Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation

On June 29, 2020, the Internal Revenue Service (the “IRS”) issued Notice 2020-52 that provides temporarily relief to plan sponsors that amend their safe harbor Section 401(k) or 401(m) plans (“Safe Harbor Plans”) mid-year to reduce or suspend employer safe harbor matching or nonelective contributions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  To qualify for the relief, a Safe Harbor Plan would need to be amended between March 13, 2020 and August 31, 2020. Background Under current IRS regulations and related guidance, a Safe Harbor Plan may be amended mid-year to reduce or suspend the employer’s safe harbor matching or nonelective contributions…
On July 1, 2020, employees in DC will be able to begin taking Paid Family Leave (“PFL”) pursuant to the DC Paid Family Leave Act (the “Act”).  Here’s a quick primer on what employers need to know ahead of the program’s launch. Eligible Leave Employees who spend more than 50% of their work time in DC may take PFL for: Up to eight weeks for paid parental leave to bond with a new child (“parental leave”) which can be taken within 52 weeks of the date of birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child; Up to six weeks…
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 that are eligible for favorable tax treatment and generally may be repaid to the plan or an IRA within 3 years, (2) suspension for up to one year of loan repayments otherwise due from March 27, 2020, through December 31, 2020, and…
This afternoon, the Treasury Department issued Notice 2020-42, ending the uncertainty surrounding spousal consents to retirement plan distributions and loans in the socially distanced COVID-19 world. As plan administrators know, when spousal consent is required for a plan distribution or loan, the law requires that the consent be witnessed by a notary public or plan representative. Although the applicable Treasury Regulations allow the actual notarization or acknowledgment of the witnessing to be signed electronically consistent with ESIGN, the Regulations still require that the notary or plan representative witness the spouse’s signature in the physical presence of the signer. In light…
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 employees to make or change their elections for calendar year 2020, as well as more time for employees to spend down health and dependent care FSA balances.  These changes are optional and would require plan amendments. Read below for more details about this relief,…
We continue our blog series on COVID-19 implications on executive compensation matters with a post that addresses considerations relating to amending performance goals under equity and other incentive awards. Setting meaningful and effective performance goals often requires significant focus and analysis by compensation committees with the assistance of their advisors and management.  In light of current economic challenges, stock price volatility and business uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, performance goals and the corresponding targets governing annual and multi-year cash and equity-based incentive awards established in early 2020 or prior will likely not be achieved for many companies.  Accordingly, companies that sponsor these…
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) plans, and IRAs), as well as an opportunity to repay the CRDs.  The Act also increases the limits for plan loans and allows certain loan repayments to be deferred by up to an additional year.  These opportunities are available only to individuals who…
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 Beneficiaries (answering basic participant questions), and (iii) a press release.  At a high level, the package includes important guidance and extensions of various deadlines.  The IRS/DOL regulation is particularly noteworthy because it provides an extended period for employees to elect health coverage…
On April 10, 2020, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (the “PBGC”) announced that deadlines for upcoming premium payments and certain other required filings due from April 1, 2020 through July 14, 2020 will be extended to July 15, 2020 as further described below. The PBGC’s announcement came a day after the Internal Revenue Service (the “IRS”) issued Notice 2020-23, which extended certain deadlines, including for Form 5500 returns, to July 15, 2020 as a result of COVID-19. Under the PBGC’s disaster relief policy, when the IRS announces disaster relief that includes a filing extension for Form 5500 returns, the PBGC…
On March 27, 2020, the President signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”) (H.R. 748). In this blog post we (1) lay out an initial action plan for employers considering obtaining relief under the CARES Act, (2) summarize the compensation-related provisions of the CARES Act, and (3) identify the key questions that the CARES Act leaves unanswered. CARES Act – An Employer Action Plan to Comply with Compensation-Related Provisions Any employer considering obtaining loans, loan guarantees or payroll assistance under the CARES Act should: Review the CARES Act compensation-related provisions and workforce maintenance…
As recent history has shown, ERISA claims seeking recovery of investment losses tend to proliferate during times of market volatility.  The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic presents a unique opportunity for plaintiffs to search for and bring fiduciary-breach claims based on the underperformance of company stock funds and other available investment options in 401(k) and 403(b) plans.  The pandemic has had an extraordinarily disruptive impact on the economic markets since spreading globally and into the United States.  Recent swings have seen historic losses in market prices, and although all investments are feeling the hit and some slightly rebounded after Congress passed the…
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 the next post in a series addressing the impact that COVID-19 has had on executive compensation issues.  In their second post, our colleagues Andrea Rattner, Colleen Hart, Josh Miller, Seth Safra, Kate Napalkova and Katrine Magas discuss certain issues that employers…
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 to $100,000 (from all plans in the controlled group combined).  These distributions would be taken into income over three years (unless the participant elects otherwise) and are not subject to the 10% additional tax for withdrawal before age 59 ½.  To qualify, the distribution must…
We continue our blog series on COVID-19 implications on executive compensation matters with a post that addresses salary or wage reductions on a company-wide or targeted basis. Companies impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the concomitant widespread shelter in place orders, may be considering pay cuts for some or all of their workforce, either in addition to or instead of furloughs and layoffs.  In implementing salary or wage reductions, companies should be mindful of federal, state and local wage and hour and labor laws, consent and notice requirements under contractual agreements with individual employees or groups of employees, tax implications…
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 the first post in a series addressing the impact that COVID-19 has had on executive compensation issues.  In their first post, our colleagues Andrea Rattner, Collen Hart, Kate Napalkova and Katrine Magas discuss whether a temporary leave of absence or furlough triggers forfeiture,…
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. This blog post addresses one of those compensation issues that many companies are currently grappling with – whether a temporary leave of absence or furlough triggers forfeiture, payment, vesting, or other treatment under compensation arrangements. In following blog posts, we will address other compensation issues, including: Effect of salary…