In a relatively slow year for benefits rulings, multimillion-dollar settlements were the star of the show. And amid the slew of settlements this year, two court rulings stood out.

McDermott’s Richard J. Pearl contributes to a Law360 article that breaks down the Ninth Circuit ruling allowing benefit plan managers to force fiduciary-breach suits into solo arbitration and the Tenth Circuit holding that insurers who determine workers’ profits from 401(k) investments aren’t fiduciaries.

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Originally published by Law360, December 2019

The SECURE Act—the most significant piece of retirement plan legislation in more than a decade—is now law. Plan sponsors should immediately start considering how changes included in the SECURE Act could impact their retirement and health and welfare plans in 2020 and beyond.

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This year, the US Supreme Court will get a chance to say whether federal civil rights law protects gay and transgender employees from discrimination, and California courts will grapple with recent changes making it harder for Golden State businesses to label workers as independent contractors. McDermott’s Michael Sheehan looked at these and other cases to watch in 2020 in a recent article for Law360.

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Originally published by Law360, January 2020

A decision in Texas v. United States was issued by a divided three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on December 18, 2019. This case presented once again the question whether the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is constitutional and sustainable, and questions of severability remain for the near future.

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As we wrote in a previous On the Subject, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had signaled that it might rehear its August 2019 decisions in Dorman v. The Charles Schwab Corp., in which the Court compelled arbitration of ERISA class-action claims relating to a 401(k) plan. After ordering additional briefing, however, the Ninth Circuit denied the plaintiff’s petition for rehearing, leaving the Court’s decisions unchanged and requiring the plaintiff to arbitrate his ERISA breach-of-fiduciary-duty claims.

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Recently, the Department of Labor (DOL) published final rules clarifying the circumstances under which “bona fide” groups or associations of employers and professional employer organizations (PEOs) may be permitted to sponsor single defined contribution multiple employer plans (MEPs). Concurrently, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) published proposed rules detailing an exception to the “one bad apple” rule for defined contribution MEPs, which rule provides that the failure of one employer to meet established qualification requirements results in the disqualification of the MEP for all participating employers.

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The demand for healthcare innovation is driving collaboration between formerly disparate healthcare companies and bringing in new players, such as technology companies and start-ups, into an already complex space. As companies build partnerships and pool resources—particularly healthcare data—data ownership presents numerous challenges that need to be addressed throughout the lifecycle of the collaboration. In this episode of the Of Digital Interest, podcast McDermott partners Jiayan Chen and Jennifer S. Geetter explore:

  • Key concerns for companies executing data-driven collaborations
  • Consumer expectations surrounding data use, data privacy and their impact on digital health collaborations
  • The role of HIPAA and federal and state regulators in regulating data use
  • Common questions about secondary use and identifiable and de-identified data
  • Commercialization strategies and “green flags” for identifying the right collaboration partner

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The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) expanded the temporary relief for frozen defined benefit plans to include nondiscrimination requirements relating to benefits, rights and features, available for plan years beginning before 2021. The expanded relief enables frozen pension plans to satisfy the nondiscrimination requirements that apply to benefits, rights or features.

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The First Circuit issued a decision holding that two private equity funds involved in a case are not required to pay for the withdrawal limit of a portfolio company. Despite the limited victory, the guiding rule with respect to defined benefit plan and multiemployer plan pension liabilities remains “buyer beware,” as applicable law continues to provide that such liabilities may become liabilities of private equity funds under certain circumstances.

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