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February 16, 2012 Get Health & Welfare News  |  Advertise  |  Unsubscribe  |  Past Issues  |  Search

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Webcasts and Conferences

"403(b) Plans: Coverage and Nondiscrimination Testing" Web Seminar
Nationwide on February 23, 2012 presented by SunGard Relius

"Practical Guide to Plan Fee Disclosures" — A 3-part Web Seminar
Nationwide on February 28, 2012 presented by SunGard Relius

"The Final, Final Service Provider Fee Regulations – Finally!" Web Seminar — Encore Presentation
Nationwide on February 22, 2012 presented by SunGard Relius

"What We Learn from the 401(k) Compliance Questionnaire" Web Seminar
Nationwide on March 8, 2012 presented by SunGard Relius

DOL Audit Initiatives-Are You a Target?
in New York on March 15, 2012 presented by WEB (Worldwide Employee Benefits Network ), New York Chapter

ERISA Conference: Employee Benefits in an Era of Retrenchment
in Missouri on March 29, 2012 presented by Washington University School of Law

Final SBC Guidance for Employer Health Plans: Getting Ready for New Open Enrollment Disclosures
Nationwide on April 4, 2012 presented by Thomson Reuters / EBIA

Hedge Funds, Real Estate and Other Alternative Investments
in California on July 16, 2012 presented by International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

Just Released DOL Pension Fee Disclosure Regulations — Are You Ready?
Nationwide on February 24, 2012 presented by International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

Navigating the Last Weeks of ERRP: Tighter Regulations, Audits
Nationwide on March 1, 2012 presented by International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

Portfolio Concepts and Management
in Pennsylvania on May 21, 2012 presented by International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

What Every Employer Needs to Know about Social Media, the Internet and Electronic Communications
in Massachusetts on March 6, 2012 presented by New England Employee Benefits Council

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[Guidance Overview]
The Determination Letter Application Process (PDF)
"The importance of submitting a clean, vetted plan and properly completed application to the IRS cannot be overstated. Otherwise, the process that is intended to secure approval of the plan to obtain the plan's unparalleled tax benefits can backfire and threaten plan qualification. This in turn can cloud a bright and sunny day into a long protracted Wisconsin winter." (The ERISA Law Group, P.A.)

Discover Innovative Solutions at NIPA’s 2012 Annual Forum & Expo   [Advert.]

Sponsored by NIPA (National Institute of Pension Administrators)

NIPA’s Annual Forum & Expo provides the most up-to-date information to expand your industry knowledge. Join us April 29-May 2 at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to take advantage of 25 sessions focused on the most pressing issues you face each day.

[Guidance Overview]
IRS Proposed Regulations on Purchase of Longevity Annuity Contracts by Plans
"The proposed regulations are designed to open up the 401(k) and IRA market to longevity annuities by providing special relief from the minimum distribution requirements." (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business / CCH)

[Guidance Overview]
Plan Fiduciaries and Final Guidance on Disclosure of Fee Information (PDF)
"This bulletin focuses on how the final rules affect employers and suggests a proposed plan of action for obtaining the relevant information from service providers and, in turn, providing that information to plan participants." (Vedder Price)

[Guidance Overview]
DOL'S Electronic Guidelines for New 2012 Participant Investment and Fee Disclosures
"Technical Release 2011-03R is intended as temporary guidance until the DOL completes its review of its existing electronic distribution rules. In the meantime, prior to August 2012, plan sponsors and administrators of calendar-year plans should familiarize themselves with Technical Release 2011-03R to determine what mandatory disclosures will be made in electronic format (if any), and whether their plans have sufficient systems and administrative capabilities to provide the mandatory disclosures in an electronic format." (McDermott Will & Emery)

[Guidance Overview]
EBSA Final Regs Require Service Providers to Furnish Detailed Fee Disclosures to Plan Fiduciaries
"EBSA advises that the July 1, 2012 effective date of the fee disclosure rules under ERISA § 408(b)(2) will also impact the date by which participant-level disclosures must be made. Accordingly, for calendar year plans, the initial annual disclosure of plan-level and investment-level information (including associated fees and expenses) must be furnished no later than August 30, 2012 (60 days after the July 1 effective date of the ERISA § 408(b)(2) regulations)." (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business / CCH)

[Guidance Overview]
IRS Reissues Notice, Enhances Transition Relief for Plans Qualified in Puerto Rico
"The reissuance of Notice 2012-6 underscores just how complex and difficult it is to deal with the differences between Puerto Rico's qualification requirements for retirement plans and the requirements of the U.S. tax code. While employers continue to work through the difficulties in the context of recent changes to the Puerto Rico tax code, some will at least temporarily not have to cope with a potential testing problem (the inclusion of Puerto Rico employees in nondiscrimination testing for coverage) and a potential tax problem for individual participants (recognition of certain distributions as U.S. income)." (Thomson Reuters/EBIA)

American Airlines Unions Seek Early Retirement Incentives
"The Association of Professional Flight Attendants and the Transport Workers Union made separate early-out offers to the company on Wednesday. The pilots' union, which stands to take the lightest hit from layoffs, did not immediately comment on whether it would make a similar proposal." (BenefitsPro)

A New Rebalancing Methodology to Reduce Risk and Increase Dollar Cost Averaging in Defined Contribution Plans (PDF)
"Examining the hypothesis that increased rebalancing frequency through the use of cash flows will result in enhanced risk mitigation and dollar cost averaging." (Invest n Retire, LLC)

Understanding the New 403(b) Model Disclosure Form
"One of the key reasons for the 403(b) Transparency Taskforce's new 403(b) model disclosure form is so vendors can show plan sponsors that they offer more than just products, according to industry experts." (

Labor Force Participation Rates of the Population Age 55 and Older, 2011, After the Economic Downturn (PDF)
"The recent economic downturn did not alter the trend of older workers increasingly being in the labor force; rather, it appears that this remains the trend, as more opportunities for older workers exist and there is a greater necessity for them to remain in the labor force to accumulate sufficient or adequate resources for retirement." (Employee Benefit Research Institute)

Do Non-ERISA 403(b) Plan Sponsors Have Fiduciary Responsibilities?
"David W. Powell, Esq., [of] The Groom Law Group, ... pointed to the Uniform Management of Public Employee Retirement System Act (UMPERSA), which imposes a prudent standard for the main employee retirement system of states. It excludes 403(b)s, but, Powell noted, as states adopt 403(b)s, such language is used in state law." (

Public Pension Plan Reform: the Legal Framework
"This article presents an overview of the various types of state regulation of public pension plans that affect possibilities for reform. Nearly all of the various approaches to public pension plan protection taken by the states have significant flaws. These flaws include a lack of clarity regarding what plan changes the relevant legal standard will allow, combined with either too much or too little protection for plan participants. This article argues that states would be well served to adopt a contractual approach to public pension benefits but to limit that contractual protection to accrued benefits." (American Education Finance Association)

DOL's Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Request Grants Premium Authority to PBGC
"A key item in the DOL's budget request is the indication that the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) should have the authority to adjust its own premiums. This authority currently rests with Congress, but the DOL said the switch 'will encourage companies to fully fund their pension benefits and ensure the continued financial soundness of the PBGC. It is estimated that this proposal will save $16 bil.lion over the next decade.'" (Thompson)

401(k) 403(b), and 457(b) Plans: Key Features and Contribution Limits for 2012 (PDF)
"Section 401(k) plans are the most prevalent type of defined contribution plan in the private sector. Section 403(b) plans are another form of defined contribution plan, available only to employees of certain tax-exempt and public educational organizations. Section 457(b) plans are defined contribution plans established by state and local governments and certain tax-exempt organizations. The table ... compares important aspects of these plans." (Retirement Town Hall)

Corporate Defined Benefit Plans Have Rough Funding Road Ahead, According to Fitch Ratings
"Corporate defined benefit plans will encounter wider funding gaps and rising contributions in 2012 because of declining discount rates and weak asset returns, according to a special report from Fitch Ratings." (Pensions & Investments; free registration required)

Military vs. Civilian Pay in the Federal Budget
"Labor unions representing federal employees are disappointed with President Obama's fiscal 2013 proposal to end the two-year civilian pay freeze that began in 2011, since the suggested raise of 0.5 percent is negated by another proposal to increase the amount employees must contribute to their pensions by 0.4 percent annually for three years, beginning in 2013." (Government Executive)

PBGC Launches Temporary Waiver of Unpaid Premium Penalties
"Under a new temporary voluntary compliance program, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. will waive penalties on employers who have never paid federally required pension insurance premiums. To qualify for the relief, employers will have to contact the PBGC by July 31 to discuss how they can comply and then pay the required amount by Aug. 31." (Business Insurance)

GM to Phase Out Salaried Pensions, Shift Workers to 401(k) Plan
"General Motors Co. said [on February 15, 2012] it will phase out its pension plan for salaried workers as a way to reduce the risk to its balance sheet. About 70 percent of GM's 26,000 salaried U.S. workers are enrolled in a defined benefit, or traditional, pension plan. Those workers will be shifted to a 401(k) plan starting on Oct. 1[.]" (Workforce)

What Does the Literature Tell Us About the Possible Effect of Changing Retirement Benefits on Public Employee Effectiveness?
"Proposals exist to change public employees' retirement benefits from defined benefit (DB) pensions. This could increase employee turnover and raise initial compensation. More experienced employees are replaced with less experienced ones, reducing effectiveness. But, new hires' effectiveness could increase with higher compensation." (Social Science Research Network)

CalPERS' Actuarial Cost Analysis of Proposal for the Creation of a Hybrid Plan for New Hires (PDF)
The analysis outlines costs for creating a hybrid plan consistent with Gov. Brown's pension reforms. (CalPERS)

Courts Block Efforts at Public Pension Change
"A pair of recent court rulings could slow down state lawmakers' efforts to increase contributions from current employees to prop up troubled public pension plans." (Stateline)

Text of White House's Budget Proposal Cutting Back on Income Tax Benefit of Retirement Plan Contributions for High-Earners (PDF)
"The proposal would limit the tax value of specified deductions or exclusions from [Adjusted Gross Income] and all itemized deductions. This limitation would reduce the value to 28 percent of the specified exclusions and deductions that would otherwise reduce taxable income in the 36-percent or 39.6-percent tax brackets.... The income exclusions and deductions limited by this provision would include any ... employee contributions to defined contribution retirement plans and individual retirement arrangements[.]" (White House)

Public Pension Plan Problems
Paul Secunda comments on Amy Monahan's paper, 'Public Pension Plan Reform: The Legal Framework." (JOTWELL)

The President's 2013 Budget Would Enable Almost All Americans to Save for Retirement
"Nearly half of American workers — an estimated 78 mil.lion — currently have no employer-sponsored retirement savings plan. The Automatic IRA is a simple, easy to administer and understand system that is designed to meet the needs of small businesses and their employees." (Brookings)

Benefits in General; Executive Compensation

[Guidance Overview]
Important New SEC Guidance on the Proper Wording of Say on Pay Proposals on the Proxy Card
"[On February 13, 2012, The] SEC Division of Corporation Finance published a new 'Compliance and Disclosure Interpretation' (CDI) regarding the proper wording of Say on Pay proposals on the proxy card[.]" (Winston & Strawn LLP)

[Guidance Overview]
Section 409A Basics: Deferral Elections and Discretionary Bonuses
"Employers always seem surprised that an employee can be expected to make a deferral election more than one year before the employee even knows whether he or she is eligible for a bonus. Somehow that just doesn't seem reasonable. Yet, every time we check, we find that is what Code Section 409A requires." (Verrill Dana, LLP)

[Guidance Overview]
Another Unexpected Surprise for International Assignees: Section 457A (no, Not 409A!) of the U.S. Tax Code
"[T]he lesser known Code section 457A creates new complexity, applicable where deferred compensation, including many types of equity compensation, is earned by U.S. taxpayers who perform services for certain non-U.S. corporations and partnerships located in a jurisdiction that is tax indifferent (or more colloquially, a tax haven). In general, if section 457A applies, the period that compensation may be excluded from a U.S. taxpayer's taxable income is limited to no more than 12 months after any service-based vesting condition is satisfied. If a vesting period is based on performance (rather than on the passage of time), the income exclusion may be longer than 12 months, but the amount is subject to an additional 20% tax when paid." (Littler)

Private Company Incentive Pay Practices Survey
"Respondents report increased usage of both short- and long-term incentive programs since 2007. Short-term incentive ... usage has increased to 95% from 79%, while long-term incentive ... usage has increased to 61% from 35%." (WorldatWork)

New York State Senate Passes Bill to Restore Commuter Tax Benefit
"The legislation would fully restore the state's monthly pre-tax transit benefit, which would be $240 for 2012, that was cut when the federal government did not approve an extension by the December 31, 2011 deadline. It would also create parity with the current federal and state pre-tax benefits which help offset parking costs for commuters who drive. That benefit increased to $240 on January 1st" (

Same-S.ex Marriage Legal in Washington State
"Employers in Washington State need to adjust their policies, plans and documents to accommodate the state law making same-s.ex marriage legal. But employers there must remember that while same-s.ex marriage is legal in Washington State, federal law and regulation do not recognize same-s.ex marriage and same-s.ex spouses. Therefore, employers in Washington State will have to contend with the added complexity of treating same-s.ex spouses differently for purposes of state law and federal law." (Thompson)

Do Public School Teachers Really Receive Lavish Benefits?
"[A] recent paper by Jason Richwine of the Heritage Foundation and Andrew Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute claims that public school teachers enjoy lavish benefits that are more valuable than their base pay and twice as generous as those of private-sector workers ... According to Richwine and Biggs, this makes teachers' total compensation 52 percent higher than fair-market levels and amounts to $120 bil.lion 'overcharged' to taxpayers each year." (Economic Policy Institute)

Employee Benefit Committees Figure Out What Benefits Are Most Important to Employees and Assist with Benefit Negotiations
"Big or small, governments face the challenge of providing benefits that meet employee needs at a sustainable price. A number of state and local governments are instituting the help of employee benefit committees: voluntary groups of union and non-union employees that discover what benefits are most important to employees, align those with available funds and assist with benefit negotiations." (Governing)

How the Risk of Displacement for Older Workers Has Changed
"Although in the past older workers were less prone to displacement compared with prime-age workers, this paper finds that older workers are now more likely to be displaced, conditional on education, manufacturing industry, and tenure. Declining tenure, a higher incidence of displacement in manufacturing, and a higher labor force participation among older workers largely explain the convergence of displacement rates among older and prime-age workers." (Social Science Research Network)

Employee Ownership Update for February 15, 2012
NCEO Executive Director Loren Rodgers discusses the DOL's re-proposal of its regulation on plan fiduciaries, the White House budget and ESOPs, a Stanford Webinar on exporting ownership culture to China, and the reaction to the Iowa governor's ESOP initiative. (National Center for Employee Ownership)

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