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Notice of Proposed Exemption Involving Credit Suisse AG Located in Zurich, Switzerland

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

Employee Benefits Security Administration, U.S. Department of Labor.

ACTION:

Notice of Proposed Exemption.

SUMMARY:

This document contains a notice of pendency before the Department of Labor (the Department) of a proposed exemption from certain prohibited transaction restrictions of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (ERISA or the Act), and the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the Code). This proposed exemption was developed by the Department on its own motion. If granted, the proposed exemption would increase, from one year to ten years, the period during which certain entities with specified relationships to Credit Suisse AG (hereinafter, Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAMs and Credit Suisse Related QPAMs) may rely on prohibited transaction class exemption (PTE) 84-14.

Effective Date: If granted, this proposed exemption will be effective for the period of time starting on the date a final exemption, if any, is published in the Federal Exemption, and ending on the date that is ten years following the date a judgment of conviction against Credit Suisse AG for one count of conspiracy to violate section 7206(2) of the Internal Revenue Code in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371 (the Conviction) is entered in the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Case Number 1:14-cr-188-RBS.

DATES:

Written comments and requests for a public hearing on the proposed exemption should be submitted to the Department within 45 days from the date of publication of this Federal Register Notice.

ADDRESSES:

Comments and requests for a hearing should state: (1) The name, address, telephone number, and email Start Printed Page 68713address of the person making the request, and (2) the nature of the person's interest in the proposed exemption and the manner in which the person would be adversely affected by the exemption, if granted. A hearing may be requested by any interested person and must state: (1) The name, address, telephone number, and email address of the person making the request; (2) the nature of the person's interest in the exemption and the manner in which the person would be adversely affected by the exemption; and (3) a statement of the issues to be addressed and a general description of the evidence to be presented at the hearing. The Department will grant a request for a hearing made in accordance with the requirements above where a hearing is necessary to fully explore material factual issues identified by the person requesting the hearing. A notice of such hearing shall be published by the Department in the Federal Register. The Department may decline to hold a hearing where: (1) The request for the hearing does not meet the requirements above; (2) the only issues identified for exploration at the hearing are matters of law; or (3) the factual issues identified can be fully explored through the submission of evidence in written (including electronic) form.

All written comments and requests for a public hearing concerning the proposed exemption should be directed to the Office of Exemption Determinations, Employee Benefits Security Administration, Room N-5700, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20210, Attention: Application No. D-11837. Interested persons may also submit comments and/or hearing requests to EBSA via email to moffitt.betty@dol.gov, by FAX to (202) 219-0204, or online through http://www.regulations.gov. Any such comments or requests should be sent by the end of the scheduled comment period. The application regarding the proposed exemption and the comments received will be available for public inspection in the Public Disclosure Room of the Employee Benefits Security Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, Room N-1515, 200 Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20210. Comments and hearing requests will also be made available online through http://www.regulations.gov and www.dol.gov/​ebsa at no charge.

Warning: All comments received will be included in the public record without change and will be made available online at http://www.regulations.gov and www.dol.gov/​ebsa. The Department will endeavor to redact certain protected personal information, but it is possible that some such information may be disclosed. Therefore, if you submit a comment, the Department recommends that you include your name and other contact information in the body of your comment, but do not submit information that you consider to be confidential, or otherwise protected (such as Social Security number or an unlisted phone number) or confidential business information that you do not want publicly disclosed. Furthermore, if the Department cannot read your comment due to technical difficulties and cannot contact you for clarification, EBSA might not be able to consider your comment. Additionally, the http://www.regulations.gov Web site is an “anonymous access” system, which means the Department will not know your identity or contact information unless you complete the applicable fields or provide it in the body of your comment. If you send an email directly to the Department without going through http://www.regulations.gov, your email address will be automatically captured and included as part of the comment that is placed in the public record and made available on the Internet.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Erin S. Hesse, Office of Exemption Determinations, Employee Benefits Security Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, telephone (202) 693-8546. (This is not a toll-free number.)

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

If this proposed exemption is granted, certain entities with specified relationships to Credit Suisse AG must satisfy additional conditions in order to rely on, for a period of ten years, the relief provided by PTE 84-14 (49 FR 9494 (March 13, 1984), as corrected at 50 FR 41430 (October 10, 1985), as amended at 70 FR 49305 (August 23, 2005), and as amended at 75 FR 38837 (July 6, 2010)). The exemption is being proposed by the Department on its own motion. Effective December 31, 1978, section 102 of the Reorganization Plan No. 4 of 1978, 5 U.S.C. App. 1 (1996), transferred the authority of the Secretary of the Treasury to issue administrative exemptions under section 4975(c)(2) of the Code to the Secretary of Labor.

Summary of Facts and Representations

1. On September 3, 2014, the Department published a proposed exemption for Application No. D-11819, at 79 FR 52365 (the First Proposed Exemption). Therein, the Department proposed relief for Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAMs and Credit Suisse Related QPAMs to continue to utilize the relief set forth in PTE 84-14 for a period of ten years, if certain conditions are met, notwithstanding the failure of those entities to meet the requirement set forth in section I(g) of that class exemption.[1] Following the issuance of that proposal, the Department received ten comments and four requests for a hearing. As described in a notice that appears elsewhere in today's Federal Register, the Department will be holding a hearing on January 15, 2015, in connection with those requests (the Hearing).

2. Given the upcoming Hearing and the possibility that new, factually relevant information regarding the transactions described in the First Proposed Exemption may be forthcoming, the Department is currently unable to make a final determination that relief for a ten year period is warranted. However, the Department is aware, based on representations from Credit Suisse AG, that plans and IRAs managed by Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAMs and Credit Suisse Related QPAMs may incur certain costs or losses to the extent relief under PTE 84-14 is suddenly unavailable on the date of the Conviction, which is tentatively scheduled for November 21, 2014. To prevent plans and IRAs from incurring such costs and losses, the Department is issuing in today's Federal Register a temporary final exemption that permits Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAMs and Credit Suisse Related QPAMs to continue to utilize the relief in PTE 84-14 for one year following the Conviction. This one year period is intended to be no longer than necessary for the Department to determine whether more permanent relief (i.e., the ten year period described herein) is warranted. Any such determination will be based on the entirety of the record attributable to this proposed exemption, which will include comments received from the Hearing and any comments received in connection with the publication of this proposed exemption.

3. In issuing the First Proposed Exemption, the Department had tentatively determined that it would be in the interest of affected plans and Start Printed Page 68714IRAs to permit Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAMs and Credit Suisse Related QPAMs to continue to rely on PTE 84-14 for a period of ten years, to the extent certain additional conditions are met. This proposed exemption, if granted, would provide substantially the same relief described in the First Proposed Exemption, subject to substantially the same conditions. Accordingly, interested persons are directed to the First Proposed Exemption for the Department's views regarding the scope of relief and the adequacy of the conditions contained herein. The Department notes that it will only grant a final exemption to the extent it first finds that such relief is protective of, and in the interest of, affected plans and IRAs, and administratively feasible.

Notice to Interested Persons

Notice of the proposed exemption (the Notice) will be provided to all interested persons within fifteen (15) days of publication of the Notice in the Federal Register. The Notice will be provided to all interested persons in the manner agreed upon by the Applicant and the Department. Such notification will contain a copy of the Notice, as published in the Federal Register, and a supplemental statement, as required, pursuant to 29 CFR 2570.43(a)(2). The supplemental statement will inform all interested persons of their right to comment on and to request a hearing with respect to the pending exemption.

All written comments and/or requests for a hearing must be received by the Department within forty-five (45) days of the publication of the Notice in the Federal Register.

All comments will be made available to the public. Warning: If you submit a comment, EBSA recommends that you include your name and other contact information in the body of your comment, but DO NOT submit information that you consider to be confidential, or otherwise protected (such as Social Security number or an unlisted phone number) or confidential business information that you do not want publicly disclosed. All comments may be posted on the Internet and can be retrieved by most Internet search engines.

General Information

The attention of interested persons is directed to the following:

(1) The fact that a transaction is the subject of an exemption under section 408(a) of the Act and/or section 4975(c)(2) of the Code does not relieve a fiduciary or other party in interest or disqualified person from certain other provisions of the Act and/or the Code, including any prohibited transaction provisions to which the exemption does not apply and the general fiduciary responsibility provisions of section 404 of the Act, which, among other things, require a fiduciary to discharge his duties respecting the plan solely in the interest of the participants and beneficiaries of the plan and in a prudent fashion in accordance with section 404(a)(1)(B) of the Act; nor does it affect the requirement of section 401(a) of the Code that the plan must operate for the exclusive benefit of the employees of the employer maintaining the plan and their beneficiaries;

(2) Before an exemption may be granted under section 408(a) of the Act and/or section 4975(c)(2) of the Code, the Department must find that the exemption is administratively feasible, in the interests of the plan and of its participants and beneficiaries, and protective of the rights of participants and beneficiaries of the plan;

(3) The proposed exemption, if granted, will be supplemental to, and not in derogation of, any other provisions of the Act and/or the Code, including statutory or administrative exemptions and transitional rules. Furthermore, the fact that a transaction is subject to an administrative or statutory exemption is not dispositive of whether the transaction is in fact a prohibited transaction; and

(4) The proposed exemption, if granted, will be subject to the express condition that the material facts and representations contained in the application are true and complete, and that the application accurately describes all material terms of the transaction which is the subject of the exemption.

Proposed Exemption

Based on the foregoing facts, and those published in the Notice of Proposed Exemption at 79 FR 52365, the Department is considering granting an exemption under the authority of section 408(a) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (ERISA), and section 4975(c)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the Code), and in accordance with the procedures set forth in 29 CFR part 2570, Subpart B (76 FR 66637, 66644, October 27, 2011).[2]

Section I: Covered Transactions

The Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAMs and the Credit Suisse Related QPAMs shall not be precluded from relying on the relief provided by Prohibited Transaction Class Exemption (PTE) 84-14 [3] notwithstanding the Conviction (as defined in Section II(c)),[4] provided the following conditions are satisfied:

(a) Any failure of the Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAMs or the Credit Suisse Related QPAMs to satisfy Section I(g) of PTE 84-14 arose solely from the Conviction;

(b) The Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAMs and the Credit Suisse Related QPAMs (including officers, directors, agents other than Credit Suisse AG, and employees of such QPAMs) did not participate in the criminal conduct of Credit Suisse AG that is the subject of the Conviction;

(c) The Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAMs and the Credit Suisse Related QPAMs did not directly receive compensation in connection with the criminal conduct of Credit Suisse AG that is the subject of the Conviction;

(d) The criminal conduct of Credit Suisse AG that is the subject of the Conviction did not directly or indirectly involve the assets of any plan subject to Part 4 of Title I of ERISA (an ERISA-covered plan) or section 4975 of the Code (an IRA);

(e) Credit Suisse AG did not provide any fiduciary services to ERISA-covered plans or IRAs, except in connection with securities lending services of the New York Branch of Credit Suisse AG, or act as a QPAM for ERISA-covered plans or IRAs;

(f) A Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM will not use its authority or influence to direct an “investment fund” (as defined in Section VI(b) of PTE 84-14) that is subject to ERISA and managed by such Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM to enter into any transaction with Credit Suisse AG or engage Credit Suisse AG to provide additional services to such investment fund, for a direct or indirect fee borne by such investment fund regardless of whether such transactions or services may otherwise be within the scope of relief provided by an administrative or statutory exemption;

(g) Each Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM will ensure that none of its employees or agents, if any, that were involved in the criminal conduct that underlies the Conviction will engage in Start Printed Page 68715transactions on behalf of any “investment fund” (as defined in Section VI(b) of PTE 84-14) subject to ERISA and managed by such Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAMs;

(h)(1) Each Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM immediately develops, implements, maintains, and follows written policies (the Policies) requiring and reasonably designed to ensure that: (i) The asset management decisions of the Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAMs are conducted independently of Credit Suisse AG's management and business activities; (ii) the Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM fully complies with ERISA's fiduciary duties and ERISA and the Code's prohibited transaction provisions and does not knowingly participate in any violations of these duties and provisions with respect to ERISA-covered plans and IRAs; (iii) the Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM does not knowingly participate in any other person's violation of ERISA or the Code with respect to ERISA-covered plans and IRAs; (iv) any filings or statements made by the Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM to regulators, including but not limited to, the Department of Labor, the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Justice, and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, on behalf of ERISA-covered plans or IRAs are materially accurate and complete, to the best of such QPAM's knowledge at that time; (v) the Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM does not make material misrepresentations or omit material information in its communications with such regulators with respect to ERISA-covered plans or IRAs, or make material misrepresentations or omit material information in its communications with ERISA-covered plan and IRA clients; (vi) the Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM complies with the terms of this exemption; and (vii) any violations of or failure to comply with items (ii) through (vi) are corrected promptly upon discovery and any such violations or compliance failures not promptly corrected are reported, upon discovering the failure to promptly correct, in writing to appropriate corporate officers, the head of Compliance and the General Counsel of the relevant Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM, the independent auditor responsible for reviewing compliance with the Policies, and a fiduciary of any affected ERISA-covered plan or IRA where such fiduciary is independent of Credit Suisse AG; however, with respect to any ERISA-covered plan or IRA sponsored by an “affiliate” (as defined in Section VI(d) of PTE 84-14) of Credit Suisse AG or beneficially owned by an employee of Credit Suisse AG or its affiliates, such fiduciary does not need to be independent of Credit Suisse AG; Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAMs will not be treated as having failed to develop, implement, maintain, or follow the Policies, provided that they correct any instances of noncompliance promptly when discovered or when they reasonably should have known of the noncompliance (whichever is earlier), and provided that they adhere to the reporting requirements set forth in this item (vii);

(2) Each Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM immediately develops and implements a program of training (the Training), conducted at least annually for relevant Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM asset management, legal, compliance, and internal audit personnel; the Training shall be set forth in the Policies and, at a minimum, covers the Policies, ERISA and Code compliance (including applicable fiduciary duties and the prohibited transaction provisions) and ethical conduct, the consequences for not complying with the conditions of this exemption, (including the loss of the exemptive relief provided herein), and prompt reporting of wrongdoing;

(i)(1) Each Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM submits to an audit conducted annually by an independent auditor, who has been prudently selected and who has appropriate technical training and proficiency with ERISA to evaluate the adequacy of, and compliance with, the Policies and Training described in paragraph (h); the first of the audits must be completed no later than twelve (12) months after the date of Conviction and must cover the first six-month period that begins on the date of Conviction; all subsequent audits must cover the following corresponding twelve-month periods and be completed no later than six (6) months after the period to which it applies;

(2) The auditor's engagement shall specifically require the auditor to determine whether each Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM has developed, implemented, maintained, and followed Policies in accordance with the conditions of this exemption and developed and implemented the Training, as required herein;

(3) The auditor's engagement shall specifically require the auditor to test each Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM's operational compliance with the Policies and Training;

(4) For each audit, the auditor shall issue a written report (the Audit Report) to Credit Suisse AG and the Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM to which the audit applies that describes the steps performed by the auditor during the course of its examination. The Audit Report shall include the auditor's specific determinations regarding the adequacy of the Policies and Training; the auditor's recommendations (if any) with respect to strengthening such Policies and Training; and any instances of the respective Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM's noncompliance with the written Policies and Training described in paragraph (h) above. Any determinations made by the auditor regarding the adequacy of the Policies and Training and the auditor's recommendations (if any) with respect to strengthening the Policies and Training of the respective Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM shall be promptly addressed by such Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM, and any actions taken by such Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM to address such recommendations shall be included in an addendum to the Audit Report. Any determinations by the auditor that the respective Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM has implemented, maintained, and followed sufficient Policies and Training shall not be based solely or in substantial part on an absence of evidence indicating noncompliance;

(5) The auditor shall notify the respective Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM of any instances of noncompliance identified by the auditor within five (5) business days after such noncompliance is identified by the auditor, regardless of whether the audit has been completed as of that date. Upon request, the auditor shall provide OED with all of the relevant workpapers reflecting any instances of noncompliance. The workpapers shall include an explanation of any corrective or remedial actions taken by the respective Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM;

(6) With respect to each Audit Report, an executive officer of the Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM to which the Audit Report applies certifies in writing, under penalty of perjury, that the officer has reviewed the Audit Report and this exemption; addressed, corrected, or remediated any inadequacies identified in the Audit Report; and determined that the Policies and Training in effect at the time of signing are adequate to ensure compliance with the conditions of this exemption and with the applicable provisions of ERISA and the Code;

(7) An executive officer of Credit Suisse AG reviews the Audit Report for each Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM and certifies in writing, under penalty of perjury, that such officer has reviewed each Audit Report;Start Printed Page 68716

(8) Each Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM provides its certified Audit Report to the Department's Office of Exemption Determinations (OED), Room N-5700, 200 Constitution Avenue NW., Washington DC 20210, no later than 30 days following its completion, and each Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM makes its Audit Report unconditionally available for examination by any duly authorized employee or representative of the Department, other relevant regulators, and any fiduciary of an ERISA-covered plan or IRA, the assets of which are managed by such Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM;

(j) The Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAMs comply with each condition of PTE 84-14, as amended, with the sole exception of the violation of Section I(g) that is attributable to the Conviction;

(k) Effective from the date of publication of any granted exemption in the Federal Register, with respect to each ERISA-covered plan or IRA for which a Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM provides asset management or other discretionary fiduciary services, each Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM agrees: (1) To comply with ERISA and the Code, as applicable to the particular ERISA-covered plan or IRA, and refrain from engaging in prohibited transactions; (2) not to waive, limit, or qualify the liability of the Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM for knowingly violating ERISA or the Code or engaging in prohibited transactions; (3) not to require the ERISA-covered plan or IRA (or sponsor of such ERISA-covered plan or beneficial owner of such IRA) to indemnify the Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM for violating ERISA or engaging in prohibited transactions, except for violations or prohibited transactions caused by an error, misrepresentation, or misconduct of a plan fiduciary or other party hired by the plan fiduciary who is independent of Credit Suisse AG; (4) not to restrict the ability of such ERISA-covered plan or IRA to terminate or withdraw from its arrangement with the Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM; and (5) not to impose any fees, penalties, or charges for such termination or withdrawal with the exception of reasonable fees, appropriately disclosed in advance, that are specifically designed to prevent generally recognized abusive investment practices or specifically designed to ensure equitable treatment of all investors in a pooled fund in the event such withdrawal or termination may have adverse consequences for all other investors, provided that such fees are applied consistently and in like manner to all such investors. Within six (6) months of the date of publication of a granted exemption in the Federal Register, each Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM will provide a notice to such effect to each ERISA-covered plan or IRA for which a Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM provides asset management or other discretionary fiduciary services;

(l) If a final exemption is granted in the Federal Register, each Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM will maintain records necessary to demonstrate that the conditions of this exemption have been met for six (6) years following the date of any transaction for which such Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM relies upon the relief in the exemption;

(m)(1) Each sponsor of an ERISA-covered plan and each beneficial owner of an IRA invested in an investment fund managed by a Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM, or the sponsor of an investment fund in any case where a Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM acts only as a sub-advisor to the investment fund; (2) each entity that may be a Credit Suisse Related QPAM; and (3) each ERISA-covered plan for which the New York Branch of Credit Suisse AG provides fiduciary securities lending services, receives a notice of the proposed exemption along with a separate summary describing the facts that led to the Conviction, which has been submitted to the Department, and a prominently displayed statement that the Conviction results in a failure to meet a condition in PTE 84-14;

(n) A Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM will not fail to meet the terms of this exemption solely because a Credit Suisse Related QPAM or a different Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM fails to satisfy a condition for relief under this exemption. A Credit Suisse Related QPAM will not fail to meet the terms of this exemption solely because Credit Suisse AG, a Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM, or a different Credit Suisse Related QPAM fails to satisfy a condition for relief under this exemption.

Section II: Definitions

(a) The term “Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM” means a “qualified professional asset manager” (as defined in section VI(a) [5] of PTE 84-14) that relies on the relief provided by PTE 84-14 and with respect to which Credit Suisse AG is a current or future “affiliate” (as defined in section VI(d) of PTE 84-14). The term “Credit Suisse Affiliated QPAM” excludes the parent entity, Credit Suisse AG.

(b) The term “Credit Suisse Related QPAM” means any current or future “qualified professional asset manager” (as defined in section VI(a) of PTE 84-14) that relies on the relief provided by PTE 84-14, and with respect to which Credit Suisse AG owns a direct or indirect five percent or more interest, but with respect to which Credit Suisse AG is not an “affiliate” (as defined in section VI(d) of PTE 84-14).

(c) The term “Conviction” means the judgment of conviction against Credit Suisse AG for one count of conspiracy to violate section 7206(2) of the Internal Revenue Code in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, which is scheduled to be entered in the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Case Number 1:14-cr-188-RBS.

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Signed at Washington, DC, this 12th day of November, 2014.

Lyssa Hall,

Director of Exemption Determinations, Employee Benefits Security Administration, U.S. Department of Labor.

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Footnotes

1.  Section I(g) generally provides that “[n]either the QPAM nor any affiliate thereof . . . nor any owner . . . of a 5 percent or more interest in the QPAM is a person who within the 10 years immediately preceding the transaction has been either convicted or released from imprisonment, whichever is later, as a result of” certain felonies including income tax evasion and conspiracy or attempt to commit income tax evasion.

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2.  For purposes of this proposed exemption, references to section 406 of ERISA should be read to refer as well to the corresponding provisions of section 4975 of the Code.

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3.  49 FR 9494 (March 13, 1984), as corrected at 50 FR 41430 (October 10, 1985), as amended at 70 FR 49305 (August 23, 2005), and as amended at 75 FR 38837 (July 6, 2010).

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4.  Section I(g) generally provides that “[n]either the QPAM nor any affiliate thereof . . . nor any owner . . . of a 5 percent or more interest in the QPAM is a person who within the 10 years immediately preceding the transaction has been either convicted or released from imprisonment, whichever is later, as a result of” certain felonies including income tax evasion and conspiracy or attempt to commit income tax evasion.

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5.  In general terms, a QPAM is an independent fiduciary that is a bank, savings and loan association, insurance company, or investment adviser that meets certain equity or net worth requirements and other licensure requirements and that has acknowledged in a written management agreement that it is a fiduciary with respect to each plan that has retained the QPAM.

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[FR Doc. 2014-27173 Filed 11-17-14; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4510-29-P