Employee Benefit Plans
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DOL Creates Path for 401(k) Plans to Offer Private Equity Investment Options

In June, the US Department of Labor issued an information letter indicating that it will allow defined contribution retirement plans (such as 401(k) plans) to indirectly invest in private equity funds. While information letters are not binding, this new guidance creates a significant opportunity for plan sponsors to consider investment options that include private equity funds. However, it will be important for both plan sponsors and funds to carefully evaluate potential investments for compliance with fiduciary requirements.

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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.

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Going Up but Never Down | 2018 ERISA Penalties

The Department of Labor announced increased penalties for employee benefit plans under ERISA. The increases generally apply to penalties that involve employee benefit reporting and disclosure failings if the penalty is assessed after January 2, 2018, and if the violation occurred after November 2, 2015. We’ve compiled a resource outlining the ERISA penalty amounts assessed for violations on or before January 2, 2018, and those amounts assessed after January 2.

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How to Prep for a Separation from a Parent Company

As more and more advisers continue to transition from the role of the product salesman to benefit facilitator, knowing what to do in the event of the client entering into a corporate spinoff can be critical.

John Hendrickson, partner at McDermott Will & Emery, says he is beginning to see a trend in corporate spinoffs and ensuring advisers have the tools necessary to assist in this transition could be imperative.

To breakdown the key points advisers should focus on during this transition, Hendrickson has highlighted 10 items to consider in a corporate spinoff.

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DOL Proposes 60-Day Delay of Fiduciary Rule in Response to White House Directive

The future of the fiduciary rule—originally set to be implemented this upcoming April—remains uncertain after the White House directed the United States Department of Labor (DOL) to reevaluate, defer implementation and consider rescinding the controversial new fiduciary rule on February 3, 2017. In response to the White House, the acting US Secretary of Labor announced that the DOL will now consider its legal options to delay the applicability date to comply with the President’s directive. McDermott’s ERISA practice will closely monitor these developments and provide additional guidance as it becomes available. Read the full article.

Same-Sex Marriage Legalized in New York: Implications for Employee Benefit Plans

by Joseph S. Adams, Todd A. Solomon and Brian J. Tiemann

Now that same-sex marriage has been legalized in the state of New York, employers should expect to begin seeing an increase in requests for spousal benefit coverage from employees who have legally married their same-sex partners.  The new law takes effect on July 24, 2011.

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Civil Unions Legalized in Illinois; Implications for Employee Benefit Plans

by Joseph S. Adams, Todd A. Solomon and Brian J. Tiemann

Employers should take action now to prepare for requests for benefit coverage from employees planning to enter into a civil union once a new law legalizing civil unions for same-sex or opposite-sex partners takes effect in Illinois on June 1, 2011. The most common requests for benefits for a civil union partner are likely to be coverage under the employer’s medical, dental and vision plans, and survivor annuity coverage under defined benefit pension plans.

Medical, Dental and Vision Benefits. Employers with medical, dental or vision plans insured with contracts issued in Illinois will be required to extend coverage to an employee’s civil union partner if the plan provides coverage for other employees’ spouses. Employers that are required to or that voluntarily choose to extend such coverage to an employee’s civil union partner will need to ensure that the employee is properly taxed on these benefits. Because civil unions are not recognized under federal law, employers must impute income to the employee for federal income tax purposes, unless the partner qualifies as a “dependent” of the employee pursuant to Section 152 of the Internal Revenue Code. However, because civil union partners in Illinois are entitled to all of the rights and benefits as spouses, the value of employer-provided medical, dental and vision coverage is not taxable for Illinois state income tax purposes.

Retirement Benefits. The Illinois civil union law will not require non-government employers with qualified retirement plans to extend spousal benefits to civil union partners since these plans are regulated solely by federal law. However, employers may want to consider amending their plans if they want to provide full parity in benefits for civil union partners. Employers with defined contribution plans may want to identify civil union partners as default beneficiaries in the event an employee fails to designate a beneficiary or if the beneficiary predeceases the employee. Another option with respect to defined contribution plans is to permit an employee to obtain an optional hardship withdrawal for IRS-recognized expenses related to a civil union partner. Employers with defined benefit pension plans may want to permit an employee’s benefit to be paid over the joint life of the employee and his or her civil union partner and/or to allow a civil union partner to receive a death benefit if the employee dies before retirement.

More information on the employee benefit plan implications of the legalization of civil unions in Illinois can be found here.