PBGC Proposes Rules Allowing Lifetime Benefit Rollover Option For Defined Contribution Participant Account Balances

April 1, 2014

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) is touting a proposal that would add the option for 401(k) and other defined contribution plan participants to elect at time of distribution to have the balance of their 401(k) plan account converted to traditional pensions.

Under proposed rules slated for publication in the April 2, 2014 Federal Register, the PBGC plans to define rules under which the defined contribution plans could offer employees with rollover options the opportunity to move their benefits from defined contribution plans to defined benefit plans and outline safeguards for benefits that are rolled over from defined contribution plans.

Under the new proposal, benefits earned from a rollover generally would not be affected by PBGC’s maximum guarantee limits. Currently the agency’s maximum guaranteed benefit for a 65-year-old retiree is almost $59,320 a year.

Also, rollover amounts generally would remain untouched by PBGC’s so-called five-year phase-in limits. Normally, benefit increases from changes to a plan in the five years before it ends are partially guaranteed. For instance, 20 percent of the increase is paid after one year, 40 percent after two years and so on. Under the new proposal, these restrictions generally would not apply

The PBGC proposal to allow defined contribution participants to convert their account balances into lifetime annuities at distribution reflects the general enthusiasm within the PBGC, the Employee Benefit Security Administration (EBSA) and other agencies for arrangements that annuitize defined contribution accounts that provides a guaranteed fixed income for the participant for the balance of his or her lifetime.  In its April 1, 2014 announcement of impending publication of the proposed rule, the PBGC touts its proposal as making it “easier for participants in 401(k) plans to get higher returns and get lifetime income” by moving their funds into traditional pensions while removing “the fear that the amounts rolled over would suffer under guarantee limits should PBGC step in and pay benefits.”

“What we’re doing will hopefully give people an incentive to choose a savings option that they can’t outlive or outspend,” said PBGC Director Josh Gotbaum. “Annuities always offer greater retirement security.”

In the wake of the massive decline in retirement savings that came with scandals like Enron and Madoff and the economic downturn have fueled new support among the PBGC and other supporters of “lifetime income” arrangements, critics warn that the annuitizing an account to provide lifetime benefits in a low performing market is costly and cuts the recipient out of the opportunity to benefit if and when the market strengthens. They also warn that market downturns also can adversely affect the security of annuitized products. The notorious failures of the insurers providing “guaranteed investment income” in the 1980s led to the demise of GICs just as the real estate bust necessitated a government bailout to keep AIG and other insurers afloat. The PBGC and other advocates hope that their proposed standards for lifetime income accounts can produce the benefits of a lifetime income with little risk to the recipients.

 For Representation, Training & Other Resources

If you need assistance monitoring these and other regulatory policy, enforcement, litigation or other developments, or to review or respond to these or other workforce, benefits and compensation, performance and risk management, compliance, enforcement or management concerns, the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer may be able to help.

Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law, Past Chair of the ABA RPTE Employee Benefit & Other Compensation Arrangements Group, Co-Chair and Past Chair of the ABA RPTE Welfare Plan Committee, Vice Chair of the ABA TIPS Employee Benefit Plans Committee, Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section and the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, Ms. Stamer has more than 25 years’ experience advising health plan and employee benefit, insurance, financial services, employer and health industry clients about these and other matters. Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health care providers, health plans, their business associates and other health industry clients to establish and administer medical privacy and other compliance and risk management policies, to health care industry investigation, enforcement and other compliance, public policy, regulatory, staffing, and other operations and risk management concerns. The scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) for the past several years who has worked on medical and other privacy concerns throughout her career, she regularly designs and presents HIPAA and other risk management, compliance and other training for health plans, employers, health care providers, professional associations and others, defends covered entities and business associates against OCR, FTC and other privacy and data security investigations, serves as special counsel in litigation arising from these concerns and is the author of several highly regarded publications on HIPAA and other privacy and security concerns.

Ms. Stamer also regularly works with OCR, FTC, USSS, FBI and state and local law enforcement on privacy, data security, health care, benefits and insurance and other matters, publishes and speaks extensively on medical and other privacy and data security, health and managed care industry regulatory, staffing and human resources, compensation and benefits, technology, public policy, reimbursement and other operations and risk management concerns. Her publications and insights appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Modern Health Care, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications. For instance, Ms. Stamer for the third year will serve as the appointed scribe for the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Agency meeting with OCR. Her insights on HIPAA risk management and compliance frequently appear in medical privacy related publications of a broad range of health care, health plan and other industry publications Among others, she has conducted privacy training for the Association of State & Territorial Health Plans (ASTHO), the Los Angeles Health Department, the American Bar Association, the Health Care Compliance Association, a multitude of health industry, health plan, insurance and financial services, education, employer employee benefit and other clients, trade and professional associations and others.  You can get more information about her HIPAA and other experience here.

You can review other recent human resources, employee benefits and internal controls publications and resources and additional information about the employment, employee benefits and other experience of the Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, PC here. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile www.cynthiastamer.com or by registering to participate in the distribution of these and other updates on our HR & Employee Benefits Update distributions here including:

 

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating or updating your profile here. For important information concerning this communication click here©2014 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited, non-exclusive right to republished granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc. All other rights reserved.


PBGC Expands Pension Benefit Protection For Military Service Members As Justice Department Files 22nd USERRA Military Leave Lawsuit Against An Employer Since January

December 4, 2009

by Cynthia Marcotte Stamer

The Pension Benefit Guarantee (PBGC) recently published a Final Rule that broadens the pension benefit guarantee protection provided for private pension benefits of military service members protected by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) beginning December 17, 2009 .

USERRA provides that an individual who leaves a job to serve in the uniformed services is generally entitled to reemployment by the previous employer and, upon reemployment, to receive credit for benefits, including employee pension plan benefits, that would have accrued but for the employee’s absence due to the military service.

Before the publication of the Final Regulation on November 17, 2009, PBGC’s benefit payments regulation provided for a benefit only if the participant satisfies the conditions for entitlement to the benefit on or before the plan’s termination date.

Effective December 17, 2009, the Final Regulation final rule provides that so long as a service member is reemployed within the time limits set by USERRA, even if the reemployment occurs after the plan’s termination date, PBGC will treat the service member as having satisfied the reemployment condition as of the termination date. This will ensure that the pension benefits of reemployed service members, like those of other employees, will generally be guaranteed for periods up to the plan’s termination date. The change will apply to reemployments under USERRA initiated on or after December 12, 1994. Once the final rule is effective, PBGC will begin adjusting final benefit determinations of affected participants and make back payments with interest.

In addition to broadening PBGC benefit guarantee protection for service members, the Federal government also stepping up enforcement of the provisions of USERRA against private employers.  A lawsuit filed by the Justice Department on November 30, 2009 against an employer for allegedly violating the reemployment rights of a military service member is the 22nd filed during 2009 by the Civil Rights Division on behalf of service members.  It highlights the growing liability risks that employers face for failing to properly comply with the evolving military leave mandates of USERRA and other applicable laws.

Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Can Help

If your organization needs assistance with assessing, managing or defending these or other labor and employment, compensation or benefit practices, please contact the author of this article, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Labor & Employment Practice Group Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer or another Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney of your choice.  Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and Chair of the American Bar Association RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and a nationally recognized author and speaker, Ms. Stamer is experienced with advising and assisting employers with these and other labor and employment, employee benefit, compensation, risk management  and internal controls matters. Ms. Stamer is experienced with assisting employers and others about compliance with federal and state equal employment opportunity, compensation, health and other employee benefit, workplace safety, and other labor and employment laws, as well as advising and defending employers and others against tax, employment discrimination and other labor and employment, and other related audits, investigations and litigation, charges, audits, claims and investigations by the IRS, Department of Labor and other federal and state regulators. She has counseled and represented employers on these and other workforce matters for more than 22 years. Ms. Stamer also speaks and writes extensively on these and other related matters. For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.   For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi LLP team, see here.

Other Information & Resources

We hope that this information is useful to you. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here or e-mailing this information here or registering to participate in the distribution of our Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update distributions here.  Examples of other recent updates you may have missed include:

For important information concerning this communication click here.   If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject here.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. All rights reserved.