The Second Circuit recently held that in order to state a claim for a prohibited transaction pursuant to ERISA section 406(a)(1)(C), it is not enough to allege that a fiduciary caused the plan to compensate a service provider for its services.  Instead, “the complaint must plausibly allege that the services were unnecessary or involved unreasonable compensation.”  Cunningham v. Cornell Univ., 2023 WL 7504142 (2d Cir. Nov. 14, 2023).  Separately, the Second Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants in connection with the plaintiffs’ fiduciary breach claims that were premised on allegations of excessive recordkeeping fees, underperforming investment funds, and the defendants’ failure to transition to lower-cost share classes of certain mutual funds.

Public companies nationwide have spent their summer and fall compensation seasons finalizing compensation clawback policies ahead of the December 1, 2023 deadlines set by the New York Stock Exchange (the “NYSE”) and the Nasdaq Global Market (“Nasdaq”), as applicable, as mandated by Section 954 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of

As we approach December, the impending arrival of Santa Claus is no doubt dominating discussions in many households.  However, there is another, perhaps lesser known, “clause”-related item that health plan sponsors need to keep top of mind in the coming month. 

Specifically, as discussed in our blog found here, health plan sponsors must remember

The new “retirement security rule” package, issued by the U.S. Department of Labor (the “DOL”) on October 31, 2023, is the latest chapter in an almost 15-year effort by the DOL to amend the five-part test in its 1975 regulation for determining whether a person is a “fiduciary” by reason of providing “investment advice” for a fee (the “Five-Part Test”). (For more on the history, see here, here, and here.) The package includes a proposed new fiduciary “investment advice” rule (the “Proposed Rule”) and proposed amendments to certain prohibited transaction exemptions.

Very generally speaking, the Proposed Rule would significantly expand the circumstances under which a person could be treated as providing “investment advice” that is subject to ERISA’s fiduciary standards (including the self-dealing prohibited transaction rules). In particular, the Proposed Rule would replace the Five-Part Test’s requirements that advice be provided (1) on a “regular basis” pursuant to (2) a “mutual agreement, arrangement or understanding” that (3) it would serve as “a primary basis for investment decisions” with a much broader test that is based on the retirement investor’s reasonable expectations and context. The Proposed Rule would specifically cover a recommendation to roll over an account from an employer-sponsored plan (e.g., a 401(k) plan) into an individual retirement account (an “IRA”).

On November 9th, the IRS announced additional inflation adjustments for 2024, including to the annual contribution and carryover limits for healthcare flexible spending accounts and the monthly limit for qualified transportation fringe benefits. The IRS did not increase the annual contribution limit for dependent care flexible spending accounts because that limit is not indexed to

A federal district court judge in the Eastern District of Kentucky has enforced an ESOP’s arbitration clause, sending P.L. Marketing Inc. employees’ breach of fiduciary duty claims on behalf of a putative class to individual arbitration. The case is Merrow et al. v. Horizon Bank et al., No. 2:22-cv-123, 2023 WL 7003231, at *1 (E.D. Ky. Oct. 24, 2023).

Plaintiffs, participants in P.L. Marketing, Inc.’s ESOP, sued the plan’s trustee, Horizon Bank, alleging that Horizon violated ERISA’s fiduciary duties and prohibited transaction rules by causing the ESOP to overpay for company stock. The ESOP plan document included a mandatory arbitration clause as well as a waiver of class arbitration. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing in part that the district court lacked jurisdiction to hear the claims because they fell within the scope of the ESOP’s arbitration clause.

On November 1st, the IRS released a number of inflation adjustments for 2024, including to certain limits for qualified retirement plans. As expected, this year’s adjustments are more modest than last year’s significant increases. The table below provides an overview of the key adjustments for qualified retirement plans.

Qualified Defined Benefit Plans
20232024

Responding to the “terrifying” reality that conflicted investment advice is costing retirement savers billions of dollars each year, on October 31, 2023, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued proposed rules representing its latest attempt to expand what it means to be providing “investment advice” for a fee under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of

In late 2022, the U.S. Department of Labor (the “DOL”) issued final regulations (the “Final Rules”) which address the extent to which ERISA plan fiduciaries may consider environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) factors when making investment decisions and exercising shareholder rights, such as voting proxies, on behalf of ERISA-covered plans. For a detailed discussion of the Final Rules, see here.

Although the Final Rules generally became effective on January 30, 2023, certain special proxy voting-related rules are set to first take effect on December 1, 2023, and may require action by ERISA plan fiduciaries in advance of the effective date.

In Svenhard’s Swedish Bakery v. United States Bakery, Bk. No. 19-15277, 2023 WL 5541420 (9th Cir. Aug. 29, 2023), the Ninth Circuit held that a settlement agreement that resolved an employer’s withdrawal liability to a multiemployer pension fund was not an executory contract that could be assumed and assigned to a third-party when that employer subsequently filed for bankruptcy.  The decision is instructive for multiemployer funds and employers that negotiate settlement agreements to resolve these types of liabilities.