Employee Benefits Law Report

Archives: ERISA Fiduciary Compliance

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Fiduciary Litigation Update — Tussey v. ABB, Inc.

A recent case, Tussey v. ABB, Inc., has received much warranted and unwarranted attention in the Section 401(k) plan arena. In Part 1 of this legal update, we will explain the basics of what happened in this case. In Part 2, we will provide practical aspects of Tussey and deliver specific recommendations on how plan sponsors and fiduciaries can help minimize their potential fiduciary liability.

Part 1: Case Summary

By way of background, this case was one of 15 different cases filed in 2006 by a single law firm. These lawsuits were aimed at large employers alleging …

ERISA Multi-employer Plan Contingent Liability Indemnification Provision is Not Prohibited by Public Policy

Multi-employer plans have been catching my eye lately. These plans, sometimes called “Taft-Hartley plans,” are maintained pursuant to collective bargaining agreements between unions and various employers. In Shelter Distribution, Inc. v. General Drivers, Warehousemen & Helpers Local Union No. 89, the collective bargaining agreement provided that the union would indemnify the company for any contingent liability under the Multi-employer Pension Plan Amendments Act of 1980. The Sixth Circuit rejected the union’s argument that it is a violation of public policy for a union to indemnify an employer for contingent liability in an ERISA plan. In arriving at its decision, …

Allowing Employee Investment in an ESOP or 401(k) Employer Stock Fund Becomes a Bigger Gamble – Sixth Circuit Decision in Pfeil v. State Street Bank & Trust Co.

The Sixth Circuit has reversed the district court’s dismissal of the GM ERISA stock-drop suit, Pfeil v. State Street Bank & Trust Co., and is allowing the case to proceed.  You may recall that we cautioned fiduciaries of ESOPs and 401(k) plans allowing investment in employer stock to keep an eye on this case because it could be a game-changer. And now it is.

The GM plan offered a number of investment options, one of which was the GM stock fund. The GM stock fund was not a default fund, and participants could change investments on any business day. …

The Top-Hat Plan Test for Your ERISA Executive Deferred Compensation Plan – Daft v. Advest, Inc.

A recent Sixth Circuit decision provides a tutorial on designing and administering an ERISA executive compensation top-hat plan. In Daft v. Advest, Inc., a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the District Court’s decision that the executive compensation plan was an ERISA plan but was not a top-hat plan, on the grounds that the District Court should have remanded the matter to the plan administrator for expansion of the administrative record and its own determination on this issue. This is good news for the employer, and presumably good news for the other plan participants, because an …

Requests for Proposal for 401(k) Plans

It was great to see everyone who was able to attend our Employment Relations seminar in Columbus yesterday—”Strategies to Help You Build a Winning Team.” We thought we would share one of the questions that was asked: is it necessary to seek requests for proposal (“RFPs”) for a 401(k) plan on a certain schedule?

This question goes to the issue of fiduciary responsibility to be prudent in its selection and monitoring of investments, and to pay only reasonable expenses out of plan assets. ERISA Section 404(a)(1)(B) requires that a fiduciary must act “with the care, skill, prudence and diligence under …

Ohio Federal Judge Allows Say-on-Pay Lawsuit to Proceed

I would like to direct our readers to a recent post by my partner – Bill McGrath on our sister blog – Federal Securities Law Blog titled “Ohio Federal Judge Allows Say-on-Pay Lawsuit to Proceed.”  In his post, Bill discusses a “September 20, 2011 Opinion, where Judge Timothy Black of the Southern District of Ohio ruled that a lawsuit brought against senior executives and directors of Cincinnati Bell, Inc. alleging a breach of fiduciary duty regarding compensation would be allowed to proceed. The lawsuit focuses on the “say-on-pay” provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act: specifically, attacking the …

Definition of Fiduciary—Relief Or More of the Same?

The United States Department of Labor (the “DOL”) last week withdrew a proposed regulation that would have expanded the definition of “fiduciary” under ERISA in the context of retirement plans. (See our recent post that announced that withdrawal.) The regulation project was based on a belief that the old regulations defining the term, which originally were issued in 1975, were inadequate in today’s marketplace (a contention that seemingly drew little opposition in the abstract). The proposed regulations would have expanded greatly the types of services and the circumstances under which an entity would be deemed an ERISA fiduciary. However, proving …

“Fiduciary” Regulation Change Put On Hold, Pending Revision and Economic Analysis

The Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration(EBSA) has put the brakes on its proposed rule on the definition of a fiduciary, which was slated to become final in the near future. EBSA’s goal for the regulatory change was to ensure that potential conflicts of interest among financial advisors would not compromise the quality of investment advice to individuals. Many employers were concerned that the regulation could increase the costs of investments in their 401(k) plans, and undermine efforts to educate employees about investments and retirement planning. The proposed regulation would also have turned employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) …

Resolving Employee Benefit Plan Audit Problems and Late or Amended Forms 5500

This time of year, many employers are struggling to satisfy the independent auditors of their employee benefit plans so that they can obtain opinions and file their Forms 5500 on time. For a calendar year plan that filed a Form 5558 extension, the deadline is generally October 15 (but is October 17 this year, given that the 15th is a Saturday). As the deadline nears, employers may also encounter problems with electronic filing (now in its second year) and with getting answers to their questions regarding the filing. The potential penalties for failure to timely file a Form 5500 are …

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