Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs)
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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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Kruse-Western Wins Partial Dismissal in ERISA Lawsuit over $244 Million Stock Sale

The federal court affirmed ERISA’s limitations on the types of claims and remedies available under ERISA. This well-reasoned decision affords Congress the deference it deserves by limiting claims and remedies only to those Congress intended to provide in ERISA. Access the full story.

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On Top of ESOP Developments: Insights from the 42nd ESOP National Conference

The 2019 ESOP National Conference, an annual gathering for employee owners from all levels, association volunteer leaders and expert professionals, took place May 22–24. Two McDermott partners, Theodore (Ted) M. Becker and Erin Turley, presented three sessions during the conference, the slides of which are available for download on the conference website. See descriptions of the presentations below: New & Notable ESOP Valuation Issues Co-Presented by Erin TurleyESOP valuation methodology and theory continue to evolve in part due to ESOP litigation, DOL investigations, academic studies and other outside factors that may potentially impact ESOP valuations today. This advanced valuation session discussed recent "hot topics" to consider when valuing an ESOP company. Legislative, Regulatory and Judicial Update Moderated by Ted BeckerThis session provided an update of court decisions, IRS and DOL guidance and activities, and federal legislation of significance...

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