ERISA & Employee Benefits

SECURE Act Finally to Become Law

Congress is subject to one of the same vices as many Americans, namely, putting off important activities until the last moment. Earlier this year, the House of Representatives by a 417-3 vote, approved the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act (or “Act”), but it never advanced in the Senate, in part because of reservations as to how it would be paid for. However, this ...

ERISA Case in the District Court for the Southern District of New York Highlights Plan Sponsor QDRO Responsibilities

A sometimes forgotten issue in a divorce, separation, or other domestic relations proceeding is the division of retirement plan benefits between former partners and/or husband and wife. While the general rule is that ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code do not permit a participant to assign or alienate the participant's interest in a retirement plan to another person, a developed exception to the ...

Private Equity Fund Gains Important Victory

In Sun Capital Partners III v. New England Teamsters and Trucking Industry Pension Fund, the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled on November 22 in favor of private equity funds, thus settling a long-running dispute as to whether two Sun Capital Funds could be held liable for the withdrawal of a portfolio company from the New England Teamsters Multiemployer Pension Plan.  

DOL Issues Proposed Regulations Regarding Electronic Disclosure of Pension Plan Information

In 2002, the DOL issued a safe harbor for electronic disclosure that is available only to those participants that have electronic media at work, and those individuals who affirmatively opt in to electronic documentation. There have been calls from many quarters for the DOL to update those regulations to reflect the advances in technology since the 2002 regulations, including an August 2018 ...

Petition For Rehearing and Supporting Amicus Briefs Filed In Schwab ERISA Arbitration Case

In August of this year, a Ninth Circuit three-judge panel ruled in Dorman v. The Charles Schwab Corporation, DC No. 4:17-cv-00285-CW, 2019 WL 3939644 (9th Cir. August 20, 2019) that a plan document's arbitration provision could bar class action allegations of breach of fiduciary duty brought on behalf of the plan under ERISA §502(a)(2). ERISA §502(a)(2) authorizes the Secretary of Labor, ...

When Will a Plan Administrator's Denial of Benefits be an Abuse of Discretion - In Discrete Circumstances Says the Ninth Circuit

Almost every ERISA employee benefit plan contains so-called "Firestone language," which grants discretionary authority to determine eligibility for benefits and construe the terms of a plan. If a plan contains such language, then a plan administrator's interpretation of the plan terms is reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard, which, as discussed below, is a standard that participants ...

Supreme Court Amicus Brief Shows How High the Stakes Really are for the Future of ERISA's "Actual Knowledge" Requirement

The battle over what constitutes "actual knowledge" of an ERISA fiduciary breach or violation ratcheted up a notch with the filing of an amicus brief in Sulyma v. Intel Corporation Investment Policy Committee, on behalf of several of the largest trade associations in the retirement investment advisory and employee benefits industry. The Intel amicus brief, filed on behalf of large trade ...

Multiple Employer Pension Plan Update

On October 22, 2018, the DOL issued a proposed regulation in response to the August 31, 2018, Executive Order by President Trump to remove regulatory burdens faced by defined contribution multiple employer pension plans ("MEPs"). On July 31, 2019, final DOL regulations on the definition of "Employer" were published in the Federal Register. While there are several possible types of MEPs, the DOL ...

Church Plans Revisited

While the church plan exemption from the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) has been built into ERISA since its adoption, and the specific provision providing that exemption has not been significantly amended since 1983, it has only been in the last decade or so that there have been a proliferation of cases analyzing whether an employee benefit plan, particularly a ...

DOL Offers Temporary Penalty Relief for All Multiple Employer Plans not Currently in Compliance with the Special MEP Reporting Requirements

Recently, the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) of the Department of Labor (DOL) announced guidance and relief (Field Assistance Bulletin 2019-01) affecting Form 5500 annual report submission for multiple employer plans (MEPs). The relief applies to any MEP that, in plan years 2014 - 2017, failed to submit with its Form 5500, a list of participating employers in the MEP, and a good ...