At the end of 2019, President Donald Trump signed into law the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act, which included a number of changes to employer-sponsored retirement plans. One change involved expanding the ability of long-term, part-time employees to make 401(k) deferral contributions. While this change becomes
Articles Discussing 401(k) Plans.
Last month the US Department of Labor (Department) issued an Information Letter stating that it is possible for individual account plans subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) to offer limited private equity investments in a manner that complies with ERISA, provided certain suitability issues are considered by plan fiduciaries. The Information Letter confirms that a plan fiduciary would not violate ERISA fiduciary duties “solely because the fiduciary offers a professionally managed asset allocation fund with a private equity component.” Similarly, the Information Letter confirms that fiduciaries may offer private equity as a small component of an ERISA plan’s diversified investment option, like a target date fund, a target risk fund, or a balanced fund.
As cash flow and decreased revenue concerns rise, many employers are looking for ways to cut costs. This article generally identifies the circumstances that allow a safe harbor 401(k) plan sponsor to suspend safe harbor contributions and the related consequences of such suspensions.
Many employers facing economic challenges because of COVID-19 have considered several possibilities for reducing their contributions to their 401(k) plans. Whether freezing safe harbor matching or nonelective contributions or deciding against making discretionary matching and/or profit-sharing contributions, the goal has been the same: reduce their employee benefits costs.
Northrop Grumman has agreed to pay $12,375,000 to settle a class action brought under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”) by participants in its 401(k) plan. The parties reached the initial terms of this settlement last year minutes before the start of the trial.
The IRS has released a Private Letter Ruling (“PLR”) 201833012, in which it approved a student loan repayment program as a 401(k) benefit. Although the PLR can only be applied by the taxpayer/plan sponsor requesting it, it is a promising development for employers seeking to provide stronger incentives for a workforce increasingly saddled with student loan debt.
On February 23 and March 7, 2017, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) issued memoranda to examination agents addressing review of substantiation provided in support of safe harbor hardship distributions under 401(k) and 403(b) plans. Although the memoranda cannot be relied upon as official guidance, they are good reference points to help plan sponsors and third party administrators (“TPAs”) avoid issues on audit.
In the last six months, several clients called me regarding substantial balances in a so-called “forfeiture account” in their 401(k) plans. A few of these clients have forfeiture accounts that violate the ERISA requirements. It is imperative that forfeitures be handled properly since both the IRS and the Department of Labor (DOL) on audit generally review how forfeitures have been handled by the plan.
Preapproved (prototype or volume submitter) defined contribution plans must be restated for the Pension Protection Act by April 30, 2016.
It’s that time of year again. On November 6, 2019, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced cost-of-living adjustments affecting dollar limitations for pension plans and other retirement-related items for the 2020 tax year. These limits include both employee and employer contribution limits.
In the past two years, more than 16 prominent colleges and universities across the country have been targeted by class action lawsuits filed under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) challenging the fees and investment lineups in the schools’ retirement plans. On July 31, 2018, a New York federal court issued an opinion and order in favor of NYU in the first of those cases to proceed to trial, Sacerdote v. New York University.1 As the first case to consider the merits of the claims asserted in these ERISA class actions, Sacerdote is not only a significant victory for NYU but also for the other colleges and universities defending similar suits.2
Until recently, the Carolinas were relatively immune to litigation surrounding alleged excessiveness of 401(k) plan fees. But last month in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, employees of big-box retailer Lowe’s filed a complaint alleging that the company’s fiduciary decisions to replace certain investments funds with a “largely untested” and “underperforming” alternative caused the loss of millions of dollars in potential earnings for plan participants. While fiduciary actions are common during economic downturns, this matter – coupled with the development of relevant case law – suggests that allegations involving 401(k) plan costs and lost investment opportunities may become just as common during a boom.
The IRS recently added new questions to the 2015 Form 5500/5500-SF annual retirement plan returns. The Form 5500-Series returns are used by retirement plans to report the financial condition, investments, and operations of the plans to the DOL and IRS. When the new IRS compliance questions were originally introduced, the IRS described the questions as optional for plan year 2015. However, in its most recent instructions, the IRS has specifically advised plan sponsors not to complete these questions for the 2015 plan year. The IRS decision to delay completion is due to privacy and misreporting concerns raised by retirement plan administrators and advisors.
The IRS recently issued Notice 2016-16 (the “Notice”), which permits most mid-year amendments to safe harbor 401(k) plans. This is welcome news to sponsors of safe harbor 401(k) plans who, prior to the issuance of the Notice, faced uncertainty over whether any mid-year changes to their plan would invalidate the plan’s safe harbor status.
On November 15, 2013, the Internal Revenue Service issued final regulations on mid-year reductions or suspensions of “safe harbor” contributions made to 401(k) plans under Internal Revenue Code (“Code”) Section 401(m)(13). The final regulations revised the proposed regulations, issued May 8, 2009.