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November 24, 2008

Here are the Web's best new links about compliance and cost aspects of plan operation, design and policy.


Today's sponsor is Employee Benefits Institute of America (EBIA)

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Health and Welfare Roundup 2008

The recent onslaught of new benefits law changesómental health parity rules, required coverage for college students, final regulations on coverage for newborns and mothers, and moreómeans that 2008 is packing a bigger-than-expected compliance bang. Let EBIA help you sort out what the developments really mean for health and welfare plans. For more information and to register, please visit EBIA's Web Seminars.

[Guidance Overview] The Automation of DC Plans (Auto Enrollment, Contributions, and Qualified Default Options)
Excerpt: "The PPA included three autos for ERISA plans: automatic enrollment, automatic escalation and automatic default investment alternatives. These three features may give public sector plan sponsors some additional thoughts when considering the overall retirement picture of their employees. It is important to note that none of the provisions of the PPA apply to non ERISA plans." (National Association of Governmental Defined Contribution Administrators)


Little Time Remains for Congress to Consider Pension Relief Package
Excerpt: "[D]espite the best efforts of the business community, the bill fails to address other critical issues that would make the relief far more effective." (HR Policy Association)


U.S. Senators Make Last-Minute Push on Pension Changes
Excerpt: "With Senate leaders aiming to wrap up their session on Thursday, it is highly uncertain whether the Senate will be able to approve the changes. Doing so would require all 100 senators to agree to pass the bill by voice vote." (Alibaba.com)


Withdrawing Bonds First From Retirement Portfolio Not a Good Idea These Days, Journal Study Finds
Excerpt: "Ninety percent of the time, withdrawing bonds first extends the life of a retirement portfolio longer than the other two strategies -- but for today's retirees, a bonds-first strategy is 'not worth the risk,' according to a study in the November 2008 Journal of Financial Planning . . . ." (Financial Planning Association)


A Strategic Argument for Phased Retirement
Excerpt: "[T]he argument in favor of phased retirement is a strategic one: The pool of skilled, knowledgeable and experienced workers will shrink as the baby boomers retire, and losing that institutional knowledge, those skills and all of that customer-relations prowess is always a risk. It may not seem to matter in the short term, but once the economy rebounds, and it always does, companies short on talent will be in a competitive bind. So the correct answer becomes 'It's good for business.'" (Workforce Management)


Taxpayers Bearing Pension Shortfall in West Virginia
Excerpt: "What those shortfalls means to residents in the state's five largest city is that a large portion of the tax base -- in Wheeling, it's nearly 10 percent of the $27 million general fund budget for 2009 -- goes to pay for retirement costs associated with police and firefighters." (Wheeling News-Register)


Underfunded Pensions May Bite U.S. Energy Sector
Excerpt: "Corporate defined pension plans have been hit hard by the sharp declines in the global stock markets this year. . . . Exxon has the largest pension deficit of companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 with a $6.7 billion shortfall, Conoco is fifth with a shortfall of $1.6 billion and Chevron Corp . . . comes in at eighth . . . ." (Reuters)


University of California to Review Rehired But Pensioned Retirees
Excerpt: "The regents' new policy tightens restrictions, barring rehired retirees from working more than 17.2 hours a week - or 43 percent of a regular work week. It also says there must be a written explanation of the special circumstances requiring the retired employee's services and that regental approval is required for any retirees rehired at a salary of $205,000 or more." (San Francisco Chronicle)


New Agreement in Allentown PA Cuts Police Pension Benefits But Adds DROP
Excerpt: "The new contract eliminates the early retirement provision, meaning all officers must have 20 years in the department to be eligible for full retirement benefits. In addition, the amount of overtime that can be used when calculating an officer's pension is capped at 10 percent of base pay." (The Morning Call)


Wal-Mart Captures Resounding Excessive Fee Suit Victory
Excerpt: "A federal judge in Missouri handed retail giant Wal-Mart Stores a resounding legal victory by swatting away a participant's excessive fee lawsuit for falling short of the plaintiff's responsibility to show the employer violated its fiduciary responsibilities." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


PBGC Reduces Deficit
Excerpt: "But the good news almost certainly is nearing an end. More corporate failures are certain in the slumping economy, which likely would result in the PBGC taking over more underfunded pension plans." (Business Insurance)


[Opinion] The Investment Behavior of Public Pensions
The publishing organization was founded by the Council of Institutional Investors, the National Association of State Retirement Administrators, and the National Council on Teacher Retirement. Excerpt: "Using economic tools and government data, this report finds that public pension plans: Exhibit prudent investment behavior by regularly rebalancing their portfolios; Adopt best investment practices of industry leaders, another prudent practice; Avoid moral hazard; Public pensions may have been overly cautious in some cases; Avoid employer conflicts; Public pensions tend to hold smaller amounts of stocks when employers face higher contributions." (National Institute on Retirement Security)


[Opinion] Pension Funding Relief Must Be Passed in '09
Excerpt: "What business groups are lobbying for is temporary relief from the tougher funding rules mandated by a 2006 law that are kicking in now. That relief may well be the difference between employers staying in business and retaining their plans, and employers collapsing under the weight of contribution requirements and taking their pension plans down with them." (Business Insurance)



Sponsored by: AIRE, LLC

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(Please visit our sponsors. We try to make sure their products and services will be of interest to you. Thanks! --Editor)

Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General


[Guidance Overview] 2008 Year-End Benefits Planning
5 pages. Excerpt: "Section 409A Compliance . . . Special Rules for 457(f) Plans . . . Qualified Retirement Plans . . . 403(b) Plans . . . Proposed Cafeteria Plan Regulations . . . Medicare Secondary Payer Reporting Requirements" (von Briesen & Roper)


[Guidance Overview] Hewitt's Global Retirement Update for November 2008
Excerpt: "Our Global Retirement Update summarizes recent legislative developments and trends related to retirement and financial management and highlights recently passed and pending legislation that may require employers to take action to comply with new rules or review existing plans." (Hewitt)


What the Obama Presidency Might Bring in Changes to Healthcare, Retirement Programs
Excerpt: "Changes to benefits will likely include an early emphasis on healthcare reform, including the expansion of coverage for children. Changes to retirement benefits may be more likely to come via regulations than legislation, including fee-transparency rules." (Dallas Salisbury on Human Resource Executive Online)


Healthcare and Pension Costs Weighing Heavily on Philly
Excerpt: "Virtually all big cities are struggling to keep up with rising pension and health-care costs. But Philadelphia is having a harder time than most. Its pension fund, which has been badly punished by tumbling stock markets, is funded at a lower level than that of any big city in the nation except Pittsburgh . . . ." (Philly.com)


Government Jobs Looking Better in the Downturn
Excerpt: "Private-sector employers may be cutting deeply into employee benefits, but for local and state governments, the gravy train rides on. Last year state and local governments spent an average of 51% more per employee on benefits and compensation than private-sector employers did . . . ." (TIME)


[Opinion] Auto Bailout Ignores Excessive Labor Costs
Excerpt: "UAW workers earn $75 an hour in wages and benefits--almost triple the earnings of the average private sector worker. Detroit autoworkers have substantially more health, retirement, and paid time off benefits than most Americans." (Heritage Foundation)



Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

All-Day Seminar with Sal Tripodi, Esq., APM
in Colorado on December 9, 2008
presented by Western Pension and Benefits Conference-Denver Chapter

Perspectives on Health Reform from the Left and Right - Webcast
Nationwide on November 25, 2008
presented by KaiserNetwork.org

Reflections on the 2008 Elections: What Do the Results Mean for Health and Health Care? - Webcast
Nationwide on November 25, 2008
presented by KaiserNetwork.org



Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Hewitt Data Shows Americans Continue To Save in 401(k) Plans Despite Economic Woe
Hewitt Associates LLC

Owner Of Defunct North Carolina Sign Company Pleads Guilty To Embezzlement Of 401(k) And Health Plan Assets
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

IRS Announces 2009 Standard Mileage Rates
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

Strategic Partners Program Adds 2,600 Agents in 2008
ABC Payroll

John Hancock Announces Results of National Long-Term Care Cost of Care Study
John Hancock Life Insurance Company

HRO Attorney Tapped as President Elect of the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries
Holme Roberts & Owen LLP



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Employee Benefits/ERISA Attorney
for Keating Muething & Klekamp PLL
in OH

General Counsel
for Dallas Police & Fire Pension System
in TX

Senior Benefit Specialist
for The NIA Group, LLC
in NJ

Retirement Education Specialist - New York/New Jersey
for MassMutual Financial Group
in NJ, NY

Sales Consultant
for Gallagher Retirement Services
in NJ

ERISA Investments Litigation Attorney
for Washington DC Plaintiff's ERISA Litigation Firm specializing in investments
in DC

Retirement Plan Administrator / Consultant
for Blue Chip Retirement Plans, Inc.
in WI




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