This issue’s topics include:

Proposed IRS regs liberalize rules for hardship withdrawals

How hard should a hardship be to justify a hardship withdrawal from a 401(k) plan? Proposed IRS regulations could, according to the agency itself, enable eligible plan participants “to access their money more quickly with a minimum of red tape.” This article provides a short summary of several key provisions of the detailed proposed regulations. A sidebar looks at different ways employers might respond to the changes.

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Fiduciary liability
First Circuit shifts burden of defending a fiduciary breach claim

A recent ruling could set the stage for a definitive U.S. Supreme Court opinion regarding retirement plan fiduciaries’ liability on the subject of monitoring plan expenses. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit’s ruling in Brotherston v. Putnam Investments shifts a key aspect of the burden of proof of a fiduciary breach from the plaintiff employees to the plan sponsor defendant. This article reviews the case and the court’s decision.

Brotherston v. Putnam Investments, No. 17-1711, October 15, 2018 (First Cir.)

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Have you outgrown the need for matching 401(k) contributions?

Administrating a retirement plan is an evolving process. For example, many plan sponsors provide matching contributions on participant 401(k) plan deferrals without realizing there’s an alternative: making substantial nonelective contributions instead of matching contributions. It’s not a strategy that will work for all employers, but there is nothing to lose — and perhaps much to gain — by at least considering it.

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Take a close look at your plan expense categories

Keeping a sharp eye on your 401(k) plan’s expenses — a fundamental duty of fiduciaries — can require the use of a magnifying glass, at least metaphorically speaking. Take the case of what’s paid out of retirement plan investment funds, as opposed to paid directly by the plan or the company as the plan sponsor. Individual pieces can be measured in basis points (hundredths of one percent), but they add up. This article briefly explains some common contributors to a plan’s gross expense ratio and how even small distinctions can substantially affect participant investment returns over time.

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Compliance alert

This feature lists a few key tax reporting deadlines for April and May.

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As always, we hope you enjoy this edition of our newsletter and we look forward to receiving your feedback. Should you have any questions regarding the information contained in the attached materials or our Employee Benefit Plan Services, please feel free to contact me directly.

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