Due to widespread court closures as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it may be difficult for participants or their attorneys to obtain a certified copy of a domestic relations order that many retirement plans require as part of the procedures for processing qualified domestic relations orders (QDROs). To address this issue, plans might consider adopting temporary procedures that allow for the continued qualification and processing of QDROs during these extraordinary circumstances without creating permanent exceptions to their normal QDRO procedures.

The US Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury (Departments) issued a set of 14 frequently asked questions (FAQs) on April 11. The FAQs are intended to offer guidance on the application and implementation of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), and other health coverage issues related to the coronavirus (COVID-19). The FAQs generally are applicable for the duration of the public health emergency associated with COVID-19 (which will end no earlier than June 16, 2020).

The Coronavirus Air, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed into law on March 27 includes an allocation of $200 million to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to support telehealth services and $125 million to the US Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service to expand its existing distance learning, telehealth, and broadband initiative.

Read our LawFlash that includes a summary of these provisions.

Our employee benefits and executive compensation practice is available to help employers evaluate and troubleshoot potential issues arising from the changing work environment and economic situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This guidance reviews the employee benefits and executive compensation issues that we have been assisting clients with in the last few days.

Please contact the authors or your Morgan Lewis contacts if you have questions related to employee benefits and executive compensation in the midst of coronavirus COVID-19. For updated, comprehensive information about COVID-19, please see our resource page.

Sponsors of single‑employer defined benefit (DB) pension plans could be subject to higher-than-usual minimum funding contribution requirements over the next several years, for at least two reasons. First, the interest rates that many plan sponsors use to calculate such contributions (referred to as “MAP‑21” interest rates due to the 2012 legislation that originally provided interest rate stabilization for minimum funding purposes) may decline starting in 2020. Second, an economic recession and corresponding stock market decline is increasingly possible. In anticipation of potential minimum contribution increases, DB plan sponsors should consider whether they may be able to defer their minimum funding obligations at some point in the near future by obtaining a minimum funding waiver from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

In recent years, there has been an upward trend of regulators focusing on the issue of retirement plan participants not collecting retirement benefits upon reaching retirement age (and we have previously covered the final rule on the missing participants program on this blog). Although there are many reasons why individuals delay collection, in some cases, the individuals are not starting their benefit payments because they are “missing”—meaning the administrators of their retirement plans cannot locate them or the plans lack critical identifying information to locate them.

In final regulations set to take effect for 2020 Forms W-2, the IRS gives employers the option of using truncated Social Security numbers (SSNs) on employee Forms W-2 issued after December 31, 2020. The new rules are an attempt to assist employer efforts to protect confidential employee identification information from identity theft.

Recent decisions by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit have reinvigorated the debate over whether mandatory individual arbitration provisions are enforceable with respect to ERISA claims and, if so, whether these provisions are worth including in your ERISA plan document. In Dorman v. Charles Schwab Corp., the Ninth Circuit affirmed that provisions in plan documents requiring individual arbitration of ERISA claims could be arbitrable, a contrast to the Munro v. University of Southern California decision in July 2018. To learn about these changes, please read our LawFlash.

Join Morgan Lewis this month for these programs on employee benefits and executive compensation:

We’d also encourage you to attend the firm’s Global Public Company Academy series:

Visit the Morgan Lewis events page for more of our latest programs.

Join Morgan Lewis this month for these programs on employee benefits and executive compensation:

We’d also encourage you to attend the firm’s Global Public Company Academy series.

Visit the Morgan Lewis events page for more of our latest programs.