Cohen & Buckmann Insights

Latest from Cohen & Buckmann Insights

A new report in Pensions and Investments should be an eyeopener for sponsors of 401(k) and 403(b) plans who haven’t yet gotten the message that even responsible fiduciaries can be sued. I previously wrote that 2020 promises to be a banner year for 401(k) plan litigation. Now P&I reports that fiduciary liability insurance premiums are up 35% as a result of costly awards and settlements. Plan sponsors are also being required to pay more-P&I gives an example of a $2 million payment- just to be able to renew policies. This trend can only accelerate as 2020 fiduciary breach lawsuits continue…
Partners Sandra Cohen & Carol Buckmann were recognized in the “Elite Boutique” category for their achievements in establishing a leading boutique focused on providing sophisticated advice on employee benefits, executive compensation, health plans, and pension plans. This honor was published in the National Law Journal October 2020 issue. Sandra and Carol co-founded Cohen & Buckmann in 2016 after recognizing that, even though their practice skill set is usually found at large Wall-street type law firms, many other firms also deserve sophisticated ERISA and compensation advice for their clients and transactions. Cohen adds, “We have since become the go-to employee benefits…
Do private equity funds engage in a trade or business?  If so, and if those trades and businesses are part of a controlled group as defined in ERISA, they could be liable for unfunded pension liabilities of their portfolio companies. These issues have been litigated in four separate decisions by federal courts in the First Circuit. The courts were ruling on a multiemployer plan’s attempt to collect withdrawal liability from two Sun Capital Partners funds. The funds had invested in a bankrupt portfolio company called Scott Brass. After the most recent decision found that the funds were not liable, the…
I previously wrote about a lawsuit filed against Abbott and recordkeeper Alight by a participant whose account was reduced by $245,000 when a hacker assumed her identity and requested distributions. (Bartnett v. Abbott Laboratories, 1:20-cv-02127)  According to the complaint, the hacker was assisted by an Alight employee when the account password couldn’t be changed online. Many were hoping that this lawsuit would clarify the law in this area, and particularly the responsibilities of plan sponsors and recordkeepers. There has now been a preliminary decision in that case. Abbott Defendants Are Dismissed. The plaintiff named Abbott Labs as a defendant, but…
Cohen & Buckmann is pleased to invite you to join this FREE Seven Seminar Lunch & Learn Series: Buy, Sell, or Hold: A Guide for Selling or Buying a Business.  Even if you are not yet ready to make a move this information-packed series is a roadmap to selling your business. Each hour-long session begins promptly at noon.  MARK YOUR CALENDAR TO JOIN US (link to register is below): Session 1: IS NOW THE RIGHT TIME TO SELL? Wednesday, October 7 Session 2: HOW DO I FIND THE RIGHT BUYER? Wednesday, October 21 Session 3: WHAT IS MY BUSINESS WORTH?  Wednesday, November 4 Session 4: WHAT DO BUYERS LOOK…
Target-date funds, once considered a conservative approach to retirement planning, are now under the microscope by both plan sponsors and participants. The COVID-19 pandemic and the March market decline sparked a massive selloff of assets particularly in 2020 funds, whose participants are at or close to retirement, and seeking safer alternatives. The selloffs have shed new light on the risks associated with this investment strategy. The increased scrutiny is due in part to the dominance of target-date funds in plan offerings, and recent litigation filed by employees, claiming breach of fiduciary duty in target date fund selection. No two funds…
If you are a 401(k) or 403(b) plan fiduciary and you have the impression that ERISA litigation has increased in 2020, you are correct. An analysis by Bloomberg Law says that there have already been five times more lawsuits filed in 2020 than in 2019.  Most of these were filed after March, and Bloomberg attributes this increase at least partially to COVID-19.  Since participants have more time to look into and worry about their plans, and litigators are looking for work, we can expect this trend to continue. No steps can guarantee that 401(k) fiduciaries won’t join the list of…
Boutique law firm Cohen & Buckmann is pleased to announce that its founding partners Sandra Cohen and Carol Buckmann have been named to the 2021 Best Lawyers in America in the practice of Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law. The firm also ranks in U.S. News – Best Lawyers Best Law Firms in the same practice. Sandra and Carol, who first worked together at Sullivan & Cromwell, are two of the mostly highly regarded attorneys in their respective practices – executive compensation and employee benefits/ERISA. They not only serve as invaluable resources for their clients, but other lawyers rely on them for…
Carol Buckmann, ERISA lawyer and co-founding partner of Cohen & Buckmann, P.C. will present at the PLANSPONSOR National Annual Conference on September 21–25, 2020, held online. Carol will join a panel of attorneys on the first day of the conference, September 21, at 12:30 p.m. EDT for the session, “Legislative and Regulatory Update Part I,” to discuss regulations and legislation issued and passed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic relating to retirement plan administration. Throughout much of the pandemic, Carol has been writing the COVID-19 Compliance Corner for PLANSPONSOR, which explains legislative provisions or official guidance related to the…
Carol Buckmann, ERISA lawyer and co-founding partner of Cohen & Buckmann, PC will be a panelist speaking at the Stafford live webinar, “Private Equity Compliance With ERISA: Fiduciary Duties in Managing ERISA Plan Assets,” on Wednesday, September 16, 2020, at 1:00 p.m. EDT. The panel of ERISA attorneys will examine and discuss: The impact recent court cases have had on portfolio company pension withdrawal liability The rules that determine when a private equity fund is not subject to ERISA The fiduciary obligations under ERISA that apply to private equity fund managers responsible for investing assets of a fund that holds…
ERISA attorney Carol Buckmann will be participating in the PLANSPONSOR webinar, “Distribution Options for Employees,” on August 20, 2020, at 2:00 p.m. EDT. Carol will be joined by a panel of editors from PLANSPONSOR magazine and other leading industry professionals to discuss issues related to retirement plan distribution options for employees, including: Changes made to hardship withdrawal and required minimum distribution (RMD) rules under the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act How to determine whether to offer hardship withdrawals and loans in your plan, including whether to…
Can a foreign owner of a U.S. business be liable for a subsidiary’s unpaid pension liabilities? A recent decision by the Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, GCIU Employees’ Retirement Fund v. Coleridge Fine Arts/Jelinki Ltd., (No. 19-3161, 4/6/2020) indicates that collecting from an entity located outside the United States may be an uphill battle. ERISA’s Rules. Title IV of ERISA provides that both multiemployer plan withdrawal liability and PBGC’s claims when underfunded single employer plans are terminated can be assessed against all members of a controlled group, generally determined by looking at whether there is at least 80%…
Many investment advisers and broker dealers recently filed the now-required Form Client Relationship Summary (CRS) with the SEC and began delivering the form to their clients and prospects.  The Form CRS is required by the SEC as part of new conduct rules and interpretations for broker dealers and investment advisers set forth in Reg BI, which requires investment advisers and broker dealers to distribute the Form CRS to their “retail investors.”  The form provides information about the financial service provider and is meant to be a guide in “plain English” that helps “Main Street” investors evaluate their financial service providers…
Who’s Who Legal has recognized Sandra Cohen as a thought leader in the Labour, Employment & Benefits practice. The Thought Leaders guides include individuals who score highly in Who’s Who Legal’s research. Only a fraction of practitioners selected for inclusion in a guide are selected as Thought Leaders. Sandra is one of only 59 U.S. attorneys who has earned this honor in her practice area. According to Who’s Who Legal: [Thought leaders] are worthy of special mention owing not only to their expertise and experience advising on some of the world’s most significant and cutting-edge matters, but also their ability…