Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Blog

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

Category Archives: Department of Labor

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U.S. Department of Labor Steps into the Cybersecurity Discussion

Formally wading into the cybersecurity discussion for the first time, on April 14, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) posted on its website a suite of new guidance, including Tips for Hiring a Service Provider with Strong Cybersecurity Practices, Cybersecurity Program Best Practices, and Online Security Tips for Participants and Beneficiaries. By way of … Continue Reading

What Happens Abroad, Apparently Does Not Stay Abroad – DOL Revokes Trump Administration Guidance That Provided Relief to QPAMs for Convictions Under Foreign Law

On November 3, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of the Solicitor of Labor (the “DOL”) issued an opinion letter (the “2020 Letter”) to the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (“SIFMA”) stating that it would not view a conviction under foreign law as a disqualifying event under Prohibited Transaction Class Exemption 84-14 (the … Continue Reading

DOL Will Not Enforce Trump Administration’s ERISA “ESG” Investing and Proxy Voting Rules

On March 10, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor (the “DOL”) issued a statement that it intends to revisit its final rules issued late last year on “Financial Factors in Selecting Plan Investments” (summarized here) and “Fiduciary Duties Regarding Proxy Voting and Shareholder Rights” (summarized here), which some viewed as restricting “do-good” or “ESG” investing … Continue Reading

DOL Releases Guidance on Addressing the Missing Participant Problem

The problem of “missing” participants and beneficiaries (individuals for whom the plan administrator does not have adequate contact information) is an ongoing issue for retirement plan administrators.  It is also an area to which the DOL has dedicated significant attention in recent years, particularly in its enforcement actions, which has been a challenge for administrators. … Continue Reading

Terminating a 401(k) Plan? The DOL Blesses Use of the PBGC Missing Participant Program

The DOL recently issued Field Assistance Bulletin 2021-01, blessing the PBGC’s Missing Participant Program as an additional method of addressing a perennial issue in 401(k) terminations – the problem of missing participants and beneficiaries with remaining account balances. Background. After a defined contribution plan’s termination, DOL regulations provide a safe harbor allowing the distribution of … Continue Reading

DOL Finalizes New Prohibited Transaction Exemption for “Investment Advice”, With Statement That Fiduciary Standard May Apply to IRA Rollover Guidance

****UPDATE:  The Exemption described in this notice appears to be covered by the regulatory freeze described in this Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, issued by Chief of Staff Ronald A. Klain on January 20, 2021.  Accordingly, we expect the effective date of the Exemption to be postponed for 60 days (until March 22, … Continue Reading

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

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

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

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

Fifth Circuit Vacates DOL Fiduciary Rule

In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit vacated the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule, including the expanded definition of “investment advice fiduciary” and the associated exemptions. The decision nullifies the Department’s 2016 regulation—at least in the Fifth Circuit, which includes Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and arguably nationwide—but is not … Continue Reading

Tenth Circuit Upholds DOL’s Authority to Impose New Conditions for PTEs and Leaves Door Open for Changes to Fiduciary Rule

The Tenth Circuit recently affirmed the Department of Labor’s authority to impose new conditions for exemption from prohibited transaction rules with respect to the sale of annuity contracts. The case related to the Department’s decision, as part of the 2016 “fiduciary rule,” to make sales of fixed indexed annuities ineligible for Prohibited Transaction Exemption 84-24, … Continue Reading

DOL and IRS Issue Guidance for Employee Benefit Plans Impacted by Hurricane Harvey

In the wake of massive floods caused by Hurricane Harvey, the Department of Labor (DOL), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) have issued initial employee benefit plan guidance. The temporary relief provided in the guidance relates to such things as hardship distributions, plan loans, filing deadlines, plan deposits, and notice requirements.  … Continue Reading

Department of Labor Requests Additional 18-Month Delay of Certain Fiduciary Rule Requirements

On August 9, 2017, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) stated in a court filing that the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) is reviewing a proposal to extend the applicability date for certain requirements under DOL’s fiduciary rule until July 1, 2019. As discussed here and here the fiduciary rule’s “impartial conduct standards” have been … Continue Reading

U.S. DOL Proposes Delay of Conflict of Interest Rule and Related Exemptions

On March 1, 2017, the U.S. Department of Labor proposed a 60-day delay of the conflict of interest rule and related exemptions (currently set to be applicable on April 10, 2017). The Department opened two comment periods related to the rule: A 15-day comment period (ending March 17, 2017) on whether enforcement of the rule … Continue Reading

U.S. DOL To Issue Final Rule and Exemptions on Fiduciary Standards

Today, the U.S. Department of Labor will release its highly-anticipated Final Rule and Exemptions addressing when a person providing investment advice with respect to an employee benefit plan or individual retirement account is considered to be a “fiduciary” under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 and the Internal Revenue Code.  According to a … Continue Reading

How to Settle an ERISA Breach of Fiduciary Duty Case and Sleep at Night: A Checklist for Plan Trustees to Consider

Plan trustees often look to settle ERISA fiduciary breach claims brought against them as a way to put the past behind them.  Assuming there is enough fiduciary liability insurance coverage available to pay the proposed settlement sum, the trustees may be prepared to put aside their desire to vindicate themselves for a challenged course of … Continue Reading

DOL’s New Audit Focus? Health Plan Claims and Appeals and Hard to Value Assets

In recent talks and appearances, representatives of the U.S. Department of Labor have issued a warning about new areas of focus of DOL audits and enforcement actions.  While there are a number of different enforcement priorities, we discuss two of them—health plan claims and appeals and valuation of hard to value assets— here because these … Continue Reading

DOL Proposes Change to FMLA Definition of Spouse to Accommodate Same-Sex Marriage

As was expected, the U.S. Department of Labor has issued a proposed regulation changing the definition of “spouse” for FMLA purposes in order to protect the FMLA rights of employees with same-sex spouses. The proposed regulation adopts a “place of celebration” rule, consistent with the current DOL interpretation in the context of other federal laws. … Continue Reading
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