Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Blog

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

Seth Safra

Seth Safra

Partner

Seth J. Safra is a partner in Proskauer’s Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group. Described by clients as “extremely knowledgeable, practical, and strategic,” Seth advises clients on compensation and benefit programs.

Seth’s experience covers a broad range of retirement plan designs, from traditional defined benefit to cash balance and floor-offset arrangements, ESOPs and 401(k) plans—often coordinating qualified and non-qualified arrangements. Seth also advises on ERISA compliance for investments, including the U.S. Department of Labor’s new conflict of interest (fiduciary) rules.

On the health and welfare side, Seth helps employers provide benefits that are cost-effective and competitive. He advises on health plans with HSAs and HRAs and also on severance and fringe benefit arrangements.

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DOL Issues Final “ESG” Rule Restricting ERISA Fiduciary Consideration of Non-Pecuniary Investment Factors

On October 30, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (the “DOL”) issued a final rule on factors for selecting plan investments, which restricts “do-good” or “ESG” investing.  In response to public comments, the final rule rolls back some of the restrictions and burdens from its proposed rule issued in June (summarized here), but it reaffirms … Continue Reading

To Vote, or Not to Vote, That is the DOL’s Proxy Voting Question for ERISA Fiduciaries

On September 4, 2020, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) published a proposed rule (the “Proposed Rule”) that would confirm its position that ERISA’s fiduciary duties of prudence and loyalty apply to an ERISA plan fiduciary’s exercise of shareholder rights, including proxy voting, proxy voting policies and guidelines, and the selection and monitoring of proxy advisory … Continue Reading

American Airlines 401(k) Plan Not Required To Offer Stable Value Fund

Among the many claims brought by plaintiffs challenging investment offerings in defined contribution plans is the claim that plans should offer stable value funds in lieu of more conservative capital preservation funds, such as money market funds and deposit accounts that are insured by the U.S. government.  Plaintiffs have argued that stable value funds are … Continue Reading

10 Keys to Executive Compensation Excise Tax for Tax-Exempt Employers and Their Affiliates

Employers that are tax-exempt or have tax-exempt affiliates (for example, a foundation) should pay close attention to a 21% excise tax under Section 4960 of the Internal Revenue Code on certain executive compensation.  Proposed Regulations under Section 4960 are described here.  The discussion includes traps for the unwary.  Please reach out to your Proskauer contact … Continue Reading

New DOL Fiduciary Rule Package: What You Really Need to Know

The U.S. Department of Labor’s (the “DOL”) new “fiduciary rule” package, issued on June 29, 2020, and published in the Federal Register on July 7, 2020, has three important components: The DOL has formally reinstated its “five-part test” initially set forth in its 1975 regulation for determining whether a person is a “fiduciary” by reason … Continue Reading

IRS Extends Participant Eligibility for Distributions and Loans Under the CARES Act

In Notice 2020-50, the IRS expanded eligibility for CARES Act distributions and loans, and provided additional guidance.  To recap (as described here), the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”) added three types of distribution and loan flexibility under eligible retirement plans for certain “qualified individuals”: (1) “coronavirus-related distributions” (“CRDs”) up to $100,000 … Continue Reading

DOL Information Letter Outlines Fiduciary Considerations for Including Private Equity Allocations in Defined Contribution Plan Investments

On June 3, 2020, the Department of Labor (the “DOL”) published an Information Letter confirming that investment options under a defined contribution plan (e.g., a 401(k) or 403(b) plan) may include a limited allocation to private equity.  Notably, the Letter does not discuss direct investment in private equity funds (for example, by adding a PE … Continue Reading

IRS Expands Mid-Year Change Opportunities for Health and FSA Benefits and Increases Carryover Limit

On May 12, 2020, the IRS released Notice 2020-29, which provides significant flexibility for health insurance and flexible spending account election changes during 2020, and Notice 2020-33, which increases the amount that may be carried over from one year to the next under a health flexible spending account (FSA).  The guidance allows increased flexibility for … Continue Reading

New IRS Guidance Answers Pressing CARES Act Questions for Retirement Plans

On May 4th, the IRS released a set of FAQs focused on the special coronavirus-related distribution (“CRD”) and plan loan options under the CARES Act (described here). To recap, the CARES Act allows expanded distribution options and favorable tax treatment for up to $100,000 of CRDs from eligible retirement plans (including section 401(k) and 403(b) … Continue Reading

DOL/Treasury COVID-19 Relief Includes Long Extension of Participant Deadlines and Rule of Reasonableness for Plan Administration

On April 29, 2020, the U.S. Departments of Labor (Employee Benefits Security Administration, “EBSA”) and Treasury (IRS) published a final regulation, and EBSA issued a package of guidance and relief, for employee benefit plans affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.  EBSA’s package includes (i) EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2020-1, (ii) DOL COVID-19 FAQs for Participants and … Continue Reading

Executive Compensation Considerations for COVID-19 (Salary/Wage Reductions)

COVID-19 has had significant impacts on all aspects of business.  While employers are assessing how to handle immediate employee needs related to sick leave, family leave and benefits claims, employers should also consider the impact that changes in their workforce or economic conditions will have on their compensation plans and programs. Click here to read … 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

IRS Loosens HSA Rules for Coronavirus

On March 11, 2020, the IRS issued Notice 2020-15, to address an important coronavirus issue for high-deductible health plans that are coordinated with health savings accounts (“HSAs”).  The guidance paves the way for health plans to waive or reduce deductibles for any “medical care services and items purchased relating to testing for and treatment of … Continue Reading

SECURE Act: Two Key Changes for Defined Benefit Plans

As part of our ongoing series on the SECURE Act, this post discusses two key changes affecting defined benefit plans: (1) the ability to start in-service distributions at age 59½ (reduced from 62), and (2) new tools for closed defined benefit plans to pass nondiscrimination tests.  Below we discuss each change and its potential impact … Continue Reading

Guide to DOL’s New “Notice and Access” Proposal for Electronic Delivery

On October 23, 2019, the Department of Labor published a new proposed regulation that paves the way for “notice and access” electronic delivery of certain disclosures for retirement plans.  The proposal is welcome news for plan sponsors and administrators who have been frustrated by the existing “opt-in” regime for electronic disclosure.  But the proposal is … Continue Reading

New Excise Tax For Tax-Exempts Can Ensnare For-Profit Employers: Comment Deadline Fast Approaching

As discussed here, the IRS’s initial interpretation of a new excise tax under Section 4960 of the Internal Revenue Code could catch for-profit employers who set up foundations, trusts, PACs, and other tax-exempt entities off guard.  The tax is 21% of certain compensation paid to the top five highest paid employees of the tax-exempt entity.  … Continue Reading

IRS Reopens Opportunity to Cash Out Retirees in Pay Status—At Least For Now

One de-risking tool for employers with defined benefit pension liabilities is to allow participants to receive lump-sum distributions. Although lump sums result in a short-term cash drain, they reduce the plan’s long-term liability—reducing the sponsor’s exposure to contribution volatility. Over the last several years, there has been a question whether lump-sum cashouts may be offered … Continue Reading

Eighth Circuit Decision On“Cross-Plan Offsetting” Illustrates Importance Of Careful Plan Drafting

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit recently weighed in on a practice for recovering health plan overpayments known as “cross-plan offsetting.” In addition to shining a light on the controversial (but potentially useful) practice, the decision offers an important lesson in plan drafting that extends beyond the particular case. The case is … Continue Reading

As DOL Fiduciary Rule is Officially Vacated, Focus Shifts to SEC

After nearly a decade in the making, the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule appears to be officially dead.  On June 21st, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued its mandate that finalized its earlier decision vacating the rule—discussed here.  Along with the regulation that expanded the definition of investment fiduciary, the mandate … Continue Reading

New DOL FAB Further Delays Enforcement of Fiduciary Rule, But Does Not Undo The Rule In Its Entirety

On May 7, 2018, the DOL issued a Field Assistance Bulletin (“FAB”) addressing the Department’s enforcement policy on the fiduciary rule that was recently vacated by the Fifth Circuit.  Although the DOL has elected not to continue defending the rule before the Fifth Circuit, the FAB leaves the rule’s status in a holding pattern. Rather … Continue Reading

Confusion Ensues After Appeal Over Fiduciary Rule in D.C. Circuit Dropped

On March 23, 2018, the National Association for Fixed Annuities (“NAFA”) and the Department of Labor filed a Joint Stipulation of Dismissal of litigation involving the Department’s fiduciary rule in the District of Columbia Circuit.  NAFA had appealed a district court decision that dismissed NAFA’s challenge to the fiduciary rule.  The decision to drop that … Continue Reading
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