Protecting Retirement Plan Fiduciaries (Including Your Boss) from Liability
A variety of factors have contributed to the stunning rise in litigation against retirement plan fiduciaries. This problem for employer/plan sponsors is compounded by two other facts. First, ERISA imposes personal liability on plan fiduciaries. Second, many corporate officers, employees and even board members serve as ERISA fiduciaries. Some knowingly. Some not.
As in many other areas of the law (and American society) the courts have rapidly expanded the remedies available to sympathetic plaintiffs and the possible claims against “deep pocket” defendants. For a fiduciary accused of breaching his or her duties under ERISA, the stakes are high. The federal courts have uniformly held that ERISA's fiduciary duty is "the highest duty known to the law." ERISA authorizes lawsuits against a plan fiduciary by plan participants, beneficiaries, the plan administrator, other plan fiduciaries, and the U.S. Department of Labor. Both civil and criminal penalties can apply.
And it gets worse. ERISA Section 206(d) provides for the forfeiture of a participant's account balance or benefit by the amount the participant is required or ordered to pay to the plan in connection with a lawsuit relating to a breach of fiduciary duty, including pursuant to a settlement agreement. Did I mention that ERISA imposes personal liability on a fiduciary who breaches his/her duty?
However, there are strategies to protect plan fiduciaries from potential liability. The surprising thing is how many employers/plan sponsors fail to take full advantage of these strategies. Human resources professionals should act to protect their officers, employees, board members and others who serve as ERISA fiduciaries.
Who Should Participate
All HR Professional, particularly those who have responsibility for or come into contact with employee benefit plans
What You Will Learn
• How to draft board committee and board resolutions to protect fiduciaries
• How to structure fiduciary committees to comply with ERISA and protect the fiduciaries
• How to conduct fiduciary committee meetings to comply with ERISA and protect the fiduciaries
• How to design plans and communications to comply with ERISA and protect the fiduciaries
• How to select committee members to comply with ERISA and protect the fiduciaries
• How to ensure compliance with ERISA
• How to protect fiduciaries and others with insurance and indemnification
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