[firm] blog logo

Is it Time to Give Your Pension Plan a Lift-Out?

While pension plans can provide much needed retirement benefits to an employer’s workforce, the associated liabilities of defined benefit and cash balance plans also can have a number of negative impacts on the employer, including on its financial statements. One method to reduce these negative impacts is to remove some of the liabilities from the plan by using a pension “lift-out.” Essentially, a “lift-out” transfers risk and certain liabilities (usually for retirees or beneficiaries in pay status) to an annuity provider outside of the plan. For the past few years, the value of doing a lift-out has been reduced because of the high cost of the annuities. However, the recent increase in interest rates has made annuities much more affordable, which makes a lift-out a more attractive option in the current market. Plan sponsors considering a lift-out should design a plan to implement the lift-out, which should include, without limitation,… Continue Reading

DOL Wins ERISA Appeal Authorizing its DOL Cybersecurity Subpoena

A recent Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals case reminds plan sponsors and service providers that ERISA grants the DOL broad authority to seek plan-related information reasonably relevant to an investigation from both fiduciaries and non-fiduciaries. Plan cybersecurity practices have been a recent focus of the DOL and resulted in its 2021 issuance of cybersecurity best practices for plan sponsors, fiduciaries, recordkeepers, and plan participants, which are available here.  In this case, the court ruled in favor of the DOL in connection with the DOL’s 2019 investigation into the processing of unauthorized distributions of plan benefits due to cybersecurity breaches in the ERISA plan accounts serviced by Alight Solutions LLC (“Alight”). The DOL indicated that Alight failed to report, disclose, and restore the distributions. Alight denied any knowledge of the breaches. Alight argued that the subpoena fell outside of the DOL’s authority because the DOL does not have the authority under… Continue Reading

Department of Labor Releases Spring 2022 Regulatory Agenda

The DOL recently released its Spring Regulatory Agenda, and it contains several important retirement and welfare plan initiatives for this year. Below is a summary of some of the material items that plan sponsors should be aware of, along with the DOL’s proposed schedule of rulemaking:  Final Pension Benefit Statement Lifetime Illustrations Rule (Final Rule scheduled for August 2022). Note: Under the DOL’s previously issued Interim Final Rule, the inclusion of lifetime illustrations once per year on pension benefit statements became effective in June 2022. Revised procedures for granting prohibited transaction exemptions (the DOL is currently reviewing comments from its Proposed Rule from March 2022). Amendment and restatement of the DOL’s Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program to expand the scope of eligible transactions and to streamline correction procedures (Interim Final Rule scheduled for July 2022). Amendment of the regulatory definition of the term “fiduciary” under ERISA for those persons who render investment… Continue Reading

IRS Introduces Pre-Examination Compliance Pilot Program

Starting this month, when the IRS selects a tax-qualified retirement plan for examination, it will notify the plan sponsor by letter and provide the sponsor a 90-day window to review the plan document and operations for compliance with all plan qualification requirements.   If the sponsor’s review reveals any operational or documentary failures that would otherwise qualify for self-correction under the IRS’s Employee Plan Compliance Resolution System (“EPCRS”), the sponsor will have the opportunity to self-correct those mistakes. If the plan sponsor’s review reveals any operational or documentary failures that, absent the examination, would require correction under the voluntary correction program (“VCP”) component of EPCRS, the sponsor can request a closing agreement, and the IRS will use the VCP fee structure to determine the sanction amount the sponsor will pay under the closing agreement.  The sponsor must notify the IRS of the errors discovered and the correction within the 90-day window. The… Continue Reading

It’s Time For Your Fiduciary Check-Up!

Due to the recent surge in ERISA litigation against employers and executives alleging, among other things, that they breached their fiduciary duties to plans and participants by allowing service providers to charge excessive fees, some fiduciary liability insurers have reportedly revamped their processes for evaluating applications for fiduciary liability coverage. These changes may impact an employer’s ability to obtain adequate fiduciary liability coverage, thereby increasing the exposure to plan sponsors and their executives.   Periodic fiduciary check-ups are always a good idea, but in light of these developments, it is perhaps more important than ever that plan sponsors conduct periodic internal reviews to ensure they continue to meet their fiduciary duties to their plans and participants. Among other things, responsible plan fiduciaries should:  Determine whether the committee (or committees) responsible for administering the plan and overseeing plan investments meets regularly and properly documents its meetings, including information on not just what… Continue Reading

Service Providers May Allow Investment in Cryptocurrency, but Plan Administrators Should Proceed with Extreme Caution

Recently, one of the country’s largest retirement plan providers announced they were adding a digital assets account to their retirement plan platform that would allow employers to make cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, a potential investment option for plan participants.  As we previously reported here, prior to that announcement, the DOL had issued guidance cautioning plan fiduciaries to “exercise extreme care” before adding a cryptocurrency option to a retirement plan’s investment lineup or even through a plan’s brokerage window. The DOL guidance went so far as to say that it expected to investigate plans that offer “participant investments in cryptocurrencies and related products, and to take appropriate action to protect the interests of plan participants and beneficiaries with respect to these investments.” The DOL cautioned that plan fiduciaries who allowed cryptocurrency as a plan investment option “should expect to be questioned” about how their decisions to allow investments in cryptocurrency align with their… Continue Reading

DOL Issues Guidance Cautioning 401(k) Fiduciaries Against Offering Crypto as an Investment Option

The DOL issued guidance reminding responsible 401(k) plan fiduciaries of their ongoing duty to monitor investments and cautioning that the DOL “has serious concerns about the prudence of a fiduciary’s decision to expose a 401(k) plan’s participants to direct investments in cryptocurrencies, or other products whose value is tied to cryptocurrencies.” The DOL listed five reasons why cryptocurrency investments and their derivatives (collectively, “Crypto”) may not be a prudent selection at this time and threatened that 401(k) plan fiduciaries who allow Crypto as an investment option (even if through a brokerage window) “should expect to be questioned about how they can square their actions with their duties of prudence and loyalty.” Accordingly, 401(k) plan fiduciaries who are contemplating including or retaining Crypto as a plan investment option should factor this DOL guidance into their decision-making process.   Compliance Assistance Release No. 2022-01 is available here.

DOL Supplements Prior Information Letter on Private Equity in Designated Investment Alternatives

The DOL recently published a supplement statement (the “Supplement Statement”) relating to its June 3, 2020 Information Letter (the “Letter”) regarding the use of private equity investments in designated investment alternatives for individual account retirement plans. The Letter stated that a plan fiduciary would not violate the fiduciary duties under ERISA solely due to the plan fiduciary’s offering of a professionally managed asset allocation fund with a private equity component as a designated investment alternative, subject to the conditions set forth in the Letter. The DOL noted that the Letter was not an endorsement of such private equity investments and that plan fiduciaries must determine whether such an investment is prudent and made solely in the interests of plan participants and beneficiaries. Our prior blog post regarding the Letter is available here. The Supplement Statement clarified that plan fiduciaries should not misread the Letter “as saying that [private equity]—as a… Continue Reading

DOL Announces Temporary Enforcement Policy for PTE 2020-02

The DOL recently issued Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2021-02 (the “Bulletin”) announcing a delay in the enforcement of Prohibited Transaction Exemption 2020-02, Improving Investment Advice for Workers & Retirees (“PTE 2020-02”). PTE 2020-02 was adopted by the DOL on December 18, 2020, and sets forth several requirements that investment advice fiduciaries who rely on the exemption must satisfy when providing advice, which we previously discussed on our blog here and here. PTE 2020-02 became effective on February 16, 2021, but the DOL previously provided transitional relief through December 20, 2021. In the Bulletin, the DOL announced a temporary enforcement policy which provides that (i) for the period from December 21, 2021 through January 31, 2022, the DOL will not pursue prohibited transaction claims against investment advice fiduciaries who are working diligently and in good faith to comply with the impartial conduct standards for transactions that are exempted under PTE 2020-02… Continue Reading

Federal District Court Rules that Cross-Plan Offsetting Violates ERISA

Cross-plan offsetting is a practice that is used by third-party administrators (“TPAs”) of employer-sponsored group health plans as a means of recouping a benefit payment that was purportedly overpaid to an out-of-network health care provider under one plan by reducing the benefit payment owed to the same provider under another entirely separate plan. This practice has raised fiduciary compliance issues under ERISA and has frequently been the subject of litigation. Recently, in Lutz Surgical Partners, PLLC, et al. v. Aetna, Inc., et al.¸ a federal district court in New Jersey held that Aetna’s use of cross-plan offsetting violated ERISA. Under ERISA, a plan fiduciary may not, “in his individual or in any other capacity act in any transaction involving the plan on behalf of a party (or represent a party) whose interests are adverse to the interests of the plan or the interests of its participants or beneficiaries.” In addition, ERISA… Continue Reading

September 2022
S M T W T F S
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930  

Archives