ERISA Section 4010 requires a contributing sponsor of certain single-employer pension plans, as well as the sponsor’s controlled group members, to provide controlled group, financial, and actuarial information to the PBGC each year. The requirement generally applies when one or more plans within a controlled group has a funding target attainment percentage for 4010 purposes
On Tuesday, the Departments of Labor, Treasury, and Health and Human Services issued proposed amendments to regulations implementing the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) and new regulations implementing the non-quantitative treatment limitation (NQTL) comparative analysis requirements under MHPAEA. The proposed regulations introduce sweeping changes that would affect virtually all group health plans that cover mental health and substance use disorder benefits.
By way of background, MHPAEA requires that group health plans provide mental health and substance use disorder (MH/SUD) benefits in parity with medical and surgical benefits. Evaluation of whether benefits are in parity is performed for each classification of benefits under the plan. Although seemingly simple in concept, the nuanced nature of the parity rules has made application challenging for many plan sponsors. Below are three key areas of focus in the proposed rules that would significantly impact group health plan administration:
A potentially overlooked but important issue that public companies should have in mind when granting option or option-like awards is avoiding the unintentional appearance of “spring-loading” and “bullet-dodging,” both of which have been a recent focus of the SEC and shareholders and viewed as potentially poor corporate governance practices.
“Spring-loading” is when a public company grants option or option-like awards shortly before the release of positive material nonpublic information, which is expected to increase the company’s stock price. The grantee of a spring-loaded award immediately benefits from the increase in the stock price. For example, if stock options are granted with an exercise price of $10 per share before market trading, and a positive earnings release causes the stock price to close the same day at $15 per share, each option would already be $5 in-the-money.
The converse of spring-loading is “bullet-dodging,” which is when a public company grants option or option-like awards shortly after the release of negative material nonpublic information, which is expected to decrease the company’s stock price. Again, the grantee immediately benefits from the decrease in the stock price. For example, if stock options are scheduled to be granted before market trading with an exercise price of $15 per share, but the grant is made after a negative earnings release, or more significantly if it is delayed until after the negative earnings release, and the stock price has since closed at $10 per share, the company would have avoided granting options that would each be $5 out-of-the-money.
A recent Sixth Circuit decision emphasizes the importance of maintaining correct benefit plan delegations to avoid tussles over the correct standard of review for benefit claims. In this case, the Sixth Circuit concluded that no deference was owed to a claim decision made by a company’s benefits department because the plan document neither named the benefits department as the entity with discretionary authority to decide claims nor permitted the benefits committee to delegate its discretionary authority to the benefits department. The case is Laake v. Benefits Committee, Western & Southern Financial Group Co. Flexible Benefits Plan et al., 68 F.4th 984 (6th Cir. 2023).
In the most recent sign that special COVID-19 benefit plan rules are drawing to a close, last Friday, the IRS issued Notice 2023-37, which clarifies the scope of COVID-19 testing and treatment that can be provided on a pre-deductible basis under a high deductible health plan (HDHP) without impacting a participant’s ability to contribute to a health savings account (HSA). As a reminder, if an HDHP covers medical items and services before the participant satisfies the IRS minimum deductible (self-only or family), that coverage may disqualify the participant’s HSA contributions. Notice 2023-37 can be downloaded here.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit approved the parties’ stipulated agreement to stay enforcement of the district court decision in Braidwood Management Inc. v. Becerra until the appeal is resolved (with a limited exception for the named plaintiffs). As readers will recall from our prior blog, in Braidwood, a district court had enjoined enforcement of the preventive services mandate for “A” or “B” items and services recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (“USPSTF”) on or after March 23, 2010. If the district court decision stands, non-grandfathered health plans would not have to cover those particular preventive services without cost-sharing.
The IRS recently issued Notice 2023-43 providing new interim guidance for self-correction of plan errors. This guidance applies to corrections made prior to the anticipated issuance of revisions to the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (“EPCRS”). Under this guidance, provided certain conditions are satisfied, most Eligible Inadvertent Failures (defined below) may be self-corrected, though there are specific types of failures that may not be self-corrected at this time (discussed below).
Issuers that have been scrambling to prepare their boards and executives for accelerated implementation of compliant Dodd-Frank clawback policies will be glad to hear that the NYSE and Nasdaq have filed amendments to their proposed clawback rules to extend the effective date that would apply if the proposals are approved until October 2, 2023. If approved, the amendments would give listed companies until December 1, 2023 (60 days after the effective date of the rules) to adopt a compliant Dodd-Frank clawback policy.
In Holland v. Murray, No. 21-cv-567, 2023 WL 2645708 (D.D.C. Mar. 27, 2023), the court held that financial support provided by Congress to a multiemployer pension plan under the Bipartisan American Miners Act (“BAMA”) did not divest the plan of Article III standing to pursue the withdrawal liability it was owed.
In Central States v. Wingra, No. 21-cv-3684, 2023 WL 199360 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 17, 2023), the district court held that an employer expelled from a multiemployer pension plan may not owe withdrawal liability because the permanent cessation of the employer’s obligation to contribute was not voluntary. While the court subsequently limited the decision as being for discovery purposes only (see Central States v. Wingra, No. 21-cv-3684 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 17, 2023)), the court allowed the employer to assert its challenge in the district court, rather than in arbitration, because the employer plausibly alleged that its expulsion from the plan was in bad faith.