now set the benchmark at $200 million in AUM for the call center, “as those RIAs and IARs holding assets below the benchmark will have an impersonal model of working with Charles Schwab’s Schwab Advisor Services.” Another important factor pointed to in the complaint is that the entire relevant market for custodian products and services is highly concentrated already, with just four custodians holding custody of 80% of the AUM representing the entire independent wealth management industry. These are Charles Schwab (via Schwab Advisor Services), TD Ameritrade (via TD Ameritrade Institutional), Fidelity (via Fidelity Clearing and Custody Solutions) and Pershing. Charles Schwab shared the following comment in regard to the litigation: “We believe the complaint is baseless and we’ll respond at the appropriate time.” The full text of the amended antitrust complaint is available here. John Manganaro, Planadviser, January 2, 2020
 
9. DID YOU KNOW WILL ROGERS SAID THIS?:
I never met a man I didn't like.
 
10. INSPIRATIONAL QUOTES:
Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking. - William Butler Yeats
 
11. TODAY IN HISTORY:
On this day in 1936, the first photo finish camera is installed at Hialeah Race track in Hialeah, Florida

12. REMEMBER, YOU CAN NEVER OUTLIVE YOUR DEFINED RETIREMENT BENEFIT.

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Items in this Newsletter may be excerpts or summaries of original or secondary source material, and may have been reorganized for clarity and brevity. This Newsletter is general in nature and is not intended to provide specific legal or other advice.


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