Unionized employers face unique challenges due to the funding and related obligations that result from their participation in union-sponsored multiemployer defined benefit pension plans (typically referred to as "Taft-Hartley plans"), multiemployer health and welfare plans, and corresponding collective bargaining agreements. When an employer either partially or completely ceases contributing to a multiemployer pension plan that is underfunded, the employer and members of its controlled group become liable to an often exorbitant exit fee known as "withdrawal liability."
Attorneys in Epstein Becker Green's Employee Benefits practice have worked with multiemployer plans since the enactment of ERISA and understand the obligations and potential legal and financial risks inherent with multiemployer plans. Accordingly, we are able to guide our clients in all aspects of their participation in these plans.
Specifically, our services in this area include the following:
- Providing advice to clients regarding the obligations of multiemployer plan fiduciaries on plan administration, permitted and prohibited transactions, investment selections, government registrations, agreements with service providers, plan communications, and tax-related matters, among other things
- Assisting clients in regularly monitoring their potential liabilities to multiemployer plans
- Counseling clients on minimizing or eliminating their statutory withdrawal liability associated with multiemployer defined benefit pension plans in the context of an asserted claim, plant closing, workforce reduction, or business sale or acquisition (including, in an asset sale transaction, compliance with Section 4204 of ERISA)
- Conducting ERISA due diligence reviews for projected corporate transactions with entities that are obligated to contribute to multiemployer plans
- Providing guidance on the structure of corporate transactions to avoid potential ERISA liabilities
- Representing employers in disputes and arbitrations over withdrawal liability determinations under Title IV of ERISA
- Working with actuaries to assess the reasonableness of the calculations performed by multiemployer pension plans
- Representing management plan fiduciaries in government investigations and audits, litigation matters and arbitrations that arise under ERISA and the Multi-Employer Pension Plan Amendments Act of 1980 ("MPPAA")
Based upon decades of experience serving as counsel to trustees of various multiemployer plans and to employers that contribute to multiemployer plans, as well as our involvement in landmark multiemployer plan cases, we are aware of the often tenuous balance between management interests and the fiduciary obligations that arise under ERISA. We counsel clients on how to properly comply with those conflicting duties.