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Federal Court Certifies Class in Multiple-Plan ERISA Challenge to Health-Plan and Retirement-Plan Fees

A Texas federal court certified a class in case brought by participants in one plan, and allowed those participants to represent participants in unaffiliated plans. The claims alleged that the defendants, who marketed and provided services to all of the plans, breached fiduciary duties by imposing excessive fees. See Chavez, et al. v. Plan Benefits Services, Inc., et al., No. AU-17-CA-00659-SS, United States District Court for Western District of Texas (Aug. 30, 2019). Access the full article.

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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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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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Big ERISA Decisions on the Horizon—SCOTUS to Review Third ERISA Case this Term

The US Supreme Court recently agreed to review the Eighth Circuit’s decision in Thole v. US Bank, in which the Eighth Circuit held that participants in an overfunded defined benefit pension plan lack standing to sue for fiduciary breaches under ERISA. The Supreme Court’s decision in this case—the third ERISA case accepted by the court this term—could have significant implications for plan sponsors and plan fiduciaries. Many believe that if the Supreme Court rules that the plaintiffs have standing to bring suit, it could encourage a proliferation of litigation against plans where there is no actual impact on participants’ benefits. Access the full article.

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It Could Happen to You: Tips for Acing a Benefit Plan Audit

Over the past several years, the IRS and DOL have significantly increased the number of benefit plans audits conducted each year. As a result, it is important for plan sponsors to understand the types of issues that often arise in connection with such audits. At the recent PSCA 2019 National Conference, Brian Tiemann explained what plan sponsors should expect if their benefit plan is selected for audited. More specifically, Brian discussed the ways audits are typically triggered and how to respond when a plan is audited. In addition, Brian outlined some of the most common retirement and health and welfare compliance issues identified in plan audits. He also discussed how plan sponsors can prepare for audits and even address potential compliance issues before they occur. View the full presentation.

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Employee Benefit Plans Master Trust Investments – Financial Statement Changes

The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) adopted changes to the required financial statement disclosures of employee benefit plans with investments in master trusts. The changes will standardize the content and presentation of information reported in plans’ financial statements. Learn about the six significant items the FASB guidance addresses. Access the full article.

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Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Sulyma v. Intel Statute-of-Limitations Decision

The US Supreme Court recently agreed to hear Sulyma v. Intel Corp. Investment Policy Committee, a case in which the Ninth Circuit ruled that ERISA’s three-year statute of limitations requires a plaintiff to actually read materials in order to start the running of ERISA’s three-year statute of limitations. ERISA § 413(2) bars actions more than three years after “the earliest date on which the plaintiff had actual knowledge of the breach or violation,” and the Ninth Circuit held that a plaintiff who receives all the relevant information relating to her claim, but does not read it or does not recall reading it, does not have “actual knowledge” to start the limitations period. The Sixth Circuit, however, has held differently; in Brown v. Owens Corning Investment Review Committee, 622 F.3d 564, 571 (6th Cir. 2010), it held that the failure to read documents will not shield a plaintiff from having actual knowledge of the documents’ contents. Several district courts...

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US Supreme Court to Review Unusual Second Circuit Decision in Stock Drop Case Against IBM

On Monday, the US Supreme Court agreed to review the Second Circuit’s decision in Jander v. Retirement Plans Committee of IBM, a “stock drop” lawsuit against IBM’s benefit plan fiduciaries. The Second Circuit’s decision marked one of the few times a federal court permitted a “stock drop” lawsuit to survive dismissal since the Supreme Court’s decisions in Fifth Third Bank v. Dudenhoeffer (2012) and Harris v. Amgen (2016). Together, the Dudenhoeffer and Amgen decisions set a high pleading bar for plaintiffs who file “stock drop” claims. These lawsuits involve employee stock ownership plans, in which the plan includes employer stock as an investment option, and a subsequent drop in that stock’s price. Plaintiffs allege that by failing to remove the stock from the plan or take other corrective action (such as disclosing information), fiduciaries breached the prudent person standard of care that ERISA imposes on fiduciaries. Dudenhoeffer requires plaintiffs to...

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Bipartisan Bill Paves the Way for Significant Retirement Plan Reforms

The House recently passed the most significant piece of proposed retirement plan legislation in more than a decade: the SECURE Act. Although the Senate must also approve the bill before it becomes law, its proposed changes have considerable bipartisan support in Congress. Plan sponsors should start considering how changes included in the SECURE Act could impact their retirement plans. Employers who do not currently offer retirement plans should also review the new retirement plan incentives included in the proposed legislation. Access the full article.

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Former Employee’s Release Agreement Bars ERISA Claim Against ESOP Fiduciary

A recent summary-judgment decision explains how individual releases can bar the individual from pursuing ERISA fiduciary-breach claims on behalf of the plan. A plan, employer or fiduciary that wants to ensure a release that includes ERISA claims on behalf of a plan should consider language that addresses the court’s areas of inquiry in the case, which are outlined in this article. Access the full article.

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