ML BeneBits

As discussed in a previous LawFlash, the US Department of Labor’s Final Rule on Prudence and Loyalty in Selecting Plan Investment Options, also known as the ESG Rule, contains provisions on proxy voting, which are not limited to environmental, social and governance issues. As a reminder, the ESG Rule, including the changes regarding proxy voting, will go into effect on December 1, 2023.
Since its effective date in February 2023, the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) rule officially titled Prudence and Loyalty in Selecting Plan Investments and Exercising Shareholder Rights, and colloquially called the “ESG rule,” has been challenged in both the courts and US Congress. In September 2023, a federal district court in one of the two court challenges ruled in favor of the DOL and its authority to adopt the ESG rule.
With the expiration of COVID-19 pandemic relief suspending loan payments and interest accruals on federal student loans (interest accruals resumed September 1 and loan payments are set to resume in October), now is a good time for employers to take a closer look at the student loan matching contribution feature of the SECURE 2.0 Act of 2022 (SECURE 2.0).
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (CAA), requires group health plans and insurers to annually attest that they are in compliance with the gag clause prohibition under the CAA. The first attestation is due no later than December 31, 2023 and covers the period from the date of the enactment of the CAA on December 27, 2020 through the date of the attestation. Future attestations will be due each subsequent December 31 and will cover the period since the last attestation was completed.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently issued IR-2023-144 (the Notice), warning stakeholders of compliance issues associated with employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) related to the tax liability of high-income taxpayers. Although it is unclear what prompted the Notice, the IRS’s intent is clear—it has a new enforcement focus on ESOP-related tax avoidance, particularly with respect to S corporation ESOPs.
To the great relief of many plan sponsors, administrators, recordkeepers, and payroll vendors, the IRS issued highly anticipated relief regarding the mandatory "Rothification" of catch-up contributions.
Recent action taken by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) and the US Department of Labor (DOL) will affect plans that are eligible for, or have received, special financial assistance (SFA). SFA-eligible plans should note the new guidance when applying for SFA.
A recent news release indicates that the US Department of Labor (DOL) has an investigatory initiative focused on the issue of “insurability” under life insurance benefits. This issue arises when insurance premiums are collected for ERISA insurance benefits but there is a failure to complete the necessary process of confirming evidence of insurability. The result is that the employee believes they have insurance coverage, but coverage is not available when sought because the evidence of insurability was never completed. The DOL views such failures as a potential breach of ERISA’s fiduciary duties by either the insurer, the employer, or both.
Single-employer defined benefit pension plans that have elected to use the “alternative method” for determining Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) premiums have a window to take action that may significantly reduce their PBGC premiums for 2023. Action must be taken prior to the due date for PBGC premiums for the year, which for calendar year plans is October 16, 2023.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) expanded its individually designed determination letter program to include 403(b) retirement plans in November 2022, before which time 403(b) plan sponsors did not have the ability to file for a determination letter, and thus could not receive assurance from the IRS that the plan’s written terms complied with Internal Revenue Code (Code) Section 403(b).