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What Is In A Name? Not An ERISA Plan

A recent decision by an Ohio federal court illustrates an important distinction between two regulatory exemptions from ERISA’s definition of an “employee welfare benefit plan.”

Federal Court Agrees With Spencer Fane: Former Employees of Enron Subsidiary Lack Standing to Sue

Spencer Fane’s ERISA Litigation Group secured a major victory last month in a case arising from the Enron bankruptcy. The dispute followed the sale of an Enron subsidiary, Northern Natural Gas (“NNG”). As a consequence of the sale, NNG withdrew from Enron’s voluntary employees’ beneficiary association (“VEBA”) and established its own welfare benefit plan, which was funded by a VEBA established by NNG’s ultimate purchaser, MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. (“MEC”).

THE FIDUCIARY CORNER: The Truth, The Whole Truth, And Nothing But The Truth

When ERISA fiduciaries speak, they must recognize that what they say, and how they say it, will be held to a higher standard than ordinary speech. This is because ERISA imposes special rules governing the manner in which information about benefits is communicated. Although courts disagree about the scope of this duty of disclosure, it is well established that communications must give participants information that is both accurate and sufficiently detailed to allow them to make informed decisions.

Plan Sponsors Must Disclose Creditable Coverage Status to CMS

As we reported in our July 2005 issue of Benefits in Brief, regulations issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) require group health plans providing prescription drug coverage to Medicare Part D-eligible individuals to disclose to participants whether that coverage is “creditable.”

THE FIDUCIARY CORNER: Individual Financial Planners May Be ERISA Fiduciaries

An Advisory Opinion recently issued by the Department of Labor may come as quite a shock to many personal financial planners and investment advisors. According to the DOL, ERISA’s prudence, exclusive benefit, and prohibited transaction rules apply to many of the bread-and-butter recommendations that these professionals give, if their advice relates to assets held in qualified individual account plans.

New Funding Notice Required For Multiemployer Pension Plans

In January, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) finalized regulations intended to increase understanding on the part of multiemployer plan participants and beneficiaries of the funding status of their defined benefit pension plans. Issued under the Pension Funding Equity Act of 2004, the new rules require multiemployer plans to provide an annual “funding notice” with respect to all plan years beginning after December 31, 2004.

Deadline Approaching for Reminding Participants of Availability of HIPAA Privacy Notice

To many plan sponsors, the distribution of the “Notice of Privacy Practices” required by HIPAA’s privacy regulations (the “Privacy Rule”) may be no more than a distant memory. Well, dust off those HIPAA privacy notices because, according to the Privacy Rule, “No less frequently than once every three years, the health plan must notify individuals then covered by the plan of the availability of the notice and how to obtain the notice.”

Supreme Court and Congress Weigh in on Plan Reimbursement Rights after Knudson

The travails of ERISA welfare plans seeking to enforce their subrogation and reimbursement provisions are in the news – again.

Reminder: Deadline For Small Plans To Comply With HIPAA Security Rule Approaching

Although many health plans completed their HIPAA Security Rule compliance efforts last spring, small health plans were given an additional year in which to comply.

Congress Finally Adopts Technical Correction For Dependent Care Assistance Plans

As we reported in the November 2004 issue of Benefits in Brief, the Working Families Tax Relief Act (WFTRA) took effect January 1, 2005.

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