As 2018 comes to a close, it’s time for retirement plan sponsors to make sure they have addressed any required year-end plan amendments, are preparing any required year-end participant notices, and are looking ahead to any changes in 2019 that may impact their plans. This Part 1 focuses on the 2018 year-end obligations, while the forthcoming Part 2: Getting Ready for 2019 will concentrate on changes for next year.
The US Internal Revenue Service has released proposed regulations requiring retirement plans to eliminate the six-month suspension for hardship withdrawals made on and after January 1, 2020, with the option to eliminate it earlier, and providing important clarifications for plan sponsors on other hardship requirements. Please see our LawFlash for more information about these proposed regulations, including next steps. If you have questions about the proposed regulations, please feel free to reach out to the authors or your Morgan Lewis contact.
The 18 newly elected attorneys general could affect federal and state cooperation on high-profile issues, as well as continue partisan litigation. For an analysis of the results of the 2018 state attorneys general elections, please see Morgan Lewis Consulting’s State Attorneys General Post-Election Report 2018.
Drafting and negotiating data protection provisions in services agreements is critical, but it can also be one of the trickier and more time-consuming aspects of the contracting process. Tech & Sourcing @ Morgan Lewis addresses data safeguards in services agreements in this comprehensive four-part series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. If you have questions on how to best protect data in your service provider relationships, please feel free to reach out to the author or your Morgan Lewis contact.
Congratulations to our employee benefits practice for being recognized as Law Firm of the Year in the Employee Benefits (ERISA Law) category by the US News & World Report– Best Lawyers Best Law Firms. The Law Firm of the Year distinction is awarded to only one law firm in each practice area nationwide. The rankings are determined by evaluating client, lawyer, and peer review.
Additional congratulations to Morgan Lewis’s securities regulation practice for also being named Law Firm of the Year in their subsequent category, and to the 256 practice areas named as leading law firms across national and metropolitan categories. Find more information via our firm press release.
With the economy humming along and unemployment at historic lows, it seems a strange time for a blog post about severance plans. This is the ideal time, however, to start planning for the next phase of the business cycle and the inevitable reductions in workforce that will follow. In connection with this planning, we wanted to remind our readers of the numerous advantages of adopting an ERISA-compliant severance plan. While many employers think they do not have an ERISA-covered plan—because it is not written or is not distributed to employees—they may in fact have a de facto plan if they have a routine policy for providing severance benefits that requires ongoing administrative discretion. Don’t panic: ERISA coverage is generally a good thing.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued guidance on September 18 that modifies its safe harbor explanations that may be (and typically are) used to satisfy Section 402(f) of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). IRC Section 402(f) requires plan administrators of 401(a) qualified plans to provide a written explanation of an individual’s rollover rights (of eligible rollover distributions) within a reasonable period of time (i.e., no fewer than 30 days and no more than 180 days) before the date a plan distribution is to be made.
The modifications, described in Notice 2018-74, reflect changes made under the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) relating to the rollover of qualified plan loan offset amounts and guidance issued in IRS Revenue Procedure 2016-47 (Rev. Proc. 2016-47) on self-certification of eligibility for a waiver of the 60-day deadline for completing a rollover.
The end of summer doesn’t always mean the end of employment for seasonal employees. Employers often rely on the pool of talent they have developed through seasonal hiring when it comes time to fill new or newly vacated ongoing positions. Here are several things to keep in mind when hiring or rehiring a seasonal employee into a year-round, benefits-eligible role.
Employers that do not have large employee populations have for many years struggled to provide competitive health coverage to their employees. In an effort to offer the economies of scale and risk spreading that exist when large numbers of employees are covered in a single group health plan, there have been many attempts to structure health insurance arrangements (typically referred to as multiple employer welfare arrangements, or MEWAs) in which unrelated employers can participate. Unfortunately, many MEWAs have been undercapitalized, unable to provide the cost savings they promoted, and/or noncompliant with state and federal law. Although there has been a recent effort by the US Department of Labor (DOL) (through a final regulation issued in June of 2018) to expand the ability of employer associations to offer group health plan coverage to their members, this effort will primarily benefit small employers who currently obtain health coverage through the individual or small group insurance markets.
In recent weeks, there have been a number of reports that the US Department of Labor (DOL) has been taking a more aggressive approach in enforcement actions involving late participant contributions and loan repayments and other errors self-reported by ERISA plans on their Forms 5500. These reports underscore the importance of timely, full correction when a plan discovers such late contributions and loan repayments, and other fiduciary breaches.
Under applicable DOL rules, participant contributions and loan repayments must be remitted to the plan’s trust as soon as the money can reasonably be segregated from the employer’s assets (and no later than 15 days, unless the plan qualifies for a small plan exception). The DOL’s view is that it is a breach of fiduciary duty when the payments are made into the plan’s trust later than that. The delay is treated as an unauthorized loan of plan assets and, therefore, a nonexempt prohibited transaction. The DOL has treated these breaches as an enforcement priority and regularly reviews this issue during its plan investigations (the DOL having primary investigatory authority of ERISA’s fiduciary duty provisions, and a robust investigatory program). The DOL frequently cites ERISA plan fiduciaries for fiduciary breaches due to such late contributions and loan repayments.