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Updates on Employee Benefits Regulations Impacted by the Biden Administration?ÇÖs Regulatory Freeze

On January 20, 2021, the Biden Administration issued a memorandum (the ?Ç£Memo?Ç¥) calling for a 60-day freeze on regulations that had not taken effect as of the date of the Memo, which included certain regulations related to employee benefits (see our prior blog post regarding the Memo here). The Memo also authorized additional postponement of such regulations following the 60-day period where deemed necessary for further review. Listed below are some of the previously discussed proposed and final regulations related to employee benefits that were impacted by the Memo and updates to their effective dates: Independent Contractor Status Under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Final Rule. Effective date is delayed until May 7, 2021. There is also a proposed withdrawal of this rule with comments due by April 12, 2021. Medicare Program; Secure Electronic Prior Authorization for Medicare Part D. Final Rule. Effective date was delayed until March 30, 2021.… Continue Reading

The DOL Announces a Non-Enforcement Policy on Final ESG Investment and Proxy Voting Rules

On March 10, 2021, the DOL released an enforcement policy statement (the ?Ç£Statement?Ç¥), which announced that until the DOL publishes further guidance, it will not enforce the recently issued ?Ç£Financial Factors in Selecting Plan Investments?Ç¥ final rule (the ?Ç£ESG Rule?Ç¥) and the ?Ç£Fiduciary Duties Regarding Proxy Voting and Shareholder Rights?Ç¥ final rule (the ?Ç£Proxy Voting Rule?Ç¥, together with the ESG Rule referred to herein as, the ?Ç£Final Rules?Ç¥). The ESG Rule generally required plan fiduciaries to select investments and investment courses of action based solely on consideration of ?Ç£pecuniary factors,?Ç¥ and the Proxy Voting Rule set forth a plan fiduciary?ÇÖs obligations when voting proxies and exercising other shareholder rights in connection with plan investments. The implementation of the ESG Rule in particular has caused concerns for plan fiduciaries about the use of environment, social, and governance considerations in its investment decisions and has been met with increasing criticism from a… Continue Reading

Employee Benefits Regulations Potentially Impacted by the Biden Administration?ÇÖs Regulatory Freeze

On January 20, 2021, the Biden Administration issued a memorandum (the ?Ç£Memo?Ç¥) announcing a regulatory freeze on regulations that have not taken effect as of the date of the Memo. Specifically, the Memo recommends postponing the effective date of any regulation that has been issued, but has not taken effect, for 60 days from the date of the Memo. The Memo further directs that regulations not yet published in the Federal Register be immediately withdrawn for review. Listed below are some of the proposed and final regulations related to employee benefits that may be subject to withdrawal or postponement under the Memo: Prohibited Transaction Exemption 2020-02 ?Çô Improving Investment Advice for Workers & Retirees. Final Rule. Application of the Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions and Certain Nondiscrimination Rules to Health Reimbursement Arrangements and Other Account-Based Group Health Plans Integrated with Individual Health Insurance Coverage or Medicare. Final Rule. Pension Benefit Statements-Lifetime… Continue Reading

DOL Increases Civil Monetary Penalties for Certain ERISA Violations

The DOL recently issued a final rule that adjusts for inflation the amounts of civil monetary penalties assessed or enforced in its regulations, including for certain ERISA violations. The adjusted penalty amounts apply to penalties assessed after January 15, 2021 and for which the associated violations occurred after November 2, 2015. Some of the penalties that were increased include the following: The maximum penalty for failing to properly file a pension or welfare benefit plan?ÇÖs annual Form 5500 increased from $2,233 per day to $2,259 per day. The maximum penalty for failing to provide notices of blackout periods or of the right to divest employer securities increased from $141 per day to $143 per day (each statutory recipient is a separate violation). The maximum penalty for failing to provide employees the required Children?ÇÖs Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage notices increased from $119 per day to $120 per day (each employee… Continue Reading

The DOL Finalizes the Prohibited Transaction Exemption Covering Investment Advice Fiduciaries

The DOL recently finalized Prohibited Transaction Exemption 2020-02 ?Çô Improving Investment Advice for Workers & Retirees (?Ç£PTE 2020-02?Ç¥) for investment advice fiduciaries.?á PTE 2020-02 finalizes the proposed exemption which we previously reported on here.?á This guidance for investment advice fiduciaries completes the regulatory process that began in 2016 with the new fiduciary regulations and exemptions issued under the Obama administration, which were vacated in 2018, and the reinstatement of prior regulations and the issuance of new exemption guidance earlier this year.?á While PTE 2020-02 makes some changes to the proposed exemption, it largely retains the proposed exemption?ÇÖs protective framework, including the ?Ç£Impartial Conduct Standards?Ç¥ (under which investment advice fiduciaries must provide advice that is in the retirement investor?ÇÖs ?Ç£best interest?Ç¥), required disclosures, implementation of policies and procedures to comply with the standards and mitigate conflicts of interest, and retrospective compliance review.?á The final exemption also includes a self-correction mechanism for… Continue Reading

IRS Issues Final Regulations Regarding Timing of Qualified Plan Loan Offset Amount Rollovers

The IRS recently issued final regulations relating to amendments made to Code Section 402(c) by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (the ?Ç£TCJA?Ç¥).?á The TCJA provides an extended rollover period for plan loan offset amounts that are treated as distributed from a qualified plan due to (i) termination of the plan or (ii) failure to repay the loan due to the participant?ÇÖs severance from employment, each a ?Ç£qualified plan loan offset?Ç¥ (?Ç£QPLO?Ç¥).?á Although most of the general rules relating to plan loan offsets apply to QPLO amounts, the permissible rollover period is extended.?á Generally, a participant has only 60 days to contribute the loan offset amount in a tax-free rollover to another qualified retirement plan.?á However, a participant may roll over QPLO amounts into another qualified retirement plan until the due date for his or her personal income tax return for the year in which the QPLO occurred.… Continue Reading

Regulations Provide for More Cost Transparency in Health Coverage

The federal Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury (collectively, the ?Ç£Departments?Ç¥) have jointly issued final regulations that are intended to provide for more transparency in health coverage (the ?Ç£Regulations?Ç¥). The Regulations have important implications for employer sponsors of certain group health plans (?Ç£Plans?Ç¥) and health insurers. The Regulations do not apply to health plans that are grandfathered under the Affordable Care Act, health reimbursement arrangements, certain other account-based group health plans, or short-term limited duration insurance. The Regulations require two key forms of disclosures (collectively, the ?Ç£Disclosures?Ç¥) in order to provide for this improved transparency: Self-Service Disclosure. First, the Regulations require Plans and insurers in the individual and group markets to disclose certain cost-sharing information upon request to a participant, beneficiary, or enrollee (or his or her authorized representative), including (a) an estimate of the individual?ÇÖs cost-sharing liability for covered items or services furnished by a… Continue Reading

IRS Guidance on the Business Expense Deductions for Meals and Entertainment

On September 30, 2020, the IRS issued final regulations providing guidance on the business expense deductions for meals and entertainment under Section 274 of the Internal Revenue Code in light of changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the ?Ç£TCJA?Ç¥). The TCJA eliminated most deductions for business expenses related to entertainment, amusement, or recreational activities, but allowed taxpayers to continue to deduct certain business expenses for food and beverages, as we discussed in our prior blog post here. The final regulations (i) address the elimination of the deduction for most entertainment, amusement, or recreational activity expenses; (ii) provide guidance on what constitutes entertainment for such purposes; and (iii) address the limitation on the deduction for meal expenses. The final regulations will be effective on the date of their publication in the Federal Register, which is scheduled for October 9, 2020. Taxpayers who pay or incur business expenses for… Continue Reading

Approaching Deadline for Cash Balance Plans to Submit IRS Determination Letter Applications

Sponsors of retirement plans that use a statutory hybrid benefit formula (e.g., cash balance plans) have until August 31, 2020 to submit such plans to the IRS for a favorable determination letter. However, because ?Ç£interested parties?Ç¥ must be notified of the filing at least ten days in advance of the submission, the decision on whether to file must be made sooner (within the next week or so). Among other things, under this special determination letter cycle for cash balance plans, the IRS will review plan provisions implementing the final cash balance plan regulations. This is true even if the plan?ÇÖs cash balance formula was in place when the plan received a prior favorable determination letter. The guidance allowing for the special cycle for cash balance plans is available here.

The New DOL Fiduciary Rule ?Çô A Return to the Old with a New Proposed Prohibited Transaction Exemption

On June 29, 2020, the DOL issued its much anticipated new ?Ç£fiduciary rule?Ç¥ under ERISA. The new rule is meant to replace the DOL?ÇÖs previous fiduciary rule (and related exemptions) which went into effect in 2016 but was vacated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in 2018. The new fiduciary rule is composed of two parts: (i) a final regulation which reaffirms and reinstates the five-part test for determining whether a person renders ?Ç£investment advice?Ç¥ for purposes of ERISA (the ?Ç£Reinstated Rule?Ç¥), and (ii) a new prohibited transaction class exemption for investment advice fiduciaries based on the ?Ç£impartial conduct standards?Ç¥ previously adopted by the DOL (the ?Ç£Proposed Exemption?Ç¥). Reinstated Rule The new rule amends the Code of Federal Regulations to reinstate the prior 1975 regulation which contained the five-part test for determining whether a financial institution or investment professional is a fiduciary for rendering ?Ç£investment advice.?Ç¥… Continue Reading

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