ERISA Attorney Talk: Lots to Talk About

This month’s Qualified Plan Advisors webinar will feature QPA’s Houston Retirement Practice Leader (Rob Massa) and our team of four ERISA Attorneys. As we work closely with plan sponsors and participants in a challenging environment, we encounter common themes on the regulatory, plan administration, M&A, and data security fronts. We’ll provide fiduciary education around those items and an update on potential regulatory and legislative changes coming soon.

Part-time Employees. In December of 2019, the SECURE Act provided new rules intended to help long-time part-time employees to become eligible for employer-sponsored defined contribution plans. In overly general terms, those rules will require that part-time employees receive the option to save in their employers’ plans upon working at least 500 hours in three consecutive years. This triggers a need to count hours in 2022 and beyond. Chuck Smith, an ERISA Attorney and QPA’s Nebraska Retirement Practice Leader, will take a deeper dive into the rules applicable to part-time employees. He and I will also address the likelihood that Congress will shorten the counting period to two years.

Later Retirements: Required Distributions and Other Considerations. The job market is nuts. We’re encountering all sorts of conflicting headwinds and tailwinds that lead many employees to experience shorter employment tenures and, at the same time, many employees to work even longer than they’d hoped. Stock and bond market performance in 2022 is likely to cause many late-career employees to hang around longer. This brings about a number of issues for employers, including but not limited to retirement plan distribution questions. Scott Liggett, Director of ERISA Oversight, will provide practical information to help employers navigate these issues.

401(k) Plans in M&A. Many organizations find themselves in some sort of M&A discussions. Whether your organization may be the “acquirer” or the “acquired”, it is common for retirement plan issues to be both: (1) extremely important; and (2) addressed later in the process, subject to an increased sense of urgency. Mike Smoots, ERISA Counsel and frequent speaker at State SHRM Conferences, understands the various fiduciary and human resources issues involved in the M&A context. He’ll identify approaches for striking the right balance between protecting fiduciaries and looking out for participants’ best interests.

Cybersecurity Requirements. In April of 2021, the Department of Labor (DOL) made a strong statement with its release of multiple sets of cybersecurity tips and best practices for plan fiduciaries, service providers, and participants. Make no mistake, the DOL told us: cybersecurity is a fiduciary issue. QPA distributed a Cybersecurity Request for Information (RFI) to all of our recordkeeper partners so our clients will have the appropriate information on hand in the case of a DOL audit. We’ll provide a refresher on the DOL guidance and describe the resources available as a result of the RFI process.

Upcoming Regulatory and Statutory Developments. We are awaiting the public release of the DOL’s final regulation addressing Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investments in retirement plans. It continues to explore additional guidance relating to cryptocurrency, as well. Meanwhile, Congress is working toward a final retirement plan reform package expected to check a lot of boxes, including potential rules relating to matching student loan debt repayments, further delaying required minimum distributions (RMDs), and enhancing automatic enrollment structures. We’ll touch on the potential changes most likely to be of interest to employers that already maintain strong retirement plans and are continually looking for ways to improve.

We hope you’ll join our team for a 45-minute discussion that will get you up to speed on these issues and more. Please take one minute to register here.

– Matthew Eickman, J.D., AIF®

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