After a delay in implementation gave employers an additional three months to prepare for compliance with the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave law, employer deductions will begin October 1, 2019. The Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave published its final regulations on June 18, and though the framework of the draft regulations remains intact, there are several key changes employers and employees alike should be made aware of.

Our recent LawFlash summarizes the material changes in the final regulations, and includes a discussion of certain tax considerations.

Read the full LawFlash.

The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act of 2019 was passed in the US House of Representatives on May 23. While the act is still pending in the Senate, it contains many provisions that would affect sponsors of large defined contribution and 401(k) plans, as well as sponsors of traditional pension plans and retirement plan service providers. Please see our LawFlash summarizing the act’s key provisions and noting the legislative hurdles that it faces.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has primary jurisdiction over the qualified status of retirement plans, and this jurisdiction includes examining plans. An IRS agent can notify a plan sponsor at any time that its plan has been selected for audit. A plan sponsor should thus consider a compliance self-review to minimize the pain of audit and ensure that the plan is operating correctly, that its plan documents comport with plan operation, and that plan records are complete and organized before the IRS comes knocking. Please see our recent LawFlash detailing the top 10 issues of IRS focus in its audit of qualified plans. Also, please see our prior LawFlash addressing the top 10 areas of focus in US Department of Labor (DOL) investigations of retirement plans.

If you have questions about IRS or DOL investigations of retirement plans, please reach out to the LawFlash authors or your Morgan Lewis contacts.

Texas has passed one of the strongest new laws on drug transparency—HB 2536. To learn how this law may apply to drug manufacturers, pharmacy benefit managers, and health plans, please see our recent Health Law Scan blog post: New Texas Law Mandating Drug Price Transparency Considered Among Strongest in Nation.

Congratulations to our employee benefits and executive compensation practice for being awarded Law Firm of the Year by Chambers & Partners’ Chambers USA Awards 2019. This award recognizes our preeminence in the benefits practice area, including our outstanding work and excellence in client service. For more information, please see Morgan Lewis Wins Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Law Firm of the Year Award from Chambers USA.

Congratulations to Steven P. Johnson on his election to the Morgan Lewis partnership in our employee benefits and executive compensation practice! Effective October 1, 2019, Steve, who is resident in Washington, DC, will join 29 other newly elected partners from 12 offices and nine practices. For information about all of the firm’s newly elected partners, please see Morgan Lewis Elects 30 New Partners.

Partner Matthew Hawes was quoted in a recent Law360 article about strategies employers can use to safeguard their retirement plans against cybersecurity risks. Matt discusses how the lack of sufficient protections against cybersecurity breaches can been seen as a violation of fiduciary duty. Read the full article, 4 Tips For Handling Retirement Plans’ Cybersecurity Risks.

Taking cues from Colorado, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Iowa, New Jersey, and Virginia, all of which have recently enacted legislation supporting and encouraging the establishment of ESOPs, the states of Texas, Indiana, and Nebraska are now moving forward with their own pro-ESOP initiatives.

Nebraska Law Allows ESOPs to Own CPA Firms

Nebraska Legislative Bill 49 authorizes the ownership of CPA firms by ESOPs, with an ESOP allowed to own up to 49% of a firm. The bill unanimously passed final reading on February 28, and was signed into law on March 6. Most states already allow minority ESOP ownership of CPA firms. Creating more ESOPs in accounting firms is an important step toward making these critical financial advisors of business owners more aware of the important tax advantages and other byproducts (such as increased employee morale and increased employee productivity) that ESOPs create.

The US Department of Labor has been extremely active in recent years as the federal agency investigating compliance with and enforcing the fiduciary responsibility provisions of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (ERISA). These investigations have frequently resulted in findings of fiduciary breach and monetary recoveries for ERISA retirement plans. Please see our recent LawFlash on this topic, and reach out to the LawFlash authors or your Morgan Lewis contacts if you have additional questions.

The Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) at the US Department of Labor (DOL) compiles statistics every year to measure its activities as the agency responsible for investigating and enforcing the fiduciary duties under ERISA. Statistics for the agency’s 2018 fiscal year enforcement activities affirm that EBSA’s enforcement program remains extremely active, with a particular focus on terminated vested participant investigations.