The U.S. Department of Labor has eased restrictions on benefit plan purchases of insurance policies, annuity contracts and investment company securities through intermediaries with ties to the plans.

The new DOL amendments, to Prohibited Transaction Exemption 84-24, also will make it easier for plans to use plan assets to pay sales commissions to the intermediaries involved in the transactions, according to an amendment document that appears today in the Federal Register.

The affected intermediaries include insurance agents, insurance brokers, pension consultants, and investment company principal underwriters with affiliates that exercise discretion over plan assets that are not involved in the transaction, DOL officials write in the amendment document.

Up till now, an intermediary affiliated with a plan trustee or plan investment manager could not help a plan buy investments even if the trustee or investment manager had no discretion over the assets involved in the transaction, officials write.

Any transactions completed under the new amendment must “be as favorable to the plans as an arm’s length transaction with an unrelated party would be,” officials write.

A copy of the amendment document is on the Web at Document Link