Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Blog

The View from Proskauer on Developments in the World of Employee Benefits, Executive Compensation & ERISA Litigation

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Paul M. Hamburger

Paul Hamburger is co-chair of the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group and head of the Washington, DC office. Paul is also a leader of the Practice Center’s health and welfare subgroup and a member of Proskauer’s Health Care Reform Task Force.

Paul provides technical knowledge and advice to employers on all aspects of their employee benefit programs, and advises employee benefit plan trustees and service providers on ERISA and employee benefit plan-related matters. He has extensive experience in negotiating service provider and outsourcing agreements. Paul frequently represents clients before government regulatory agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Labor and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

Paul focuses on all matters affecting employee benefit plans, including:

  • 401(k) plans, ESOPs, and defined benefit plans, including cash balance pension plans
  • Executive compensation plans and agreements
  • Welfare benefit plans, including cafeteria plan, COBRA, and health care reform (PPACA) issues

Recognized by a number of publications for his exceptional work, Paul is described by The Legal 500 United States as "one of the best in his field; he inspires a high level of confidence and is a pleasure to work with." Chambers USA notes that Paul’s clients refer to him as "a creative, business-oriented and brilliant lawyer who educates and enlightens."

As a noted thought leader in his field, Paul frequently speaks on employee benefit matters. In addition, he served for several years as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center teaching the LL.M. tax course on ERISA Health and Welfare Benefit Plans.

An author of numerous articles on employee benefits matters, Paul has produced a number of nationally-circulated loose leaf publications, published by Thompson Information Services: Mandated Health Benefits – The COBRA Guide, The Guide to Assigning & Loaning Benefit Plan Money, and The Pension Plan Fix-It Handbook. Most recently, he was the managing author of the 6th edition of The New Health Care Reform Law – What Employers Need to Know (A Q&A Guide), published by Thompson HR.

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A Word from the IRS on Involuntary Terminations of Employment for Purposes of the ARP COBRA Premium Subsidy

One important question that arises when determining whether an individual is eligible for the COBRA premium subsidy under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“ARP”) is whether the employee has experienced an involuntary termination of employment.  (See our prior blogs on the ARP subsidy, here.) The IRS’s recent Notice 2021-31 (the “Notice”) provides helpful … Continue Reading

Guide to New IRS Guidance on COBRA Premium Subsidy

On May 18, 2021, the IRS released Notice 2021-31, which provides implementation guidance on the COBRA premium subsidy available under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP).  As discussed in our prior blog posts, ARP includes a 100% COBRA premium subsidy for qualifying individuals during periods of COBRA continuation coverage from April 1, 2021 … Continue Reading

All Good Subsidies Must Come to an End: ARP’s Expiration Notice Requirements

As mentioned in our earlier posts, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“ARP”) provides a 100% COBRA premium subsidy for continuation coverage between April 1 and September 30, 2021 for certain assistance eligible individuals (“AEIs”).  As employers and plan administrators prepare to educate AEIs about this subsidy, they cannot overlook another necessary notice:  a … Continue Reading

DOL Releases COBRA Premium Subsidy Model Notices – With a Few Surprises

Immediate Action Required As discussed in our prior posts, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“ARP”) requires that plan administrators distribute new COBRA notices advising individuals of their possible rights to a COBRA premium subsidy.  Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Labor released new COBRA premium subsidy model notices and FAQs explaining how that is … Continue Reading

Some Family Members May Not Be Eligible for the ARPA COBRA Premium Subsidy

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“ARPA”) includes a 100% COBRA premium subsidy for “assistance eligible individuals,” for periods of coverage occurring between April 1, 2021 and September 30, 2021, as described in earlier blog posts.  An “assistance eligible individual” is any COBRA “qualified beneficiary” who loses group health coverage on account of a … Continue Reading

ARPA COBRA Subsidy – When is a Termination of Employment Involuntary?

As we previously explained in our prior blogs, both here and here, on the new COBRA subsidy rules, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“ARPA”), includes a 100% COBRA premium subsidy for periods of coverage occurring between April 1 and September 30, 2021.  The subsidy is available to qualified beneficiaries who are eligible for … Continue Reading

COVID-19 Stimulus Bill Includes Six Months of Free COBRA Health Coverage

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“ARPA”), which was just passed by Congress and will be sent to President Biden for signature, includes an opportunity for free COBRA coverage for a six-month period from April through September 2021 for employees (and their family members) who experience a loss of group health coverage due to … Continue Reading

COBRA Subsidies for Involuntary Termination or Reduction in Hours – What is Old is New Again

There is an old saying – “People with weak stomachs should not watch sausage or legislation being made.”  A great application of that aphorism is seen in the current COBRA subsidy proposed legislation making its way through Congress. The idea is simple – if people need continuing health care coverage (COBRA coverage) because they are … Continue Reading

For Whom the Statute Tolls

As discussed in an earlier blog post on the DOL/Treasury relief extending benefit plan deadlines due to the pandemic, plans have to disregard an “outbreak period” when determining deadlines for COBRA elections and premiums payments, special enrollment in health plans, and the filing of claims and appeals. The DOL/Treasury guidance defined the “outbreak period” as … Continue Reading

Delegating Fiduciary Responsibilities Related to ESOP Results in Dismissal of ERISA Stock-Drop Claims

Among the many lawsuits Boeing confronted following the disclosure of problems with the 737 Max was a class action brought by participants in the Boeing Voluntary Investment Plan who invested in the Boeing ESOP.  The plaintiffs alleged that the Boeing defendants breached their ERISA fiduciary duties by concealing problems with the 737 Max, which allegedly … Continue Reading

Coronavirus Stimulus Deal’s Impact on Employee Benefit Plans

On March 27th, Congress passed a stimulus package in response to the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.  The package, which is entitled the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act” or the “Act”), contains several provisions that affect employee benefits. Retirement Plans Early “Coronavirus-Related Distributions”: The CARES Act allows plans to offer “coronavirus-related distributions” up … Continue Reading

SECURE Act: Considering Implications of Changes to Required Minimum Distribution Rules

As previewed in our prior blog post, the recently enacted SECURE Act includes many changes that affect employer-sponsored benefit plans and require the attention of plan administrators.  Among these changes, effective for distributions made after December 31, 2019 (for individuals who reach age 70½ after that date), is the delay of the “required beginning date” … Continue Reading

Best Practices in Administering Benefit Claims #10 – The Three C’s

We conclude our blog series on best practices in administering benefit claims with the three C’s:  be clear, be consistent, and communicate.  The key to effective benefit claim administration ultimately boils down to drafting and maintaining clear plan documents, implementing and enforcing plan terms consistently, and communicating clearly with plan participants and beneficiaries. First, all … Continue Reading

New Year, New World: A Short Guide to the SECURE Act for Retirement Plan Sponsors and Administrators

The SECURE Act, included as part of the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020, was signed into law on December 20, 2019.  This new law contains many significant changes that may impact employer-sponsored benefit plans. Given the scope of the law and the number of changes, we will release a series of blog posts exploring the … Continue Reading

New IRS Guidance for Tax-Exempt Entities Funding Employee Benefits

The IRS recently released a final regulation clarifying how voluntary employees’ beneficiary associations (VEBAs) and supplemental unemployment benefit trusts (SUBs) should calculate unrelated business taxable income. VEBAs and SUBs are tax-exempt entities that are used to fund employee benefit programs. Read below for background, details of the final regulation, and the applicability date. Background Although … Continue Reading

Best Practices in Administering Benefit Claims #9 – Managing Litigation

As we shifted focus last week from a plan’s administrative claims procedures to defending against a claim for benefits in court, we explained how a well-documented administrative record can enhance the chances of getting a case dismissed at the outset without the need for protracted litigation.  This week, we offer three opportunities to further manage … Continue Reading

IRS Reiterates Requirement to Sign Plan Documents and Amendments

At the heart of tax qualified retirement plan compliance is a requirement to timely adopt plans and plan amendments. Failure to adopt plan amendments when required can result in plan disqualification. Accordingly, it is very important for plan sponsors to prove that amendments were properly executed in a timely manner.  In a General Legal Advice … Continue Reading

Best Practices in Administering Benefit Claims #8 – Facing Litigation of Benefit Claims

Up to now, our blog series has focused on best practices for implementing a plan’s claims and appeals procedure.  We shift gears this week to see how following these best practices pays dividends if a participant’s (or beneficiary’s) claim is denied and the participant decides to pursue the claim for benefits in court (or, if … Continue Reading

Best Practices in Administering Benefit Claims #7 – Understanding Attorney-Client Privilege in the Benefits Claims Process

When a plan administrator is attending to a benefit claim and thinks it is time to call in an attorney, are those discussions privileged and protected from disclosure to claimants?  In this week’s blog, we take a look at some of those communications between attorneys and plan administrators and examine whether or not they are … Continue Reading

Best Practices in Administering Benefit Claims #6 – Distinguishing an Inquiry from a Claim

It’s Week #6, and we have turned the corner in our Top 10 Best Practices in Administering Benefit Claims.  In case you missed any (or all) of the first five best practices, links to each of them appear below.  This week we discuss how to distinguish an inquiry from a claim for benefits. The claims … Continue Reading
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