Helping Fiduciaries and Sponsors Navigate Complex Legal Requirements

A person or organization administering an employee benefit plan or involved in its investments is often required to meet standards of trustee and fiduciary responsibility – which have been called the “highest duties known to the law.” In its fiduciary and ERISA counseling practice, MMPL provides strategic and practical advice on meeting these rigorous fiduciary responsibilities and related requirements of ERISA. Our Seattle-based lawyers represent ERISA plan sponsors and fiduciaries throughout the country.

Fiduciaries to benefit plans must safeguard plan investments, act prudently, avoid conflicts of interest, prevent myriad types of “prohibited transactions” defined by ERISA, make truthful and accurate disclosures to plan participants and be aware of their responsibilities as “co-fiduciaries” to prevent or remedy breaches of responsibility by others. Fiduciary responsibilities and ERISA-prohibited transaction issues can arise in plan investment decisions, benefit claim determinations, service provider hiring, contract negotiations and a wide variety of other contexts.

Representative areas of MMPL’ fiduciary and ERISA counseling include:

  • Drafting trust fund agreements and policies and procedures
  • Drafting plan investment policies designed to satisfy fiduciary duties
  • Analysis and advice regarding due diligence required in plan investment transactions
  • Resolving potential “party in interest” and “prohibited transaction” issues, including the use of exemptions and qualified professional asset managers (QPAMs) to ensure legal permissibility
  • Analysis of fiduciary aspects of plan investments structured through venture capital and real estate operating companies
  • Negotiation of investment manager, investment custody, group annuity and other plan investment contracts
  • Negotiation of third-party service provider contracts
  • Analysis and design of plan mergers
  • Analysis of applicable federal and state common law trust principles
  • Internal audits of plans to evaluate compliance with fiduciary standards and Internal Revenue Code and ERISA technical requirements
  • Advice regarding client and insurer fiduciary responsibilities under insurance company guaranteed investment contracts
  • Determination of special disclosures to plan participants required by fiduciary responsibility
  • Assessment of fiduciary implications in benefit claim decisions
  • Counseling on the fiduciary implications of plan termination and reallocation of surplus assets