The IRS has issued proposed regulations on the treatment of forfeitures under defined benefit and defined contribution plans. The proposed guidance, which would amend Treasury Regulation 1.401-7, synthesizes (and updates the existing regulation to reflect) guidance previously found in Revenue Rulings, an IRS newsletter, and certain changes to the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”), made during the last 35 years or so. The proposed regulation would also generally clarify and extend what had been previously understood to be the deadline for “zeroing out” forfeiture accounts under defined contribution plans. Continue Reading IRS Issues Proposed Forfeiture Regulations
Maureen Gorman is a partner in the Palo Alto office of Mayer Brown who focuses on executive compensation and employee benefits matters. Her work includes advising on tax and benefit issues in both domestic and international contexts, counseling on ERISA fiduciary issues, controversy work involving IRS and DOL audits, and all nature of transactional work, including de-risking transactions and M&A. Her work frequently requires interdisciplinary efforts with corporate, securities and tax specialists.
With just days to go before the new year, President Biden signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023, into law on December 29, 2022, which includes the SECURE 2.0 Act of 2022 (“SECURE 2.0”). SECURE 2.0 expands on and, in some cases, modifies changes to the laws governing retirement plans brought about by the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Act of 2019 (the “2019 SECURE Act”). Key provisions of SECURE 2.0 that amend the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”) and Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”) include a mandatory automatic enrollment and escalation feature for new Section 401(k) and 403(b) plans starting in 2025, updated required beginning dates for taking required minimum distributions, an expansion of the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (“EPCRS”), and more “Rothification” of savings opportunities for retirement plan participants. Plan amendments under SECURE 2.0 are generally required by the last day of the first plan year beginning on or after January 1, 2025 for single-employer plans. SECURE 2.0 also directs the Department of Labor (“DOL”) and IRS to issue various new regulations in accordance with its provisions. This blog post summarizes some of the key features of SECURE 2.0. Continue Reading SECURE 2.0 – Changes for Retirement Plans
On April 14th, 2021, the Department of Labor (“DOL“) issued cybersecurity guidance to plan sponsor and fiduciaries, recordkeepers and other service providers and participants and beneficiaries of plans regulated by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (“ERISA”). The guidance is presented in three separate parts: Tips for Hiring a Service Provider with Strong Cybersecurity Practices, Cybersecurity Program Best Practices and Online Security Tips for Participants and Beneficiaries.
Over the past ten years, cybersecurity has become an area of critical importance to plan sponsors, plan administrators and plan participants. With plans holding trillions in assets as well as sensitive participant information, retirement accounts have been attractive targets for cyber-enabled fraud. Plan participants are known to check their retirement account balances less frequently than personal banking, credit card or other financial accounts. As a result, there can be a delay before attacks on retirement accounts are discovered, making tracing and recovery efforts exceptionally difficult. Plans also permit electronic access to funds and rely upon outside service providers, which provide additional access points for breach. There is a growing body of litigation involving participants who have suffered retirement plan losses due to cyberattacks. Bartnett v. Abbott Laboratories, No. 20-cv-02127 (ND Ill., 2020) (motion to dismiss participant suit against plan sponsor and administrator granted, but denied with respect to third party record-keeper); Leventhal v. The MandMarblestone Group LLC, No. 18-cv-2727 (ED PA, 2019) (motion to dismiss suit by plan sponsor and participant against third party administrator denied); and Berman v. Estee Lauder, No. 4:19-cv-06489 (ND CA, 2019) (participant suit against plan sponsor, committee and third party record-keeper settled).Continue Reading U.S. Department of Labor Weighs in on Cybersecurity for ERISA Plans
This is the second of two installments on the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). Mayer Brown’s first installment describes provisions of ARPA relating to COBRA premium subsidies, changes to the cap on pre-tax dependent care assistance benefits, changes to section 162(m) of the Internal Revenue Code relating to a corporation’s deduction for executive compensation, and updates to the employee retention credit (initially implemented as a part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act).
This installment focuses on the provisions of ARPA that provide relief to multiemployer and single employer defined benefit plans.Continue Reading Multiemployer and Single Employer Plan Provisions of the American Rescue Plan Act: Help is on the way!
Last year, the Department of Labor (working in concert with other agencies) issued two notices extending a variety of benefit plan deadlines as a result of the COVID-19 national emergency, as discussed in detail in our May 2020 blog. The relief generally provided that, in determining deadlines, the period from March 1, 2020 until 60 days after the end of the COVID-19 national emergency or such other date announced by the agencies (also known as the “Outbreak Period”) would be disregarded. However—and notably—the Outbreak Period was generally subject to the one-year duration limitation set forth in Section 518 of ERISA.
If the “one-year duration limitation” had in all cases begun on March 1, 2020, that one year would have already come and gone, even while the COVID-19 national emergency continues. But the DOL has now, by way of EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2021-01, issued further guidance that provides for an individualized application of the one-year duration limitation.Continue Reading After One Year, the Outbreak Period is Ongoing – What’s a Plan Sponsor to Do?
Ed. Note: On September 22, 2020, the Fourth Circuit denied Gannett’s petition for rehearing en banc. On October 8, 2020, the Fifth Circuit denied Schweitzer’s petition for rehearing en banc. We expect the defendants (in Gannett) and the plaintiffs (in Schweitzer) will petition the Supreme Court for certiorari within the coming weeks, and will update this post as new developments arise in the case.
The Fourth Circuit’s recent split decision in Quatrone v. Gannett Co., Inc., No. 19-1212 (4th Cir. Aug. 11, 2020) is sure to raise the blood pressure of sponsors and administrators of retirement plans with single stock funds. Together with a recent Fifth Circuit decision in Schweitzer v. Inv. Comm. of Phillips 66 Sav. Plan, No. 18-cv-20379, 2020 WL 2611542 (5th Cir. May 22, 2020), the Gannett case highlights the dilemma of retirement plan sponsors and fiduciaries, who, as a result of a corporate transaction, inherit a plan investment fund consisting of a single class of stock that does not constitute an employer security for purposes of ERISA (i.e., a “single stock fund”). Plan fiduciaries in these circumstances have been targeted in class actions brought by an aggressive plaintiffs’ bar both for liquidating a single stock fund too soon and for not liquidating a single stock fund soon enough. While courts are still evaluating how to handle these single stock fund cases, a plan fiduciary’s potential exposure for continuing to maintain such a fund seems to turn, at least in part, on the manner in which ERISA’s duties of prudence and diversification apply to the single stock fund as a plan investment option.Continue Reading Appellate Court Split in Recent Single Stock Fund Litigation
The Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) released two informal updates to guidance on income inclusion timing, and withholding and deposit rules, for stock options and for stock-settled stock appreciation rights (“SARS”) and restricted stock units (“RSUs”). First, the IRS released Generic Legal Advice Memorandum 2020-004 (the “GLAM”) on May 22, 2020, which outlines the views of the IRS Office of Chief Counsel with respect to the timing of income inclusion and the application of Federal Insurance Contribution Act (“FICA”) and Federal income tax (“FIT”) withholding and deposit obligations for three types of stock-settled equity awards. Second, the IRS updated Section 18.104.22.168.2 of the Internal Review Manual (“IRM Update”) on May 26, 2020, to expand the categories of equity awards eligible for certain administrative relief from the penalties of the Next-Day Deposit Rule (described below), while slightly tightening the conditions for such relief.
Continue Reading IRS Updates Guidance on Timing of Wage and FICA Withholding for Stock Options and RSUs
On May 21, 2020, the US Department of Labor (DOL) and the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) issued final regulations expanding the use of electronic disclosures for retirement plans. The regulations provide a new safe harbor that will substantially ease the use of electronic delivery by retirement plan administrators to satisfy the disclosure requirements of Title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). The new regulations were published in the Federal Register on May 27, 2020, and they take effect on July 27, 2020 (though the DOL will not take enforcement action against a plan administrator that relies on the regulations’ new safe harbor before that date).
Continue Reading The DOL Embraces Wider Use of Electronic Notices for ERISA Disclosures
The Department of Labor (together with the Treasury Department) has issued helpful deadline relief for participants and beneficiaries in health, disability, other welfare and pension plans, as well as for plan sponsors and administrators of such plans, during the COVID-19 National Emergency. The guidance came just in time for plan administrators at risk of missing the deadline for distributing annual funding notices, which was April 29 this year.
Continue Reading DOL Issues COVID-Related Deadline Relief
In the third and final of a series, our employment and benefits teams take an in depth look at the provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act” or the “Act”) affecting employment, compensation, payroll taxes and paid leave. Read more on the Mayer Brown COVID-19 Blog.