New IRS Guidance On ESOP Investment Diversification Reminder To Tighten Compliance, Risk Management


Fiduciaries, administrators, sponsors, advisors, trustees and others with involvement or responsibility for Employee Stock Option Plans (ESOPs) should review these rules and ensure that appropriate steps are taken to update their plan terms and practices to comply with new rules scheduled to be published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin on May 13, 2013 by the Internal Revenue Service on investment diversification.

Maintaining legally compliant and defensible arrangements for investing company stock in employee stock and other defined contribution employee benefit and deferred compensation plans continues to become increasingly complicated in the face of the expanding range of rules adopted by Congress and federal regulators looking to protect participants against stock drop and other actual or perceived abuse.

Among these tightening requirements are new rules announced in Notice 2013-17, which address the circumstances in which an ESOP that satisfied the diversification requirements of § 401(a)(28)(B)(i) by allowing distribution of a portion of a participant’s account has become subject to the diversification requirements of § 401(a)(35).  Notice 2013-17 will be published in Internal Revenue Bulletin 2013-20 on May 13, 2013. 

The new diversification rules are reflective of a host of new and proposed rules and enforcement positions that Congress and federal regulators have or are contemplating to address perceived abuses or risks arising from the investment or retention of company stock in employee benefit plans.  Some of this new regulation arises from decline in retirement plan asset value that results from declines in stock value when the economy or a particular business suffers economic setbacks.  Along with these economic concerns, other regulation seeks to safeguard participants and plans against Enron, Madoff or other activities by plan sponsors, investment advisors, executives or others that Congress or regulators perceive inappropriately put retirement and savings of workers at risk.   Noncompliance with these requirements risks not only tax qualification concerns, but also may expose decision-makers to fiduciary or other liability under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act fiduciary responsibility and prohibited transaction rules, securities laws, and other laws.

In response to Notice 2013-17 and other new rules, fiduciaries, administrators, sponsors, advisors, trustees and others with involvement or responsibility for ESOP should review these rules and ensure that appropriate steps are taken to update their plan terms and practices to comply with this new guidance.  In conjunction with this review, most also will find advisable to review the adequacy of their existing policies and plan terms about their program’s investments in company and other stock in light of evolving fiduciary responsibility and other investment rules and enforcement guidance of the Internal Revenue Service as well as the Department of Labor Employee Benefit Security Administration and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

If you have any questions or need help reviewing and updating your ESOP or other employee benefit plans, or with any other workforce management, employee benefits or compensation matters, please do not hesitate to contact the author of this update, Board Certified Labor and Employment Attorney and Management Consultant Cynthia Marcotte Stamer at 469.767.8872.

For Help or More Information

If you need help with preparing these or other ACA compliance or with reviewing and updating, administering or defending your group health or other employee benefit, human resources, insurance, health care matters or related documents or practices, please contact the author of this update, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Council, immediate past Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current Co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Vice-Chair of the ABA TIPS Employee Benefits Committee, a council member of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, and past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer is recognized, internationally, nationally and locally for her more than 25 years of work, advocacy, education and publications on cutting edge health and managed care, employee benefit, human resources and related workforce, insurance and financial services, and health care matters including extensive experience on HIPAA and other privacy and data security issues.

A board certified labor and employment attorney widely known for her extensive and creative knowledge and experienced with these and other employment, employee benefit and compensation matters, Ms. Stamer continuously advises and assists employers, employee benefit plans, their sponsoring employers, fiduciaries, insurers, administrators, service providers, insurers and others to monitor and respond to evolving legal and operational requirements and to design, administer, document and defend medical and other welfare benefit, qualified and non-qualified deferred compensation and retirement, severance and other employee benefit, compensation, and human resources, management and other programs and practices tailored to the client’s human resources, employee benefits or other management goals.  A primary drafter of the Bolivian Social Security pension privatization law, Ms. Stamer also works extensively with management, service provider and other clients to monitor legislative and regulatory developments and to deal with Congressional and state legislators, regulators, and enforcement officials concerning regulatory, investigatory or enforcement concerns.

Extensively published and a popular speaker on HIPAA and other data security matters, Ms. Stamer works extensively with health care providers, health plans, employers, insurance and financial services, technology and other clients on privacy, data seurity and other privacy and cybercrime concerns.  She also serves as the Scribe for the ABA JCEB Agency Techical Sessions Meetings with the Office of Civil Rights which occur each May in Washington, D.C.

Recognized in Who’s Who In American Professionals and both an American Bar Association (ABA) and a State Bar of Texas Fellow, Ms. Stamer serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of Employee Benefits News, the editor and publisher of Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update and other Solutions Law Press Publications, and active in a multitude of other employee benefits, human resources and other professional and civic organizations.   She also is a widely published author and highly regarded speaker on these matters. Her insights on these and other matters appear in the Bureau of National Affairs, Spencer Publications, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, Modern and many other national and local publications.   You can learn more about Ms. Stamer and her experience, review some of her other training, speaking, publications and other resources, and register to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer here.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

For important information about this communication click here. THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2013 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Nonexclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.  All other rights reserved

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