This article originally appeared in the March 2023 edition of The Brief Case, DRI’s monthly newsletter.
Amid a circuit split, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (Fourth Circuit) has firmly taken a side as to its treatment of benefit claim denials brought under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B). In Tekmen v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company, 55 F.4th 951 (4th Cir. 2022), the Fourth Circuit endorsed seeking judgment, not via summary judgment or a quasi-summary judgment procedure, but through Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52 if the case involves de novo review of a benefit claim with factual disputes. Rule 52 allows a court to conduct a “trial on the papers” and thus issue findings of fact and conclusions of law.
Continue reading “Fourth Circuit Endorses Rule 52 for Resolving ERISA Benefit Claim Cases with Factual Disputes”
The decision of the National Labor Relations Board (the Board) in McLaren Macomb, 372 NLRB No. 58 ( Feb. 21, 2023), reinstates a limit on the confidentiality, non-disclosure, and non-disparagement clauses that employers may include in severance agreements with most of their lower-level employees. While the Board bills its decision as a return to the standard applied in earlier cases, this decision suggests that the Board will take a broader view of how such agreements infringe on employees’ rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act.
Continue reading “NLRB: Severance Pay Cannot Include Condition to Waive Rights Under NLRA”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently ruled that Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund may continue its lawsuit against Transervice Logistics, Inc. and Zenith Logistics, Inc. seeking allegedly outstanding pension fund contributions. The case examined two consolidated appeals, each involving a nearly identical collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between each employer and a union, and trust agreements between each employer and the plaintiff fund. The court was asked to determine whether the employers were required to maintain contributions to a multiemployer pension plan pursuant to so-called “evergreen clauses” that renewed the CBAs each year unless timely terminated.
The CBAs obligated the employers to make pension fund contributions to plaintiff, making the fund a third-party beneficiary of the agreements. The trust agreements obligated the employers to contribute to the fund for the “entire term of any collective bargaining agreement… (including any extension of a collective bargaining agreement through an evergreen clause…).” The CBAs were set to expire on January 31, 2019 but contained evergreen clauses that renewed the CBAs each year unless terminated with 60 days’ notice.
Continue reading “Multiemployer Pension Plan Alert: Evergreen Clauses May Trump the Bargaining Parties’ Subsequent Agreement”
The SECURE 2.0 Act of 2022 (SECURE 2.0), the follow-up legislation to the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (now known as SECURE 1.0) (previously discussed here and here), includes many important legal changes affecting retirement plans. SECURE 2.0 is intended to expand access to retirement plans, encourage additional retirement savings and ease certain administrative burdens on retirement plan sponsors.
In a measure that substantively affects plan sponsors and alters retirement plan correction practices, SECURE 2.0 significantly expands the availability of self-correction by widening the range of operational failures for which self-correction is available, including plan loan errors.
Continue reading “SECURE 2.0 Expansion of Self-Correction Program and Plan Loan Error Corrections”
On January 30, 2023, President Biden announced the Administration’s plan to extend the current declarations of the COVID-19 national emergency and public health emergency (PHE) through May 11, 2023, and end both emergencies on that date. The end of the national emergency, which was originally declared in March 2020, will cause certain employee benefit plan-related deadline extensions to conclude this summer.
Specifically, under relief that the Department of Labor, the Department of the Treasury, and the Internal Revenue Service jointly provided effective March 1, 2020, the timeframes for taking the following actions were extended during the “Outbreak Period” for up to one year:
Continue reading “COVID-19 National Emergency Plan Deadline Extensions Set to End This Summer”
SECURE 2.0 introduced several new distribution options and tax reporting rules for defined contribution plan sponsors. Below is an overview of the new provisions and their potential implementation dates. (For an overview of SECURE 2.0 for defined contribution plan sponsors, click here.)
Here is a quick summary of the new distribution changes in SECURE 2.0.
Continue reading “SECURE 2.0 Adds New Distribution Options for Defined Contribution Plans”
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced that beginning June 1, 2023, it will accept determination letter applications for individually designed 403(b) retirement plans. As background, 403(b) plans are a distinct type of retirement plan for employees of 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations and public schools (including colleges and universities). Despite the formal distinction, though, in many respects modern 403(b) plans often resemble 401(k) plans.
Continue reading “New Kids on the Block: IRS Creates Determination Letter Program for Individually Designed 403(b) Plans”
In an unusual decision, a federal judge last month refused to strike a plaintiff class’ demand for a jury trial in an ERISA 401(k) class action.
In Garthwait v. Eversource Energy Co., a class of former and current participants in the Eversource 401(k) Plan (the Plan) filed an action against Eversource Energy Company and Plan fiduciaries seeking to recover plan losses caused by alleged breaches of fiduciary duty and requesting other equitable or remedial relief.
Continue reading “ERISA Litigation Roundup: Judge Permits Partial Jury Trial in Eversource Energy 401(k) Dispute”
On October 14, 2022, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) proposed a new regulation under ERISA Section 4213(a)(2) setting forth actuarial assumptions that a multiemployer pension plan may use in calculating an employer’s withdrawal liability. A PDF of the proposed rule can be found here.
Background on Withdrawal Liability
Under ERISA § 4213(c), an employer withdrawing from a multiemployer pension plan must pay the plan its proportional share of the plan’s unfunded vested benefits, which is the difference between the present value of the plan’s nonforfeitable vested benefits and the value of the plan’s assets. The plan’s actuary must employ a variety of assumptions to calculate the withdrawing employer’s liability, such as how long employees will work and how long retirees will live (both of which affect the value of the benefits the plan must pay in the future).
Continue reading “PBGC Announces Proposed Rule on Interest Rate Assumptions for Multiemployer Plan Withdrawal Liability”
Congress included “SECURE 2.0 of 2022” in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023, the $1.7-trillion omnibus spending bill, which was signed by President Biden on December 29, 2022 (the date of enactment). Secure 2.0 is a follow-up to the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act passed in 2019, now known as “SECURE 1.0.”
Continue reading “SECURE Act 2.0: What Defined Contribution Plan Sponsors Need to Know”