On July 24, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled in Sun Capital Partners III, LP v. New England Teamsters and Trucking Industry Pension Fund (No. 12-2312, 2013 WL 3814984) that a private equity investment fund was engaged in a “trade or business” under ERISA, and, therefore, could be part of a “controlled group” with one of its portfolio companies and potentially liable for its underfunded pension liabilities.  This is the first appellate decision to address this question.  If an entity (such as a private equity investment fund) is determined to be engaged in a trade or business and meets certain ownership thresholds, it could be a member of another entity’s (such as a portfolio company’s) “controlled group.”  Members of “controlled groups” are jointly and severally liable for certain liabilities of defined benefit pension plans maintained or contributed to by their members, including single employer plan termination liability and multiemployer plan withdrawal liability.  In addition, being a member of a “controlled group” may create other administrative issues, such as nondiscrimination testing on a controlled group basis for tax-qualified retirement plans and certain welfare plans.  Controlled group members also have to consider the implications of being in a controlled group for purposes of COBRA, health care reform, and Section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code, among other legal requirements.  Pending future guidance from the government agencies (in particular, the IRS), the broader implications of this decision for employers and their employee benefit plans remains uncertain.  For additional information about this case and its impact, please see our client alert at http://www.proskauer.com/publications/client-alert/investment-funds-potentially-liable-for-portfolio-companys-underfunded-pension-liabilities-under-first-circuit-ruling/.

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Photo of Adam Scoll Adam Scoll

Adam Scoll is a partner in the Firm’s Tax Department and Private Funds Group.

He specializes in the area of Title I of ERISA and the investment of ERISA “plan assets,” advising both pension trusts and their investment managers and advisers with regard…

Adam Scoll is a partner in the Firm’s Tax Department and Private Funds Group.

He specializes in the area of Title I of ERISA and the investment of ERISA “plan assets,” advising both pension trusts and their investment managers and advisers with regard to compliance with ERISA’s complex fiduciary duty and prohibited transaction rules.

Adam regularly advises private investment fund sponsors regarding the structuring of their funds in order to accept investments from ERISA-covered pension trusts, including compliance with the ERISA “plan asset” regulations and the operation of venture capital operating companies (VCOCs) and real estate operating companies (REOCs).

Adam also represents both employers and senior executives in the negotiation and drafting of employment and separation agreements, deferred compensation plans, and equity and “phantom equity” arrangements, including compliance with the nonqualified deferred compensation rules under Sections 409A and 457A of the Internal Revenue Code.

Photo of Ira G. Bogner Ira G. Bogner

Ira G. Bogner is Managing Partner of the Firm. He is the immediate former chair of the Firm’s Tax Department. He is a member of the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group and the Firm’s Executive Committee. Ira represents a varied list of…

Ira G. Bogner is Managing Partner of the Firm. He is the immediate former chair of the Firm’s Tax Department. He is a member of the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group and the Firm’s Executive Committee. Ira represents a varied list of clients, including financial service companies, entertainment industry clients, and tax-exempt organizations, and also actively represents individual executives in executive compensation matters.

Ira counsels clients with respect to the tax, securities law disclosure, corporate governance, stock exchange and other requirements relevant to executive compensation arrangements. Ira also provides advice regarding equity arrangements, employment agreements, change in control agreements and all other types of executive compensation arrangements, including guidance regarding “409A,” “162m,” “457A,” and “280G.”

Ira frequently is called on to structure and analyze alternative investments for pension trusts and other exempt organizations. He also works with the Firm’s corporate and real estate lawyers in structuring and maintaining investment funds that include participation by pension plans. Through his work in the investment fund area Ira has obtained substantial experience in applying the rules provided under the “plan asset” regulations, including the operation of venture capital operating companies and real estate operating companies. He has assisted in the formation of private equity, real estate, infrastructure and hedge funds, including “fund of funds.” Ira also has advised clients on both avoiding ERISA “plan asset” status and operating an investment fund in accordance with ERISA.

Areas of Concentration

Ira has provided guidance to clients on a wide variety of matters in the areas of employee benefits and executive compensation, including:

  • investment of plan assets
  • implementation of employee benefit plans

  • employee benefit issues in mergers and acquisitions

  • awarding of equity-based compensation

  • negotiation and drafting of employment agreements and severance arrangements

  • structuring, analyzing and maintaining investment funds that are suitable for plan investors

Thought Leadership

Ira has published a number of articles in publications such as The New York Law Journal, The New Jersey Law Journal, The Daily Deal, The Journal of Pension Planning and Compliance, Mergers and Acquisitions (The Monthly Tax Journal), The Journal of Taxation and Regulation of Financial Institutions, The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, European Private Equity & Venture Capital Associations, The LPA Anatomised and Private Equity International and has been named to the Board of Advisors of the Journal of Taxation and Regulation of Financial Institutions. He also has lectured on topics such as the classification of workers, drafting employment agreements, equity alternatives for senior executives, investing IRA assets, the plan asset regulations, shareholder approval of equity plans, Code Section 409A, and key provisions for ERISA investors investing in a private equity fund.

Recognition

Ira has been recognized and ranked by various directories. US Legal 500 has carried the following comments: “Ira Bogner is ‘available, responsive and knowledgeable;” “Ira Bogner ‘provides a level of comfort with respect to business issues that is rare in the world of ERISA;” “Ira Bogner is the ‘go-to guy for fund sponsors needing help with ERISA.’”

Photo of Ira Golub Ira Golub

Ira M. Golub is a partner in the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group. He practices exclusively in the employee benefits area. The nature of Ira’s practice embraces virtually all aspects of employee benefits law, ranging from the establishment and design of pension…

Ira M. Golub is a partner in the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group. He practices exclusively in the employee benefits area. The nature of Ira’s practice embraces virtually all aspects of employee benefits law, ranging from the establishment and design of pension, profit-sharing, welfare and executive compensation plans to the administration and termination of such programs.

Ira works regularly with both single employer and multiemployer pension, welfare, annuity, vacation and apprenticeship funds. He serves as fund counsel to numerous multiemployer funds in a variety of industries, providing advice to trustees and administrators in connection with the operation and maintenance of the funds. His understanding of the issues emanating from the operation of multiemployer funds is enhanced by his experience in effecting the termination and mergers of funds and representing contributing employers in disputes with employee benefit plans.

Ira has extensive experience representing employers in their efforts to manage withdrawal liability exposure. He has assisted numerous employers that have been assessed withdrawal liability in challenging, arbitrating and negotiating the settlement of such assessments. The fact that Ira formerly worked for an actuarial consulting firm and serves regularly as counsel to multiemployer funds that assess withdrawal liability enables him to bring a spectrum of analytical skills and a depth of experience when addressing withdrawal liability matters. He has provided advice to employers in connection with highly complex and multi-faceted withdrawal liability problems, worked intensively with all withdrawal liability methods (including the hybrid withdrawal liability allocation method recently adopted by some large multiemployer funds) and given advice in connection with multiple withdrawal liability transactions involving liabilities in excess of a billion dollars. He has represented clients before the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) and has negotiated a number of agreements with the PBGC in transactional and other contexts (such as, for example, Section 4062(e) of ERISA). He has been a legal advisor in many situations involving bankruptcy and restructuring as it relates to withdrawal liability and pension underfunding.

Over the years, Ira has developed a particular capability representing plan sponsors and trustees in connection with the full range of fiduciary and other plan asset and investment issues. He also has a breadth of knowledge with respect to issues relating to welfare programs, and is considered a leading authority with respect to the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985, as amended (COBRA) and Health Savings Account. Ira is often called upon to provide advice relating to managing and modifying significant employer retiree medical liabilities and obligations. He frequently has been involved in providing advice to large corporations in connection with reductions-in-force, and with respect to the full range of employee benefit aspects arising in corporate mergers and acquisitions. Ira also works with government sponsored employee benefit plans that are not subject to ERISA.

Ira has published the COBRA Handbook, a comprehensive text on COBRA that is updated annually. He is a member of the Board of Editors of HR Advisor. In addition to having worked at a national actuarial consulting firm, Ira previously was a trial attorney for the National Labor Relations Board.

Photo of Justin Alex Justin Alex

Justin S. Alex is a partner and a member of the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group.

Justin advises private and public companies on all aspects of their employee benefits and executive compensation arrangements and plans.

He has particular experience in the sports…

Justin S. Alex is a partner and a member of the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group.

Justin advises private and public companies on all aspects of their employee benefits and executive compensation arrangements and plans.

He has particular experience in the sports industry, including employment agreements for executives at the highest levels in professional sports and the benefits and compensation aspects of numerous transactions, such as the purchase or sale of the Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Miami Marlins, Real Salt Lake, OL Reign, Professional Hockey Federation, the Licensed Sports Group Unit of VF Corporation, Full Swing Golf, and ADPRO Sports and the merger of the USFL and XFL.

In addition to Justin’s general benefits and compensation practice, he spends a significant portion of his time advising employers and financial sponsors with respect to pension liabilities. He also advises the trustees of collectively bargained single-employer and multiemployer plans with respect to their administration, governance, and legal compliance.

Prior to joining Proskauer, Justin was an attorney in the Office of Chief Counsel at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), where he gained significant experience with pension termination and underfunding issues. He also represented the PBGC in corporate bankruptcies and federal court litigation.

Justin is the co-editor of Proskauer’s Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Blog and the Hiring Partner for Proskauer’s Washington office. He also serves on the Board of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.