The US Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued DOL Advisory Opinion 2023-01A, (Advisory Opinion) addressing racial equity and supplier diversity. The Advisory Opinion answered an inquiry about the application of ERISA’s fiduciary duty requirements to an employer’s racial equity program.
EXAMINING A RANGE OF EMPLOYEE BENEFITS
AND EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION ISSUES
AND EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION ISSUES
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.
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.
As we have previously discussed, the SECURE Act 2.0 of 2022 (SECURE 2.0) changed the game for plan sponsors when considering whether and how to recover retirement plan overpayments. The new rules provide welcome relief and much-needed flexibility for many plan sponsors and fiduciaries who felt compelled to attempt to recover many types of overpayments or make the plan whole, even where such recovery or restoration did not materially impact plan funding.
As the US Department of Labor (DOL) continues its investigation of retirement plans and their fiduciaries, we outline nine issues that the DOL has focused on in those investigations as a guide for plan fiduciaries in navigating fiduciary compliance, including top-of-mind areas such as cybersecurity and data privacy and ESG investing.
Much has been written, on ML BeneBits and elsewhere, about the US Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) so-called “ESG Rule” issued 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.
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.
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.