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Mary K. Samsa provides counsel on executive compensation matters and tax-qualified retirement programs to a wide range of organizations, including Fortune 500 public companies, privately held companies, multinational organizations and nonprofit entities, including health systems and educational institutions. She works directly with boards of directors, compensation and retirement/investment committees, plan administrators and plan fiduciaries regarding their duties and responsibilities under federal law. With a prior background as a Certified Public Accountant, Mary brings a multi-faceted approach to advising employers with respect to their legal, financial and administrative challenges as pertains to the implementation and maintenance of their employee benefit programs. Read Mary Samsa's full bio.

Mary Samsa and Allison Wilkerson discussed that the majority of ERISA disclosures are in fact employee communications – many of which are viewed as “routine” by employers.  As such, plan sponsors are continually balancing the best way in which to relay complex benefit plan information in a manner to best be understood by employees but equally satisfy the applicable regimented disclosure requirements. Some key takeaways from their presentation included not only the compliance and content requirements, but methods for delivering communications to employees, traps for the unwary (i.e., inconsistent information communicated, the advantage of having these communications reviewed by legal counsel, and oversight of third parties who assist in preparing communications) and some common sense approaches for routine reviews of communications and continuing education to participants so that periodic communications are not always monumental tasks.

View the full presentation.

 

Since the announcement by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that sponsors of individually designed retirement plans may no longer receive a periodic determination letter, plan sponsors have faced uncertainty about how to demonstrate compliance for their retirement plans. Our McDermott Retirement Plan Compliance Program, a new opinion letter and operational review program for individually designed 401(a) and 403(b) retirement plans, will allow plan sponsors to document their plans’ compliance with tax code requirements in response to the curtailment of the IRS’ determination letter program.

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In a major victory for church-affiliated hospitals, the US Supreme Court overturned three appellate court rulings and decided unanimously that church-affiliated hospitals can maintain their pension plans as “church plans” exempt from the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (ERISA), regardless of whether a church actually established the plan. Impacted health systems, and especially their management, should evaluate how best to document and demonstrate their common religious bonds and convictions with the church.

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The 2016 proposed regulations significantly expanded 457(f) plan sponsors’ ability to permit elective deferrals, use noncompetition agreements and make larger severance payments than otherwise permitted under 409A without immediate taxation to participants. In a recent presentation, Ruth Wimer, Mary Samsa and Joseph Urwitz discuss the surprising opportunities with respect to tax-exempt and governmental entities’ “ineligible nonqualified deferred compensation” arrangements in 2016 regulations. They also address the rules and limitations of the short-term deferral exception, the interaction of the 2016 regulations with existing regulations, other types of arrangements potentially affected, as well as best practices for employers.

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Multiple large, class action lawsuits have been filed against prominent higher education institutions claiming fiduciary breaches under their Code Section 403(b) plans as a result of insufficient oversight of plan investments, which allegedly caused excessive fees to be paid by participants. Last week, district courts in Georgia and North Carolina, respectively, ruled on defendants’ motions under Henderson v. Emory University and Clark v. Duke University. Although the defendants in these cases has some success in eliminating certain causes of action, other causes of actions involving the payment of excessive fees and use of multiple record-keepers will continue through litigation.

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Join members of the McDermott Employee Benefits team in May at one of these programs covering a variety of employee benefits topics.

The John Marshall Law School The Center for Tax Law & Employee Benefits 14th Annual Employee Benefits Symposium | May 1, 2017 | Chicago, Illinois | Speaker, Joseph S. Adams

Proposed 457(f) Regulations: Opportunities and Challenges | May 3, 2017 | Webinar presented by Mary K. Samsa, Joseph K. Urwitz, Ruth Wimer

M&A Workshop: New Developments and Key Legal and Tax Issues Throughout the Life Cycle of a Deal | May 4, 2017 | Chicago, Illinois | Speaker, Joseph S. Adams

Benefits Emerging Leaders Working Group | May 10, 2017 | Chicago, Illinois | Speakers, Lisa K. Loesel, Lisa Schmitz Mazur, Jacob M. Mattinson, Jeffrey Arnold, Sarah Raaii

Amy Gordon, Jeffrey Holdvogt, Susan Nash and Mary Samsa wrote this bylined article on health system employee benefit opportunities and challenges in 2017. The authors urged health systems to review internal controls for 403(b) plan compliance and new design opportunities for 457(f) plans, to review their short- and long-term health plan operation in light of any Affordable Care Act replacement.

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Health system employers should make sure they are familiar with three key employee benefit issues: (1) the new Department of Labor (DOL) fiduciary rule that currently becomes effective April 10, 2017 (but may be delayed in the near future under the new administration); (2) recent excessive fee litigation filed against universities (and now health care systems such as Essentia Health) maintaining Code Section 403(b) fee plans; and (3) new Code Section 457(f) regulations. Each of these issues present risks and opportunities for health systems in 2017.

Read full article here.

On December 2, 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States granted the petitions for writs of certiorari to Advocate Health Care, et al. v. Stapleton, Maria, et al., St. Peter’s Healthcare, et al. v. Kaplan, Laurence and Dignity Health, et al. v. Rollins, Starla, all of which previously requested the Court review their arguments on whether the church plan exemption available under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (ERISA), applies so long as a tax-qualified retirement plan is maintained by an otherwise qualifying church-affiliated organization, or whether the exemption applies only if, in addition, a church initially established the tax-qualified retirement plan. The three cases are being consolidated and will receive one hour total for oral argument.

Read the full article here.

The very long awaited release of the new proposed regulations for Internal Revenue Code (the ‘‘Code’’) Section 457(f) plans arrived at the end of June and presents welcome and surprising new opportunities with respect to tax-exempt and governmental entities’ ‘‘ineligible nonqualified deferred compensation’’ arrangements.

The Proposed Regulations present some unexpected and surprising opportunities with respect to the ability to electively defer compensation and to have deferred compensation paid out, contingent on a valid covenant not to compete and upon a rolling risk of forfeiture.

Read the full article here to learn more.