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Possible Year-End Deadline for Retirement Plans of Plan Sponsors Involved in a 2017 Corporate Transaction

Generally, employee benefit plans of members of the same controlled group must satisfy certain requirements of the Internal Revenue Code on an aggregated basis (e.g., retirement plan nondiscrimination and coverage testing). Following a corporate transaction, such as a merger or a stock or an asset sale, the benefit plans of the buyer and seller may differ significantly. In order for plan sponsors to have a period of time post-closing to determine how best to structure their benefit plans going forward, Code Section 410(b)(6)(C) provides transition relief by permitting the plans to choose to be operated and tested separately, if certain requirements are met, such as coverage under the plan not being materially modified during a transition period. The transition period begins on the transaction’s closing date and, generally, ends on the last day of the first plan year beginning after the year in which the transaction occurred or, if earlier,… Continue Reading

Collateral Estoppel is Allowed to Apply to Rule 36 Affirmances of the PTAB

The Federal Circuit has affirmed that a Rule 36 judgment may serve as a basis for collateral estoppel in Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) proceedings, in addition to district court proceedings. In VirnetX Inc. v. Apple, Inc., Nos. 2017-2490, 2017-2494 (Fed. Cir. Dec. 10, 2018), the Federal Circuit affirmed the PTAB’s determination in two Inter Partes Reviews (IPRs) that a prior art document was a printed publication. While the PTAB’s final written decision did not reach the merits of any collateral estoppel argument,[1] the Federal Circuit affirmed the PTAB’s determination in those two IPRs that a prior art document was a printed publication expressly on the basis of collateral estoppel in view of a Rule 36 affirmance.[2] How did we get here? Apple challenged U.S. Patent No. 8,504,696 (the ’696 Patent), owned by VirnetX, in two IPR proceedings (IPR2016-00331 and IPR-2016-00332).[3] In IPR2016-00331, and in the companion case IPR2016-00332,… Continue Reading

Top Ten Insurance Tips For Year-End Transactions

The end is near.  2018 is fast coming to a close, and it is that time of year when corporate lawyers are counting—not the number of shopping days left until Christmas, but the number weeks, days and hours left before the end of the fiscal year.  Admittedly, in the scramble to close deals, insurance requirements and indemnity provisions may not be at the top of the list of critical deal points for clients and counsel.  But, in the larger scheme of things, law libraries and LEXIS are littered with the sad stories of parties, who paid too little attention to such details.  Money is the mother’s milk of litigation, and ensuring the availability of adequate insurance and indemnity coverage cannot be overemphasized. For those working on corporate transactions, here are some practical reminders and best practices for drafting indemnity provisions and insurance requirements.  As always, individual circumstances may vary.  What… Continue Reading

IRS Provides Initial Guidance on New Tax Benefits Under Code Section 83(i)

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 amended Section 83 of the Internal Revenue Code by adding a new Section 83(i) (“Code Section 83(i)”), which allows certain employees of privately-held corporations to defer the recognition of income (for up to five years) attributable to the vesting or receipt of certain qualified company stock transferred to such employees upon the exercise of stock options or the settlement of restricted stock units. On December 7, 2018, the IRS released Notice 2018-97, which provides initial guidance on certain aspects of Code Section 83(i). In particular, the notice provides guidance on (i) the application of the requirement in Code Section 83(i)(2)(C)(i)(II) that equity grants be made to at least 80 percent of all employees who provide services to the corporation in the United States, (ii) the application of tax withholdings on the deferred income related to the qualified company stock, and (iii) the… Continue Reading

Extension of Due Date to Furnish Form 1095 to Individuals and Good Faith Transition Relief

In Notice 2018-94, the IRS extended the due date, from January 31, 2019 to March 4, 2019, for furnishing to individuals their 2018 Form 1095-B and Form 1095-C. The Notice does not extend the due date to file Forms 1094-B, 1095-B, 1094-C, and 1095-C with the IRS, which are due by February 28, 2019 (paper filing) or April 1, 2019 (filing electronically), although extensions may be available. The Notice also extends the IRS’s good-faith transition relief from penalties that could apply for incorrect or incomplete information reported on such forms furnished to individuals or filed with the IRS. This relief does not apply if the applicable forms were not filed or furnished by their respective due dates. View Notice 2018-94.

Printed Publications – Public Accessibility Requires More Than Technical Accessibility

In Acceleration Bay, LLC v. Activision Blizzard Inc. et al., Nos. 2017-2084, 2085, 2095, 2096, 2097, 2098, 2099, 2117, 2118 (Nov. 6, 2018), the Federal Circuit affirmed the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s (PTAB) final written decision in a group of related proceedings, including IPR2015-01951.[1]  The PTAB had found that several claims of the challenged patents were unpatentable and that other claims, along with substitute claims of the challenged patents, were not unpatentable.  Particularly, the PTAB found that one of the references used to challenge the different patents was not a printed publication under 35 U.S.C. § 102(a).  The Federal Circuit affirmed the PTAB’s decision with respect to the printed publication issue and held that the reference was not a printed publication under § 102(a). Background Acceleration owns U.S. Patent Nos. 6,829,634 (the ’634 patent), 6,701,344 (the ’344 patent), and 6,714,966 (the ’966 patent).  Blizzard filed six petitions for inter partes review… Continue Reading

IRS Publishes 2018 Required Amendments List

In Notice 2018-91, the IRS published the Required Amendments List for 2018, which lists statutory and administrative changes in plan qualification requirements that (i) are first effective in the plan year in which the list is published and (ii) may require a plan amendment. This year’s list did not include any such items. Nevertheless, a required amendment that was listed in the 2016 Required Amendments List must be adopted (if applicable to an employer’s plan) by December 31, 2018. That required amendment relates to restrictions on accelerated distributions from underfunded single-employer, collectively-bargained defined benefit plans due to a plan sponsor’s bankruptcy. Additional information on the 2016 Required Amendments List is available on our prior blog post. View Notice 2018-91

Fifth Circuit Opinion Clarifies Legal Claims Distinction under ERISA

In Manuel v. Turner Industries Group, L.L.C., the U.S Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (whose jurisdiction includes Texas) considered various claims under ERISA that were brought by Michael Manuel, a former employee of Turner Industries (“Turner”). His claims were brought against Turner and Prudential, the insurer and claims fiduciary under Turner’s long-term disability benefits plan, and related to a denial of benefits to Manuel under that plan. One of his claims was for breach of fiduciary duty asserted against Turner under Section 502(a)(3) of ERISA (the “Equitable Relief Provision”) based on Manuel’s argument that the plan’s SPD omitted the pre-existing condition exclusion contained in the plan document that was the basis for Prudential’s denial of his benefits claim, and thus Manuel relied to his detriment on a deficient SPD. Citing Fifth Circuit and U.S. Supreme Court precedent under ERISA, the Fifth Circuit reiterated the standing rule that… Continue Reading

Final ACA Rules Regarding Religious and Moral Exemptions and Accommodations for Objections to Coverage of Contraceptives

The U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury recently released final rules regarding religious or moral objections to the coverage of contraceptives under the preventive services requirements of the Affordable Care Act (the “ACA”) as well as accommodations for those objections. Generally, the ACA requires non-grandfathered group health plans and health insurance issuers to cover all FDA-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and related education and counseling. The final rules expand the religious exemption to this requirement to include all types of non-governmental employers, including for-profit corporations (regardless of their size or whether they are publicly or privately held). Moreover, the moral exemption applies to certain non-governmental employers, including privately held for-profit employers, insurers, and individuals. In addition, the new rules maintain the availability of the accommodation pursuant to which the entity’s insurer or third party administrator is responsible for providing contraceptive services to the entity’s plan… Continue Reading

IRS Announces Proposed Regulations Implementing New Hardship Distribution Requirements

The IRS recently published proposed regulations addressing changes enacted by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, and other prior changes to the tax code. Specifically, the proposed regulations: Permit, but don’t require, hardship distributions from a participant’s elective contributions, QNECs, QMACs (including safe harbor matching contributions), and any earnings on those amounts, regardless of when they were contributed or earned Eliminate the requirement that a participant take out all available plan loans before receiving a hardship distribution (although plans may continue to contain such a requirement) Prohibit plans from containing a requirement that a participant may not contribute to the plan for any period of time following a hardship distribution (in other words, eliminate the six-month suspension rule). If a suspension is still being applied as of January 1, 2019 for a prior hardship distribution, a plan may eliminate the suspension as… Continue Reading

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