View From McDermott: What Private Equity and Hedge Funds (and Their Benefit Plan Investors) Should Know About ERISA

By on May 28, 2014

ERISA imposes numerous obligations on fiduciaries holding assets of employee benefit plans. In addition to discharging its duties prudently and for the exclusive purpose of providing benefits to benefit plan participants and their beneficiaries, ERISA establishes other fiduciary obligations, including prohibiting fiduciaries from engaging in a variety of transactions with plan assets known as ‘‘prohibited transactions.’’ Failure to follow fiduciary duties can result in lawsuits, Department of Labor (DOL) investigations and penalty taxes for which fiduciaries may be personally liable, as discussed below.  This article discusses ERISA issues of relevance to private equity and hedge funds and their benefit plan investors. The first part discusses issues and problems resulting from being an ERISA fiduciary, while the second describes ways private equity and hedge funds can escape ERISA coverage and some pitfalls to avoid when attempting to do so.

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Joseph K. Urwitz
Joseph (Joe) K. Urwitz focuses his practice on employee benefits, executive compensation and Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) fiduciary matters. He advises clients on a wide range of issues, including fiduciary duties and prohibited transactions, employee benefit matters arising in mergers and acquisitions, benefits issues unique to nonprofit entities, deferred compensation arrangements, equity award and bonus plan design, employment and severance arrangements, and qualified plan work. Read Joe Urwitz's full bio.

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