Archives: Defined Contributions Plans

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What Employers Need to Know About the Fiduciary Conflict Rule

Our colleague Jason Levy recently published an article in The Actuary Magazine on the Department of Labor’s fiduciary conflict rule.  More than six years in the making, this rule represents perhaps the most significant regulation from the DOL during the Obama Administration. The fiduciary conflict rule expands the definition of fiduciary to cover, with certain … Continue Reading

Supreme Court Reiterates High Pleading Bar for Stock Drop Cases

As noted in our earlier blog post, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 decision Fifth Third Bancorp v. Dudenhoeffer made clear that participants bringing stock-drop cases are subject to heightened pleading standards to help “divide the plausible sheep from the meritless goats.” In its first substantive ruling in a post-Dudenhoeffer stock-drop case, the U.S. Supreme Court … Continue Reading

Changes to IRS Determination Letter Program Raise Practical Questions

On July 21, the IRS announced that it is eliminating its current determination letter program for tax-qualified retirement plans. (IRS officials had been sending signals that this was coming for several months. It is now official.) Starting in 2017, the IRS will accept determination letter applications in only three circumstances: Initial qualification for a new … Continue Reading

What Every ERISA Fiduciary Should Consider About Float Income

A recent Massachusetts district court decision in In Re Fidelity ERISA Float Litigation highlights the need for ERISA fiduciaries to evaluate the treatment of a particular type of interest called “float income” to ensure compliance with ERISA. The Department of Labor has long taken the position that retention of float income without sufficient disclosures can … Continue Reading

Marriage Equality Decision Is Big News (But May Have Little Impact on Private Sector Employee Benefit Plans)

The Supreme Court’s decision last week in Obergefell v. Hodges is big news: it held that the 14th Amendment requires states to license same-sex marriages and to recognize lawful out-of-state same-sex marriages, and thus legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country.  In a final section that begins with a philosopher’s take — “No union is more … Continue Reading

Recent Case Illustrates Importance of Careful Plan Drafting

by Seth Safra and Jonathan Goldberg A recent appellate court decision, Cottillion v. United Refining Co. et al. (3d Cir. Mar. 18, 2015), is a good reminder of the high cost that a drafting error can have for a plan’s sponsor.  Although courts have recognized a “scrivener’s error” doctrine, the bar for establishing a scrivener’s error … Continue Reading

IRS Issues Warning on Documentation Requirements for 401(k) Plans

A recent post in the IRS’s Employee Plans News has two important tips for employers who sponsor 401(k) and similar plans: The plan sponsor is ultimately responsible for maintaining records that document compliance with tax-qualification requirements. Many employers rely on third-party administrators to maintain records of day-to-day transactions, such as loans, hardship withdrawals and distributions. … Continue Reading

Department of Labor Establishes Two-Month Grace Period for Participant-Level Fee Disclosure

In 2010 the DOL published a final regulation requiring plan administrators of participant-directed individual account plans to disclose fees, expenses, and certain other plan information to participants and beneficiaries. The regulation requires plan administrators to provide these disclosures on or before the date on which a participant or beneficiary can first direct investments and “at … Continue Reading

ERISA Liability Insurance: Know What’s Covered . . . And What Isn’t

For sponsors and fiduciaries of employee benefit plans, the Amara case has presented many interesting and important issues that have been discussed at length in this blog and elsewhere. However, the most recent chapter in this long-running dispute has not garnered nearly as much attention as either the Supreme Court or Second Circuit decisions that … Continue Reading

Oral Misrepresentation Could Support Fiduciary Breach Claim, District Court Holds

In Lees v. Munich Reinsurance America, Inc., a federal district court in New Jersey recently held that an oral misrepresentation could serve as the basis for a fiduciary breach claim. The plaintiff in Lees worked for American Re-Insurance Company (a predecessor of the defendant), but was being paid by a related entity. Several years into … Continue Reading

Action Required for Retirement Plans Covering Puerto Rico Residents

An eight-year transition period for U.S. tax-qualified retirement plans covering Puerto Rico residents is set to end in 2015.  Employers that cover Puerto Rico residents under U.S. tax-qualified plans should consider spinning off the Puerto Rico portion of the plan in 2015, to avoid subjecting Puerto Rico residents to U.S. federal income tax.… Continue Reading

Understanding Limits on PBGC Protection for Amounts Rolled Over From a Defined Contribution Plan

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (“PBGC”) recently finalized its rule on insurance for amounts rolled over from a defined contribution plan to a defined benefit plan.  Although amounts rolled over will be subject to greater protections than apply for most other benefits (i.e., benefits derived from employer contributions), the full rollover benefit will not necessarily … Continue Reading

What to Do with Missing Participants: Department of Labor Provides Guidance

When a defined contribution plan terminates, the plan administrator must distribute participants’ accounts as soon as administratively feasible.  However, participants do not always update the plan administrator when their contact information changes, and some participants may not be responsive when the plan administrator requests directions on how to distribute their accounts. On August 14, 2014, … Continue Reading

Stock-Drop Decision Helpful to ESOP Fiduciaries

Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued its much anticipated decision in the stock-drop case, Fifth Third Bancorp v. Dudenhoeffer.  The Court vacated the lower court decision that was adverse to the employer, Fifth Third Bancorp, and remanded the case to the lower courts for further proceedings. Fiduciaries of employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) had hoped that … Continue Reading

Judges Disagree on Remedies for Pension Mistake

A recent Ninth Circuit decision, Gabriel v. Alaska Elec. Pension Fund, offers useful insight for deciding how to fix a pension overpayment. Virtually every employer that administers a pension plan has experienced (or will experience) discovering a calculation error after incorrect payments have been made for several years–resulting in thousands of dollars of overpayments.  Fixing … Continue Reading

Will Windsor Apply Retroactively to Retirement Plans? IRS Provides Some (But Not All) the Answers

When the Supreme Court held in United States v. Windsor last June that federal law recognizes same-sex marriages, the question arose whether this ruling would apply to tax-qualified retirement plans retroactively.  Last week, the IRS answered that question, in part. For tax-qualification purposes, plans must generally recognize the Windsor decision as of the date of … Continue Reading

ERISA Plans’ Valuation of Private Equity and Other Alternative Investments Draws Increased Scrutiny

The Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General recently issued a report detailing concerns with the valuation of alternative investments (such as private equity funds, hedge funds, and real estate) held by ERISA plans.  ERISA requires plan sponsors and fiduciaries to value investments for several purposes, including to determine funding obligations, select investments, monitor investment … Continue Reading

Not To Miss the Party, Department of Labor Joins the Place Of Celebration Approach Following Windsor

The Department of Labor issued a technical release today addressing the effect of the Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. v. Windsor on employee benefit plans.  The Windsor decision struck down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, thereby requiring the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages that are recognized under state law.  The IRS … Continue Reading

Celebrating the Arrival of Windsor Guidance: Same-Sex Marriages Will Be Recognized For Federal Tax Purposes Based on Place of Celebration

The IRS issued guidance today defining same-sex marriage for purposes of federal tax rules.  Following the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor last June invalidating section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), federal law no longer limits the definition of marriage to opposite sex spouses.  However, the Windsor decision did not … Continue Reading

Federal Courts Decide Rights of Same-Sex Spouses After DOMA

More than a month after the Supreme Court struck down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) in United States v. Windsor, employers are still waiting for the federal government to answer fundamental questions about the rights of same-sex spouses in the post-DOMA world.  In the meantime, however, lower federal courts have begun … Continue Reading
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