At the end of August, I made my first trip to Burning Man, an annual event held in the Black Rock Desert of northern Nevada. With 10 guiding principles, it involves art, music and free-spiritedness. This experiment in temporary community sees 65,000+ attendees converge on a dried-up lake bed, build a temporary city and leave behind no trace that it ever existed only a couple of short weeks later. Katie Couric, Chris Taylor and Grover Norquist describe it better than I could.
The TJX Companies, Target, and AT&T are just three of the big names to have been victims of massive data breaches in which sensitive personal and financial information was compromised. Although it might seem that large companies are the only potential victims, the risk is shared by any organization that houses or transmits such information.
If you think about it, the data necessary for ongoing administration of employee benefit plans is enough to make an identity thief’s mouth water—names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses—pretty much everything except mother’s maiden name, favorite pet and name of first grade teacher.
With the rapid evolution of technology and the sophistication of the bad guys who wish to exploit it to their advantage, it is increasingly critical that we take steps to prevent them.
When I was kid, I used to love Schoolhouse Rock during the commercial breaks of Saturday morning cartoons. Even now, I have them all on DVD as well as a CD of covers by various rock musicians, and I still sing along with all of them word-for-word!
If you’ve spent any time working with retirement plans, you know how complicated they can be. It seems like every rule has an exception and an exception to that exception. It is no wonder that accidents occasionally happen despite everyone’s best efforts to follow the rules.
Ever see the movie Men In Black? One of my favorite lines is when Tommy Lee Jones says to Will Smith, “Fifteen hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat; and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you'll know tomorrow.”
Back in March, Assistant Secretary of Labor Phyllis Borzi testified before a Senate committee, expressing concern about whether open MEPs can be treated as single plans under ERISA since there is no commonality among adopters. A recording of her testimony is here, with the MEP comments beginning around the 36th and 43rd minutes. Some commentators thought the testimony was a sign of what DOL’s official position would be, while others suggested it gave no cause for concern, because the Internal Revenue Code does not require the commonality that Asst. Sec. Borzi described.
“Real estate doesn't interest me. It's no doubt a great flaw in my personality, but I can't think in terms of boundaries. Those imaginary lines are as unreal to me as elves and pixies.” -- Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
It’s funny how the human brain (or maybe it’s just my brain) forms associations with words or phrases. Whenever I hear the word “revoked,” I immediately think of a scene from one of the Lethal Weapon movies. The bad guy had been using his diplomatic immunity to get away with all sorts of nefarious deeds. At the end of the movie as he lay clinging to life after being on the wrong end of a shoot-out, Danny Glover’s character says rather pithily, “Your diplomatic immunity has just been REVOKED.”
My good friend and benefits attorney Ilene Ferenczy sends out an e-newsletter from time-to-time. The Ferenczy Flash always includes timely, practical information for plan sponsors and service providers. The edition she sent earlier this week highlights a very important point that often gets lost in the 401(k) shuffle - while all of the fiduciary rules are important, it is failing to comply with the Tax Code that is more likely to land most plan sponsors in hot water.
I was recently asked to write an article on ERISA Section 404(c). As I contemplated how to approach the article, I recalled many situations in which I have heard 404(c) pitched as the mythical silver bullet to save plan fiduciaries from the specter of liability associated with participant-directed investments.