Late last year, the Ninth Circuit held that in order to trigger ERISA’s three-year statute of limitations a defendant must demonstrate that a plaintiff has actual knowledge of the nature of an alleged breach. Accordingly, the court held that merely having access to documents describing an alleged breach of fiduciary duty is not sufficient to cause ERISA’s statute of limitations to begin to run. Instead, the court rejected the standard embraced by other courts and ruled that participants should not be charged with knowledge of documents they were provided by did not actually read. The Ninth Circuit’s decision underscores circuit split over what is sufficient to demonstrate the existence of actual knowledge for purposes of triggering ERISA’s three-year statute of limitations.

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Though the Supreme Court’s 2014 unanimous ruling in Fifth Third Bank v. Dudenhoeffer announced the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) standards for stock valuation in the context of a large public employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), the vast majority of ESOPs are still grappling with valuation issues. ESOPs that hold stock of closely-held corporations—approximately 90% of all ESOPs— remain almost unaffected by Dudenhoeffer’s valuation discussions, and face continued scrutiny by the Department of Labor (DOL). Appraisal of closely-held stock is an inexact science that involves an inherent level of uncertainty in assessing a variety of potential fact patterns.

This article summarizes valuation issues in acquisitions of closely-held corporation stock by ESOPs in the context of Perez v. Bruister, a recently decided Fifth Circuit case. The case stressed the importance of ‘‘process’’ in valuation determinations being utilized for acquisitions of a corporation’s stock by an ESOP. In reviewing the case, this article provides a detail of the process that should be followed to ensure consideration of the appropriate factors by fiduciaries in reviewing valuations for ESOP transactions. The article concludes with a discussion of guidance provided by the court in Bruister that may be instructive as to best practices for ESOP fiduciaries charged with establishing the value to be used by an ESOP holding shares of stock of a private company.

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Webcast Details:
March 23, 2016
1:00 – 2:00 pm EDT / 12:00 – 1:00 pm CDT

REGISTER HERE

McDermott Will & Emery invites you to a webcast to hear how employers and third-party administrators protect the privacy of employee participants’ personal information. On March 23, 2016, Ann Killilea and Andrew Liazos will discuss complex issues faced by employers and the impact on employee benefit plan sponsors, and address the following topics related to managing data breaches:

  • Beyond HIPAA: Privacy and data security issues relevant to ERISA fiduciaries
  • Security threats to benefit plans
  • Fiduciary duties to protect regulated personal information

Ann Killilea is counsel in the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery LLP and brings to the Firm and to its Global Privacy and Data Protection Affinity Group more than 25 years of experience as senior in-house corporate counsel advising Hewlett-Packard Company (HP), and its predecessor companies Compaq Computer Corporation and Digital Equipment Corporation, all multinational companies in the information technology industry.

Andrew C. Liazos is a partner in the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery LLP and regularly represents Fortune 500 companies, public companies, large closely held businesses and compensation committees on all aspects of executive compensation; ERISA fiduciary and compensation plan governance; employee benefits in business transactions; initial public offerings and bankruptcy; international compensation planning and related litigation matters. He also counsels executives in employment agreement and joint-venture negotiations.

CLE credit for the live presentation of this program is pending in the states of California, Illinois, New York and Texas. A Uniform Certificate of Attendance will be made available to participants requesting CLE credit in all other states. Please be advised that CLE credit will not be approved for on-demand/recorded viewings of this program in the states listed above. Attendees seeking credit in other states should consult their state CLE accrediting agency to determine whether self-study credit can be earned for on demand/recorded viewing of this program.

In a highly anticipated decision, the Supreme Court recently ruled that ESOP fiduciaries are not entitled to a presumption of prudence under ERISA in connection with their decisions to buy, hold or sell the employer’s securities. While the elimination of this presumption is a loss for ESOP fiduciaries, the decision imposes additional burdens on plaintiffs that will make it easier for plan sponsors and fiduciaries to defend so-called “stock-drop” cases. It also requires plan sponsors to reevaluate plan language requiring that certain funds be invested in employer securities and to reconsider hiring an independent fiduciary to manage the employer stock fund.

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ERISA imposes numerous obligations on fiduciaries holding assets of employee benefit plans. In addition to discharging its duties prudently and for the exclusive purpose of providing benefits to benefit plan participants and their beneficiaries, ERISA establishes other fiduciary obligations, including prohibiting fiduciaries from engaging in a variety of transactions with plan assets known as ‘‘prohibited transactions.’’ Failure to follow fiduciary duties can result in lawsuits, Department of Labor (DOL) investigations and penalty taxes for which fiduciaries may be personally liable, as discussed below.  This article discusses ERISA issues of relevance to private equity and hedge funds and their benefit plan investors. The first part discusses issues and problems resulting from being an ERISA fiduciary, while the second describes ways private equity and hedge funds can escape ERISA coverage and some pitfalls to avoid when attempting to do so.

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