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The US Department of Labor (DOL) issued Information Letter 06-14-2021 last month to the attorney of a plan participant who requested a copy of an audio recording and transcript of a phone conversation he or she had with the plan’s insurer. The participant was requesting this information in relation to the participant’s denied claim under the plan.

The IRS issued Notice 2021-40 (the Notice) on June 24 that provides a 12-month extension (until June 30, 2022) of the temporary relief from the requirement that certain retirement plan elections be witnessed – in person – by a plan representative or a notary public. The IRS originally issued this temporary relief in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown with such relief extending through the end of 2020. The IRS then extended the temporary relief through June 30, 2021. The Notice again extends this temporary relief through June 30, 2022.

We repeatedly warned over the past few months (here, here, and here), that officials at the highest levels of the DOL were signaling that the DOL would begin an audit initiative focusing on retirement plan cybersecurity practices. Despite plan fiduciaries having had just a handful of weeks to digest the DOL’s only actionable guidance on cybersecurity and privacy matters, the wait is over. We can confirm that the DOL has begun issuing information and document requests under this new initiative, and the requests are probing and indicate serious inquiry by the DOL.
In a somewhat expected development, the US Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) issued an enforcement statement on Wednesday announcing that it will not enforce the recently published final rules on “Financial Factors in Selecting Plan Investments”—commonly known as the ESG Rule—and “Fiduciary Duties Regarding Proxy Voting and Shareholder Rights” (Proxy Voting Rule).
The US Department of Labor (DOL) released its 2020 statistics on ERISA enforcement activities on October 27, affirming that the agency’s investigations remain robust. In sharing the statistics, the DOL not only boasted that it had restored $3.1 billion to employee benefit plans, participants, and beneficiaries, but also that this amount is the “most ever” that the agency has recovered in one year.
As we noted in a post last year at this time, pension plans that are not fully funded for PBGC purposes have two parts to their PBGC premium. One part is a flat rate premium of $83 per participant in 2020 ($86 for 2021, as just announced by the PBGC). The other is a variable rate premium that looks to the value of the plan’s “unfunded vested benefits,” which is the excess, if any, of the plan’s Premium Funding Target over the fair market value of plan assets.
Recent LawFlash publications include IRS Notice 2020-68 Provides Secure Act And Miners Act Guidance and SECURE Act: IRS Sets Amendment Deadline For IRA Providers and Addresses Other IRA Issues.
Congratulations to Elizabeth (Liz) Goldberg and Erin Randolph-Williams on their election to the Morgan Lewis partnership in our employee benefits and executive compensation practice! Effective today, Liz (resident in Pittsburgh) and Erin (resident in Philadelphia) will join 23 other newly elected partners from 10 offices and eight practices.