To increase protections for the estimated $9.3 trillion in American retirement assets, the Department of Labor (DOL) has begun a new cybersecurity audit initiative for retirement plans. After providing its first set of guidance on cybersecurity in April, the DOL quickly began the audit initiative by issuing information and document requests to numerous 401(k) plan fiduciaries. The DOL has stated that ERISA requires plan fiduciaries to take appropriate precautions to mitigate the risks of cybercrime and this new audit activity clearly indicates that companies must take steps to align their cybersecurity programs with the guidance provided or risk being caught flatfooted by a probing and comprehensive audit.

The DOL’s cybersecurity guidance is aimed at plan sponsors, plan fiduciaries, record-keepers, and plan participants. It provides advice on how to best protect the retirement benefits of America’s workers through cybersecurity safeguards. The DOL’s guidance is broken down into the following three documents:

  1. Tips for Hiring a Service Provider
  2. Cybersecurity Program Best Practices
  3. Online Security Tips


Continue Reading DOL Begins Audit of Retirement Plans for Cybersecurity Shortfalls

Last month, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced that it will focus on requesting information from employers where there are potential “red flags” of non-compliance with the provisions and rules of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA), as modified by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (CAA).

Section 203 of the CAA imposes a new requirement on group health plans to ensure compliance with the MHPAEA: group health plans and insurers that provide both medical/surgical benefits and mental health or substance use disorder (MH/SUD) benefits—and that impose non-quantitative treatment limitations (NQTLs) on the MH/SUD benefits—must prepare a “comparative analysis” of any NQTLs that apply. As of February 10, 2021, plans must supply this comparative analysis and other specific information upon request by an applicable state or federal agency (e.g., the DOL for ERISA plans). The DOL has been actively auditing group health plans for compliance with the MHPAEA and requesting documentation of these comparative analyses.


Continue Reading DOL to Focus on Red Flags in Mental Health Parity Requests

The annual filing (and fee payment) for applicable self-insured health plans and specified health insurance policies used to fund the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (the PCORI fee) is soon coming due—this year, by Monday, August 2, 2021.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The Form 720 on which the fee is reported typically is due on July 31; however, in 2021, July 31 falls on a Saturday, and, according to the Instructions (on page 2), if the due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, you may file on the next business day. And, so, this year’s filing is due by August 2, 2021.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 720, Quarterly Federal Excise Tax Return, is still used to report and pay (in Part II, IRS No. 133, on page 2) the annual PCORI fee. The applicable rate has increased to $2.66 per covered life (announced in late 2020 via IRS Notice 2020-84).


Continue Reading Reminder – Annual Deadline (typically, July 31) to Report and Pay PCORI Fee is Approaching

Equity compensation – which links the self-interests of a company’s service providers with the interests of the company and its investors – is a compelling incentive for start-up companies to attract and motivate employees and consultants. Many of these employees and consultants understand and expect that equity or phantom equity arrangements will make up a

Public companies maintaining deferred compensation arrangements for their executive officers should consider how recent changes to the regulations under Section 162(m) of the Internal Revenue Code (the Code) may impact the timing of payments to be made to participants and their beneficiaries under such plans – if action is required, the affected plans must be amended before December 31, 2020 to avoid complications or penalties.

Continue Reading Changes to Section 162(m) Affecting Deferred Compensation Arrangements

We recognize that many of our readers sponsor ERISA welfare benefit plans and are currently undergoing their open enrollment process and issuing related participant communications. To assist with that process, we have prepared an Automatic Participant Disclosures Checklist for use during open enrollment and throughout the plan year.

If you have questions regarding the information

Yes, that PCORI Fee—it’s back!

About this time last year, we let you know that this filing and fee was coming due, and that it was the last time it would be required for a calendar year plan. Since that time, however, the requirement was extended another ten years (by the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020, signed into law on December 20, 2019).

The annual filing (and fee payment) for applicable self-insured health plans and specified health insurance policies used to fund the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (the PCORI fee) is due again this year, by Friday, July 31, 2020.


Continue Reading Reminder – Annual Deadline (July 31) to Report and Pay PCORI Fee is Approaching [Again!]

As part of the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) have recently provided relief to benefit plan sponsors by moving back certain upcoming plan compliance deadlines. See further below for a detailed list of the specific relief. IRS Notice 2020-23 provides that if any deadline would occur between April 1 and July 14, that deadline is automatically moved back until July 15, 2020, and this extension applies to a list of 44 employee benefit plan-related deadlines. The IRS notice triggered the PBGC’s disaster relief policy, which automatically extends certain PBGC deadlines that occur in the same April 1 to July 14 time period to July 15, 2020.

Additional relief was announced on April 28, in the form of a joint notice ( Joint Notice) issued by EBSA, IRS and the Treasury Department, which extended a number of deadlines for benefit plans and participants in accordance with CARES Act changes to ERISA Section 518. The Joint Notice’s relief applies to the “Outbreak Period,” the length of time beginning on March 1, 2020, and ending 60 days after the announcement that the COVID-19 National Emergency is over. On the same day, EBSA issued Disaster Relief Notice 2020-01 (Disaster Relief Notice). The Disaster Relief Notice clarified EBSA’s enforcement stance on certain fiduciary duties that plan sponsors have by extending deadlines. The Disaster Relief Notice also stated that the Outbreak Period extension, described in the Joint Notice, also applies to the distribution timelines for notices, disclosures, and other documents that Title I of ERISA requires plans to distribute to participants and beneficiaries. EBSA also released an FAQ which explains some of the relief provided by the Joint Notice and Disaster Relief Notice.


Continue Reading IRS, EBSA and PBGC Provide Further COVID-19 Relief for Benefit Plans

Government-mandated protocols and social distancing directives as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have led to significant business interruptions and tremendous financial strain on employers. These measures may continue to disrupt businesses and the economy for the foreseeable future. As a result, employers are faced with difficult choices regarding their employees – including how to