ML BeneBits

EXAMINING A RANGE OF EMPLOYEE BENEFITS
AND EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION ISSUES
Much has been written, on ML BeneBits and elsewhere, about the US Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) so-called “ESG Ruleissued in November 2022 (the DOL Rule). The DOL Rule, in part, addressed the appropriate factors for an ERISA fiduciary to consider when making investment decisions, including the potential use of environmental, social, and governance (hence, ESG) factors in ERISA investment decision-making. But there was more to that rule than the ESG topics that seem to dominate the spotlight.
In 2021, the US Department of Labor (DOL) issued cybersecurity guidance (the DOL Guidance) that sets out the DOL’s views on what processes fiduciaries of benefit plans regulated by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (ERISA) should follow to protect plan assets and information from cybersecurity risks. In addition, the DOL has engaged in continuing enforcement efforts on such cybersecurity risks with respect to both retirement plans and health and welfare plans.
The COVID-19 public health emergency and presidential declaration of national emergency are intended to end on May 11 and the US government recently issued guidance on unwinding these emergency declarations.
We invite ML BeneBits readers to join us for programs on employee benefits and executive compensation. Our lawyers will also be participating in the firm’s Global Public Company Academy series.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently issued proposed regulations that would require forfeitures in defined contribution plans—i.e., unvested benefits forfeited by terminating defined contribution plan participants—to be used to offset employer contributions or pay reasonable plan administrative expenses, or otherwise be allocated to participants, by the end of the year following the year of forfeiture.
The US Department of Labor (DOL) released an extensive regulatory agenda in January 2023 laying out the agency’s priorities for the year. The DOL has faced scrutiny from Congress this legislative session, demonstrated most recently by the congressional repeal of the DOL’s so-called “ESG Rule” in early March. President Joseph Biden’s veto of that repeal on March 20, 2023, rescued the ESG Rule from the congressional chopping block. Luckily for the DOL, however, many of the other 70-plus priority items for 2023 appear to be less controversial. Below we summarize a few of those items that have direct relevance to Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) regulated retirement plan sponsors.
On October 26, 2022, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced the adoption of its new rules directing national securities exchanges, including the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the Nasdaq Stock Market (Nasdaq), to establish listing standards for compensation recovery (clawback) policies. In accordance with the SEC’s clawback rule, both the NYSE and Nasdaq submitted their clawback proposals to the SEC on February 22, 2023. This blog post offers guidance on compliance and implementation deadlines pursuant to these proposals, as well as what public companies need to do in the coming months to ensure timely adoption.
As the Code Section 139 relief period is scheduled to end soon along with the end of the COVID-19 national emergency, employers that assisted employees with personal expenses attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic should consider taking certain steps before the period ends.
Both the US House of Representatives and the Senate passed a resolution to overturn the US Department of Labor’s so-called “ESG Rule” on February 28 and March 1, 2023, respectively. The ESG Rule has been a topic of debate as it sought to clarify the role that environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors can play in fiduciary decision-making on behalf of retirement plans regulated by ERISA. This resolution is part of a larger effort to limit ESG investing at both federal and state levels.
The Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) of the US Department of Labor (DOL) has continued to be active in civil and criminal enforcement investigations of ERISA’s fiduciary duties. This blog post details two recent updates concerning the DOL’s ERISA enforcement program.