Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs)
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EBSA Privacy and Cybersecurity Guidance

Andrew C. Liazos, partner at McDermott Will & Emery, recently moderated an American Bar Association panel on the new cybersecurity guidance for retirement plan sponsors issued by the Department of Labor (DOL). The panel slides included 10 takeaways for the new DOL guidance.

Access the slides.

As a background, the DOL’s new guidance formalized its long-held view that retirement plan fiduciaries have an obligation to ensure proper mitigation of cybersecurity risks. More specifically, the DOL expects retirement plan fiduciaries to select and monitor the cybersecurity practices of their service providers.

The DOL guidance is in three parts.

  • The first part provides plan fiduciaries with a framework for reviewing a vendor’s cybersecurity practices.
  • The second part provides a robust list of cybersecurity “best practices” for record keepers and other vendors responsible for plan-related IT systems and data. For example, the DOL recommends that all retirement plan vendors with critical participant data conduct a reliable annual third-party audit of their security controls.
  • The third part provides security tips for participants and beneficiaries who manage their retirement accounts online.



Employee Rewards in M&A Transactions: Comparability Provisions

Companies enter into merger & acquisition (M&A) deals for a range of reasons, but how employees are treated once a deal closes depends largely on the buyer’s deal strategy. Often the buyer signs a deal under the promise that the acquired business’ employees will continue to receive rewards at deal close that are comparable to those they received before, at least for a specified period of time. But why include such comparability provisions in deal terms given that they appear to restrict the buyer? What do these provisions typically cover? And what are best practices?

Willis Tower Watson recently tapped law firms with leading M&A advisory teams, including McDermott’s Carole Spink, to dig into the answers.

Access the article.




Final Rule for Selecting Retirement Plan Investments Leaves “ESG” Behind

In recent guidance, the Department of Labor clarified the retirement plan standards for environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) investing without mentioning the term ESG. The new guidance provides that, when selecting and monitoring plan investments, an Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) fiduciary must never sacrifice investment returns, take on additional investment risk or pay higher fees to promote non-pecuniary benefits or goals.

Teal Trujillo, an incoming associate in our Chicago office, also contributed to this On the Subject.

Access the article.




Securing Retirement: Additional SECURE Act and Miners Act Guidance for Retirement Plans

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently issued practical and helpful guidance in a question-and-answer format for tax-qualified retirement plans and for an Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA), regarding the legislative changes under the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (the “SECURE Act”) and the Bipartisan American Miners Act of 2019 (the “Miners Act”).

Teal Trujillo, an incoming associate in our Chicago office, also contributed to this On the Subject.

Access the article.




ESOP Litigants Play by Their Own Valuation Rules

Imagine if you were playing on a baseball team and the opposing players argue that you are violating the rules of soccer. That’s what it’s like when private parties and the Department of Labor (DOL) challenge Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) valuations. Plaintiffs play a very different valuation ballgame, which confounds experts who go up against them in a dispute involving allegations that an ESOP paid more than “fair market value” for stock of the sponsor company. In a recent webinar, McDermott attorney Richard Pearl discussed valuation concepts and some fundamental issues under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

Read more.




More Caring: New CARES Act Guidance for Retirement and Nonqualified Plans

New Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance expands the availability of Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) distributions and loans under eligible retirement plans, and it provides important clarifications regarding how to administer and report CARES Act distributions and loans. The guidance also provides welcome relief for a participant who receives a CARES Act distribution, allowing the participant to revoke an otherwise irrevocable salary deferral election under a nonqualified deferred compensation plan. Finally, consistent with prior guidance, the new IRS guidance confirms that CARES Act provisions are optional, meaning that plan sponsors may choose whether to implement CARES Act changes.

Access the full article.




Investor Guidelines for Shared Value Creation in Employee Ownership Transitions Unveiled

One of the big questions for the employee ownership field is, why has the number of US employee-owned firms failed to grow significantly over the last couple of decades?

An upcoming paper from Fifty by Fifty proposes that the barrier to growth is a lack of agency. Employees don’t have the knowledge, skills or capital to pursue a buyout of their employer; and employers, knowing little about the benefits of selling to employees, are more likely to respond to an opportunity that knocks on their door, such as an offer from a private equity firm or a strategic buyer. McDermott’s Ted Becker and Erin Turley share their thoughts on the guidelines in a recent article published on Medium.

Access the full article.

Originally published on Fifty by Fifty, January 29, 2020




Federal Court Dismisses Challenge to ESOP Transaction

In Lee v. Argent Trust Co., the court dismissed ERISA claims challenging an ESOP stock transaction because the plaintiff, who “fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the” ESOP transaction, did not allege that she suffered any injury. This decision is important to educate other courts about economics, particularly in cases where plaintiffs rely on little more than the post-transaction valuation as evidence of supposed overvaluation.

Access the full article.




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