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Tibble: Much Ado About Nothing?

OMG HeadlineEveryone seems to be talking about last month’s Supreme Court decision in Tibble v. Edison International, even though its holding wasn’t all that momentous. But I’m not complaining. As an ERISA lawyer, I love when ERISA developments hit mainstream news because, for at least one brief fleeting moment, there is a connection between the ERISA world in which I dwell and the rest of the world.

That said, some question whether Tibble warrants the level of attention it is generating. Some say Tibble merely affirms a well-known principle of ERISA law—that is that an ERISA fiduciary has an ongoing duty to monitor plan investments. Others see Tibble as a reflection of enhanced scrutiny of the duty to monitor plan investments, as well as recognition of a statute of limitations that facilitates enforcement of that

What a Diff’rence Two Months Makes

CalendarIn a rule published on March 19, 2015, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) indicated that a year can last 14 months, at least when it comes to the disclosure of fees, expenses and other investment-related information by participant-directed individual account plans, such as 401(k) plans.  That rule is based on comments (complaints?) about the requirement under the applicable regulations to provide that information to participants “at least annually.”  The DOL initially defined that phrase in the regulations so as to require disclosure of investment-related information at least once every 12 months, and subsequently indicated that each disclosure had to be furnished within 365 days of the prior disclosure.  The DOL originally took that rather rigid position to prevent inconsistencies,

PBGC Adopts Uniform Premium Due Date

PBGC Adopts Uniform Premium Due Date

March 19, 2014

Authored by: Hal Morgan

In the latest step of a rulemaking process begun in 2013, on March 11 the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation published a final rule which provides that both flat rate and variable rate premiums for small defined benefit plans will be due 9½ months after the beginning of the plan year for which they are payable.  This change, which eliminates the system under which premium due dates varied based on the type of premium and the size of the plan, will accelerate the premium due date for small plans, which has been four months after the end of the premium payment year, by 6½ months.  While the final rule is applicable for 2014 and later plan years, a transition rule provides a four month delay in the new due date for small plans for the first plan year beginning after 2013 in order to ease potential cash flow problems

PBGC Simplifies Premium Payments for Large Plans

On January 3, 2014, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation published a rule changing the due date for flat rate premium payments by large defined benefit plans with 500 or more participants. Effective immediately for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2014, the flat rate premium for large plans will be due 9½ months after the beginning of the plan year, which is the same date that the variable rate premium is due. As a result, the flat rate premium for large calendar year plans will be due on October 15, 2014.

This change should simplify the administration of premium payments for large plans and reduce potential penalties and interest for late payments. Previously, large plans have been required to pay the flat rate premium by the end of the second month of the plan year. Since the flat rate premium is generally based on

What a Difference a Day Makes

What a Difference a Day Makes

November 6, 2013

Authored by: Hal Morgan

Qualified plans frequently provide that participation commences on an entry date that coincides with or immediately follows completion of a year of service.  While there seems to be no issue with the concept that the calendar year begins on January 1 and ends on December 31, making that same determination with respect to periods that do not begin on the first day, or end on the last day, of a month sometimes seems to present difficulties.

During a question and answer session at the recent 2013 American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries’ Annual Conference, IRS officials were asked whether an employee who is hired on January 2, 2012 would become a participant on January 1 or April 1, 2013 in a plan providing for entry on the first day of the calendar quarter coinciding with or immediately following completion of one year of service.  This does not appear to

FMLA Rights for (Some) Same-Sex Spouses

On August 9, 2013, the Department of Labor (DOL) took its first action in response to the Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor, which struck down those provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibiting the treatment of same-sex couples who were legally married under applicable state law as spouses for purposes of federal law.  In an e-mail to DOL staff, Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez announced that several guidance documents had been updated to remove references to DOMA and provide that employees residing in states in which same sex marriage is legal would be entitled to leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to care for a same-sex spouse with a serious health condition.  Specifically, a DOL Fact Sheet which describes the qualifying reasons for FMLA leave was revised to provide that a spouse is “a husband or wife as defined or recognized under

Proposed Wellness Rules Provide Updates and Clarifications

Responsible federal agencies have recently issued proposed amendment to the existing regulations governing wellness programs.  As expected, the proposed amendments increase the maximum permissible reward (or absence of surcharge) under health-contingent wellness programs from 20% to 30% of the cost of coverage and increase the maximum permissible reward (or absence of surcharge) to 50% for health-contingent wellness programs that prevent or reduce tobacco use.

The proposed amendments clarify that a reasonable alternative standard developed by a medical professional who is not independent of the employer ceases to be reasonable if it conflicts with the recommendations of an individual’s personal physician and also clarify that it is not reasonable for an employer to seek verification of a health condition where the individual’s medical condition is known or patently obvious.

The proposed amendments also provide a safe harbor notice with regard to advertising the availability of an alternative

Limitation of Letter Forwarding Program May Affect VCP Submissions and Plan Terminations

In Revenue Procedure 2012-35, the Internal Revenue Service limited the use of its letter forwarding program to “humane purposes,” such as emergency situations, and specifically indicated that it will not be available to locate missing participants who may be entitled to a retirement benefit.  The new limitation applies to letter forwarding requests postmarked on and after August 31, 2012.

One of the practical implications of that was discussed by IRS officials in a recent phone forum.  The correction of certain operational failures under the Voluntary Correction Program (“VCP”) may affect former participants by, for example, requiring corrective allocations or distributions.  In those cases, the VCP submission must indicate the method that will be used to locate and notify those individuals of the failure and the correction.  Many submissions designate the IRS letter forwarding program as one or more methods that will be used for that purpose.  As a result,

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