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Retirement Plans Newsletter

March 9, 2010

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[Guidance Overview]
Pre-PPA Plan Was Not Required to Use Statutory Discount Rate to Calculate Opening Account Balance
Excerpt: "A defined benefit plan that converted to a cash balance plan in 2000 (prior to the enactment of the Pension Protection Act of 2006) did not violate ERISA's bar on reducing accrued benefits when it used a higher discount rate to calculate the accrued benefit portion of the participants' opening account balance than the applicable rate provided under Code Sec. 417(e)(3), the U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis (CA-8) has ruled in Sunder v. U.S. Bancorp Pension Plan."
(Wolters Kluwer Law & Business)

[Guidance Overview]
Important Aspects of Reporting Direct and Indirect Compensation on Schedule C
Excerpt: "The revised schedule C requires plans to report both direct and indirect compensation paid to service providers. This Update will discuss the differences between the two. . . . [Question:] Does it make a difference in determining direct compensation how the plan allocates an expense among participant accounts? . . . . [Question:] What mutual fund or other investment fund expenses are indirect compensation? "
(SunGard Relius)

[Guidance Overview]
Milliman's March 2010 Multiemployer Plan Alert (PDF)
Includes overview of final DOL regulation on participant-requested documents and DOL final regulation on civil penalties for certain funding failures.
(Milliman)

[Guidance Overview]
Employer Can Reduce Monthly Pension to Fix Error
Excerpt: "A federal court has ruled that an employer did not breach its fiduciary duties by decreasing a retiree's monthly pension check to recover overpayments made to him due to a miscalculation of his benefit amount."
(PLANSPONSOR)

[Guidance Overview]
Clarification of Reporting Relief under FAB 2009-02; Clarification of ERISA-Covered Plan Definition by FAB 2010-01 (PDF)
2 pages; several useful charts summarizing certain aspects of the DOL guidance. Excerpt: "Responding to questions and comments received following publication of FAB 2009-02, DOL clarified whether the following contracts/accounts (generally, that otherwise would meet FAB 2009-02) should be included or excluded on Form 5500: . . . "
(Sutherland)

[Guidance Overview]
403(b) Retirement Plan Audits -- Frequently Asked Questions (PDF)
6 pages. Excerpt: "The AICPA 403(b) Plan Audit Task Force has prepared these questions and answers to assist plan auditors and plan administrators (hereinafter used to also refer to the plan sponsors or employers) in implementing the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) financial statement audit requirements (and subsequent enforcement relief) for section 403(b) retirement plans that are subject to [ERISA]."
(American Institute of CPAs, via the SPARK Institute)

Senate Bill Would Permit Roth Conversion Within 401(k)s
Excerpt: "According to a statement from Brian Graff, Executive Director/CEO of The American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries (ASPPA), an amendment to H.R. 4123 was adopted by unanimous consent that would allow distributable 401(k) account balances to be converted to Roth accounts within the 401(k) plan."
(PLANSPONSOR)

Public Pension IOUs Total Nearly $6k Per Chicagoan, Study Says
Excerpt: "Each Chicagoan now is on the hook for a whopping $5,821 in unfunded liability for pension promises to city and Cook County public employees."
(Chicago Business)

The 2010 Retirement Confidence Survey: Confidence Stabilizing, But Preparations Continue to Erode
Excerpt: "The 2010 Retirement Confidence Survey -- the 20th annual wave of this survey -- finds that the record-low confidence levels measured during the past two years of economic decline appear to have bottomed out." (Employee Benefit Research Institute
(EBRI))

Public Pension Funds Are Adding Risk to Raise Returns
Excerpt: "[S]tates and other bodies of government are seeking higher returns for their pension funds, to make up for ground lost in the last couple of years and to pay all the benefits promised to present and future retirees. Higher returns come with more risk."
(New York Times; free registration required)

Participation and Contributions in Tax-deferred Retirement Accounts: Evidence from Social Security Records
Working paper. Excerpt: "Despite the increased availability of these employer-provided plans throughout this period, participation rates and contribution amounts remained low among respondents in the lower half of the earnings distribution."
(University of Michigan Retirement Research Center)

[Opinion]
Pension Envy: The DB Haves vs. The DB Have-Nots
Excerpt: "Olivia Mitchell, the great retirement thinker and executive director of the Pension Research Council at the Wharton School, has seen enough of this resentment to give it a name: Pension Envy. Do you have it? Check the symptoms: One is strong feelings of regret that you didn't become a teacher or judge or dog catcher. The other is anger over the rising taxes you will have to pay to support government pensioners."
(CBS Money Watch)

[Opinion]
Conditions for Defined Benefit Plan Funding Relief Are Needed to Protect Plan Participants (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "As the Senate addresses pension funding relief as part of the tax bill, we urge you to maintain the 'cash-flow matching rule,' which will ensure that companies cannot use corporate cash to pay for excessive executive compensation, stock buy-backs and extraordinary dividends, while they are relieved from the statutory funding requirements for the plan covering rank-and-file workers. We take issue with the business community's view that the conditions of the proposed relief for single employer pension plans are too restrictive."
(Pension Rights Center)




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Executive Compensation; Benefits in General

[Guidance Overview]
Recent Developments in Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation, by Blank Rome, March 2010
Describes highlights of mental health parity regulation, revision of SEC executive compensation disclosure rules, issuance of model CHIP notice, and additional 403(b) DOL guidance.
(Blank Rome)

Tax on Executive Bonuses Under Consideration for Senate Extenders Bill
Excerpt: "The Senate will consider the addition of a new 50 percent tax on executive bonuses in excess of $400,000 as part of the tax extenders legislation (H.R. 4213) set for a final vote today."
(BNA Tax & Accounting)

DOL Intends to Increase Investigation and Prosecution of Businesses That Misclassify Employees as Independent Contractors
Excerpt: "In the February 1, 2010 budget proposal for the 2011 fiscal year, President Obama has recommended awarding the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) $25 million for the specific purpose of investigating and prosecuting employers who misclassify employees as independent contractors."
(McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP)


Webcasts and Conferences

"The Dirty Dozen: Correcting the Most Common Errors" Web Seminar
Nationwide on April 6, 2010
presented by SunGard Relius

20th Annual IRA Academy
in Texas on May 10, 2010
presented by PenServ, Inc.

ERISA Advisory Council Meeting
in District of Columbia on March 22, 2010
presented by U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

FMLA Update
Nationwide on March 16, 2010
presented by FutureOffice Network

Minimizing Legal Risks in the Design, Implementation & Administration of Employee Benefit Plans
in New York on May 24, 2010
presented by American Conference Institute

Washington Update 2010: Benefits On Ice
in California on March 18, 2010
presented by Western Pension & Benefits Conference - Orange County Chapter


Press Releases

National Employee Benefits Day To Be Celebrated on April 6, 2010
International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

ASPPA Lauds Senate for Adopting Roth Conversion Proposal
American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries (ASPPA)


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