Archives: ERISA

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Court Rejects Equitable Exception to MPPAA’s ‘Pay Now, Dispute Later’ Regime

A withdrawing employer must make withdrawal liability installment payments during the pendency of an arbitration proceeding contesting the existence of withdrawal liability, a federal court has affirmed, rejecting the employer’s attempt to recognize an equitable exception to the general “pay now, dispute later” requirement. Boilermaker-Blacksmith National Pension Trust v. PSF Industries, No. 18-2467-JWL (D. Kan. Nov. … Continue Reading

Judicial Trend Away from Recognizing Equitable Remedies for Benefit Claims under ERISA.

A court in Florida has declined to expand the remedies available under a claim for benefits due under 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B) of ERISA. Keys v. Bell, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 195505 (M.D. Fla. 2019). The court dismissed the plaintiff’s claim for “equitable estoppel by silence” under that provision of ERISA’s civil remedies. This supports … Continue Reading

Stimulating Consumerism in Health Care By Revealing Costs

When is the last time one of your employees asked how much an in-network physician’s visit would cost?  How much does a blood test cost at the hospital to which your doctor referred you, compared to the same blood test at another facility you could use?  Why haven’t consumers who spend hours shopping for the … Continue Reading

DOL Proposed NEW Electronic Disclosures Rule

Employers frustrated with the cumbersome rules and added expenses for furnishing plan documents, summary plan descriptions, notices, and certain other communications may soon get some added relief, at least with respect to their retirement plans. In response to President Donald J. Trump’s Executive Order 13847, Strengthening Retirement Security in America, the U.S. Department of Labor … Continue Reading

North Carolina Court Awards $41 Thousand-Plus Penalty for Failure to Produce Documents Requested by Plan Participants

Section 104(b)(4) of ERISA provides that a plan administrator must respond to a written request for certain documents (including the plan documents and summary plan description) by a participant or beneficiary by providing the requested documents.  Section 502(c)(1) of ERISA and Regulation § 2575.502(c)-1 provide that a plan administrator who fails to do so within … Continue Reading

The Final Regulations For 401(k)/403(b) Hardship Distributions

On September 23, 2019, the Treasury Department and IRS published final regulations for hardship distributions from both 401(k) and 403(b) plans (the “Final Regulations”).  Essentially the hardship distributions changes relax the hardship distribution requirements (i.e., making it easier for participants to obtain hardship distributions) and eliminate many burdens following a hardship distribution (i.e., allowing participants … Continue Reading

COBRA Notice Litigation Resulting in Big Dollar Claims

Can you imagine something as simple as a COBRA Notice missing a few technical requirements resulting in an employer needing to pay a 6 or 7-digit damages award?  That is happening in Florida.  Employers in and out of Florida should pay attention to this news, as what doesn’t start in California often starts in Florida. … Continue Reading

Third Circuit Joins Majority in Rejecting “De Facto Administrator” ERISA Theory

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit joins the Second, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits in declining to impose liability on alleged de facto plan administrators.  Under Section 502(c) of ERISA, a plan administrator may be liable and subject to penalties for failing to comply with a participant’s request for information which … Continue Reading

A Deadline is a Bright Line: How Fessenden Narrows “Substantial Compliance” in the Seventh Circuit

Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that the deadline imposed under ERISA for plan administrators to decide on benefit claims is a “bright line” rule. The court held that when a plan administrator misses this deadline, the “substantial compliance” exception to statutory compliance does not apply and the plan … Continue Reading

Required Minimum Distributions

The aging of the baby boomer generation has increased the level of scrutiny with which the Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (“EBSA”) will review the efforts of pension plans to locate missing plan participants who did not receive reported benefits.  The focus of the EBSA which began with a review of the efforts … Continue Reading

EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK REFUSES TO ENFORCE AN ERISA ANTI-ASSIGNMENT PROVISION

The list of the federal courts of appeals enforcing unambiguous anti-assignment provisions in ERISA health benefit plans continues to grow:  almost exactly one year ago, the Third Circuit joined its sister circuits in holding “that anti-assignment clauses in ERISA-governed health insurance plans as a general matter are enforceable.” As the Third Circuit opinion noted, every … Continue Reading

Changes to Employee Benefit Plans May Create Unforeseen Disclosure Deadlines

Believe it or not, it may be time to distribute a new Summary Plan Description (SPD) to include all changes made since the last issuance or a Summary of Material Modifications (SMM) for any amendments adopted during the 2018 plan year. The Rules:  The Department of Labor (DOL) regulations and Employee Retirement Income Security Act … Continue Reading

The IRS Reopens the Determination Letter Program for Merged Plans and Cash Balance Plans

On May 1, 2019, the IRS issued Revenue Procedure 2019-20, which reopens the determination letter program in a limited manner for individually designed plans that are merged plans or statutory hybrid plans, such as cash balance plans. The new IRS guidance provides that sponsors of merged plans may request determination letters going forward, while sponsors … Continue Reading

Is Your Employer Worksite Medical Clinic a Group Health Plan?

Worksite medical clinics, some offering round-the-clock access to medical providers via telemedicine, seem to be growing in popularity.  Promoters tout cost savings resulting from what would otherwise be lost productivity (employees whiling away afternoons waiting to see their private doctors or having to drive long distances to have blood drawn for routine laboratory work) and … Continue Reading

THEY’RE HEEEEERRRREE!! But Have No Fear – Long Awaited Changes to EPCRS Are Good News for Plan Sponsors

Long on the wish list of practitioners and plan sponsors alike, self-correction of certain common plan document issues and loan failures is finally an option under the Internal Revenue Service’s Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (“EPCRS”), newly minted via Rev. Proc. 2019-19. It is no secret that the IRS is continually dealing with reduced budgets … Continue Reading

EIGHTH CIRCUIT RULES AGAINST THIRD PARTY ADMINISTRATOR IN CROSS-PLAN OFFSETTING IN GROUP HEALTH PLANS

 On January 15, 2019, the federal Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its decision in Peterson v. UnitedHealth Group, Inc., 913 F.3d, 769 (8th Cir. 2019), in which the Court upheld the federal district court’s holding that UnitedHealth Group, Inc. (“United”) was not authorized to reduce (or “offset”) payments to medical providers under ERISA group … Continue Reading

Could This Be Your Retirement Plan?

As reported by CBC, B.C. Pension Corporation announced a data breach involving pension plan records after discovering a box containing microfiche could not be found following a recent office move. The box contained personal information (names, social insurance numbers and dates of birth) on approximately 8,000 pension plan participants. The company employed those participants during the period 1982 to … Continue Reading

Wellness Programs Continue to Face Compliance Challenges

The rules for employer-sponsored wellness programs continue to be a moving target; most recently, regulations issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) intending to address issues under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (“GINA”). Many employers are already well aware of the wellness regulations under the Affordable Care Act … Continue Reading

Court Rules that One-Time Voluntary Separation Program is Not an ERISA Plan

Whether a one-time voluntary separation program should be treated as an ERISA-covered severance plan depends on whether the program requires an “ongoing administrative scheme” – a requirement first established by the Supreme Court in Fort Halifax Packing Co. v. Coyne, 482 U.S. 1 (1987). In Fort Halifax, the Supreme Court held that ERISA does not … Continue Reading

Are You “Doing Enough” to Avoid ERISA Statutory Penalties?

Clients often are surprised to learn they are liable for ERISA statutory penalties associated with participant document requests even though they have retained an independent third party to administer their ERISA welfare benefits plans (such as disability, life, and health plans). It is fairly well established in most of the federal circuits that only the … Continue Reading

The President Urges Regulatory Action to Expand Access to Employer-Sponsored Retirement Plans

On August 31, 2018, President Trump issued an Executive Order (the “Order”) calling on the Department of Labor (“DOL”) and the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) to consider issuing regulations and guidance directed at expanding the availability of employer-sponsored retirement plans.  The Order mainly takes aim at the availability of retirement plans to all employees, noting … Continue Reading

Illinois Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program No Longer Mandatory?

The future of the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program Act (Secure Choice) is uncertain following Governor Bruce Rauner’s amendatory veto which could make employer participation in the Secure Choice program optional. The legislation, as enacted, makes participation in the Secure Choice program mandatory for covered employers that do not offer employees a qualified retirement plan. … Continue Reading

You’ve Discovered A Mistake in Your Plan Administration – Now What?

Occasionally qualified plan administrators discover that their plans have incurred an operational error.  The Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) recognizes that it needs the help of plan administrators to police the administration of qualified plans and has correspondingly published guidance to help plan administrators take appropriate corrective action where necessary. IRS Correction Alternatives Revenue Procedure 2016-51, … Continue Reading
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