ERISA & Employee Benefits

Eighth Circuit Delivers Guidance on Whether Rate Setting Amounts to Fiduciary Conduct

Courts have long struggled to set the boundaries at which point ERISA plan service providers exert sufficient control and discretion over plan assets to make them fiduciaries under ERISA 3(21). The significance of being an ERISA fiduciary is self-evident in the litigation context: if an entity is not an ERISA fiduciary, then it cannot be liable for a breach of ERISA's fiduciary duties and ...

Congress Considers Multiemployer Pension Reforms While Benefit Suspensions Loom

The U.S. Treasury Department has received an application by the American Federation of Musicians and Employers' Pension Fund (the "Plan") to suspend benefits under the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014. Multiemployer pension plans cover union-represented workers and are run by a board of trustees, half appointed by the union and half appointed by employers. Most provide a traditional ...

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 ...

PBGC Requests OMB Approval for Data Collection for ERISA Title IV Coverage Analysis

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation ("PBGC") issued a notice (84 Federal Register 20168 (Wednesday, May 8, 2019)) informing the public that the PBGC has requested the Office of Management and Budget ("OMB") approve a collection of information necessary for the PBGC to determine, upon request by the plan, whether (or not) a plan is covered under Title IV of the Employee Retirement Security ...

IRS Expands Determination Letter Program - Revenue Procedure 2019-20

In Revenue Procedure 2016-37, the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") eliminated the long-standing program under which a plan sponsor could request a determination that its individually-designed plan satisfies the tax-qualification requirements of Internal Revenue Code Section 401(a), except for initial qualifications and qualifications upon plan termination. Plan sponsors and employee benefit ...

Multiemployer Plan Reforms are Needed Before it's Too Late

The President's proposed 2020 Budget, released March 11, 2019, would shore up the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation's ("PBGC") multiemployer pension plan insurance fund by increasing premiums, including "variable-rate" and "exit" premiums in addition to the current "flat-rate" premiums. The PBGC's separate single-employer insurance program has included such premiums for years. The ...