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A Different Take on Asset Management
After some tough years relying on investment returns in a down economy, many trustees are reevaluating whether their current investment policy makes sense or whether it’s time to make some changes.
Health-Care Plan Mergers – Not an Easy Process
As previously announced by SMACNA, the SMWIA/SMART has been actively encouraging its local unions to consider whether merging local health care plans into larger regional plans will result in cost savings to the health care funds.
No Easy Answer. There are no easy answers to whether a merger is appropriate for your health fund. Plan mergers are extremely complex and you will need professional advice that is independent and reliable.
Best Practices: Health Care Cost Containment at the Local Level
SMACNA knows how very important it is for local areas to manage costs associated with their health and welfare funds. To this end, local area trustees have been implementing various measures aimed at cost containment over the last few years. In order to capture best practices on cost containment, SMACNA surveyed SMACNA chapter leadership and local trustees on actions they have taken or are considering taking. Below is an overview of the innovations implemented at the local level: Read More
What Trustees Need to Understand about Withdrawal Liability
Withdrawal liability may be viewed by many contractors as highway robbery, but for underfunded pensions plans it’s a necessary “evil” that they are charged with enforcing.
Trustees need to understand when withdrawal liability occurs so that they can ensure that the proper procedures are in place to timely capture a withdrawal and begin the collection process. This blog post addresses what constitutes a withdrawal. Read More
What Trustees Need to Understand about Withdrawal Liability
Once upon a time--actually not so long ago--most multiemployer pension fund trustees didn’t have to understand how and why withdrawal liability worked. In those idyllic days, the majority of multiemployer pension plans were fully funded. In fact, the trustees’ biggest challenge was not overfunding the plan in violation of Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). After several years of declining contribution hours, and diminished investment returns, the big bad wolf aka withdrawal liability reared its ugly head as a real issue to be faced. Read More
Partners in Progress Conference Fund Trustees:
Keeping our employee benefit funds financially healthy while providing quality benefits is one of the most important things we can do for the unionized sheet metal industry. In keeping with SMACNA and the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association’s (SMWIA) goal to provide education to trustees that best enables them to do both these things, the 2012 Partners in Progress Conference, March 8-10 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, has included a trustee education track in this year’s conference. Read More
Learn how to keep funds healthy—it’s important for our industry
Moving Toward a Value-Based Health-Care Plan Design
If you saw the recent article in the Washington Post about Maryland’s efforts to introduce value-based health care, it probably wasn’t the first time you heard of the idea. Our guest blogger, Peter M. Rosene, a partner with the firm Felhaber, Larson, Fenlon & Vogt, SMACNA’s outside legal counsel, shares his thoughts on why the idea of value-based health care is taking hold: Read More
DOL Takes Aim at Apprenticeship Fund Trustees
The Department of Labor (DOL) is in the process of issuing guidance to multiemployer plans, and in particular, it is providing guidance to trustees of multiemployer apprenticeship plans aimed at allowing plans to police themselves. Read More
Trust, but Verify. Auditing Contributing Employers
When it comes to collecting contributions from employers, whom can you trust?
The nature of multiemployer plans is such that trustees must trust all contributing employers to self-report covered employees and their man-hours. However, like trusting the fox to guard the hen-house, that kind of trust only goes so far. Read More
Hunting Down the Deadbeats
Calling every delinquent employer a deadbeat might be a bit harsh especially in these challenging economic times. But we all know deadbeats – those with no intention of ever paying their contributions in full and on-time – exist and trustees usually want to hunt them into the ground to collect what’s owed the fund. That is until the trustee starts looking at the costs of collection weighed against the possibility of recouping any money. Read More
Bagels – Morale Booster or Prohibited Transactions?
Can providing bagels and coffee to your trust fund employees at a morning staff meeting really be a prohibited transaction? It seems that some Department of Labor investigators think so. Read More
Roomies – How Do You Split the Bills?
A group of sheet metal trust funds, pension, health & welfare, training etc. for a bargaining area are self-administered with much of the trust funds’ administrative operations combined for efficiency including collection of delinquent contributions.
Prohibited Transactions – A Trap for the Unwary
We’ve all heard about “prohibited transactions” but do you really understand what that means for you and your trust fund? Have you thought about what this rule means when making decisions about collecting delinquent contributions and whether you can write-off a delinquency?
Some Free Advice from your Fellow Trustees
Thanks to everyone who responded to our June 16th post asking for feedback on your fellow trustees’ questions. We’ve looked over the responses and have some interesting things to report.
Changes Coming to Fiduciary Rules?
As many of you know the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has a rule change in the works which would expand the definition of who is a fiduciary to include those financial investment advisors who provide investment advice to trustees and individuals. Assistant Secretary of the EBSA, Phyllis C. Borzi, has been busy getting the word out about why the EBSA believes this rule change is necessary. Here’s what she had to say in an Op-Ed piece printed in Pension & Investments, April 18, 2011.
Latest News Brief
More from the EBSA — Health Benefits Laws Compliance Assistance Seminars
The Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has recently updated its schedule for its health benefits laws compliance assistance seminars. Information and registration are available at the respective links provided below: Read More
Your Fellow Trustees Need Your Help
One of the purposes of this blog is to allow trustees to share information with each other. This is why we encourage you to comment on the posts and give feedback on what you are reading. In that vein, some of your fellow trustees have questions that they could use your input on:
Don’t Be Painfully Shy: Be a Pain, Instead
New trustees shouldn’t be hesitant to scrutinize documents carefully and question fund operations. One new trustee did just that and what he found probably saved the fund from BIG trouble with the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) during their next audit.
Documents for Getting Started as a New Trustee
In Need of a Larger Binder?…
Whether you’re a new trustee or have been serving for decades, it takes a lot of work to make well-informed decisions. Having the fund’s key documents readily available can be essential. Following are some of the documents every trustee should have and refer to often.
Quick Tips for a Better Board of Trustee Meeting
Chances are your plan administrator talks to at least one trustee about what’s going to be discussed at your board of trustee meeting in advance of that meeting. If that trustee isn’t you, consider asking your plan administrator to prepare and distribute an agenda to the trustees ahead of the meeting.
Latest News Brief
EBSA Taking Comments on Fund Electronic Mailings
If your fund has an interest in communicating more with participants and beneficiaries via electronic means, then you may consider providing comment to the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) in response to its request for information.
Delinquencies and Cutting-Off Health
Delinquencies in a down economy are a struggle for every trust fund to try to manage. During the recent quarterly trustee call, there was a discussion of utilizing plan rules to cut off health benefits to the employees of a delinquent contractor unless the employee paid for coverage himself. In this way, some Trusts hoped to put pressure on the delinquent employer to become current and avoid large delinquencies from amassing over time.
Benefits to Effected Employees
Know Your Co-Fiduciaries
Now that you know how to hire and monitor the trustee’s support-team of experts, known as service providers, there is still one more thing you need to do. You need to determine which of those service providers is your co-fiduciary and to what extent.
You can be jointly liable for the action of the trust’s co-fiduciaries, so you need to know who they are and when they are acting as a fiduciary.
Hiring Your Trust Experts
From time to time a trustee's support-team of experts, known as service providers, will need to be replaced. Service providers, ranging from investment managers, accountants, administrators, consultants, attorneys, to actuaries, are critical to the success of a trust fund.
Hiring a new attorney, accountant, or investment manager can be a daunting task. Most contractors serving as trustees are skilled in construction not law, finance, or investment banking. Interviewing someone whose expertise is foreign to your own field of experience need not be intimidating. Following are some helpful guidelines.
Overview of Fiduciaries’ Duties: Monitoring a Service Provider
Thankfully, trustees aren’t expected to know everything involved in operating a trust fund. What they are expected to do is seek out help from knowledgeable and qualified resources. A cadre of outstanding service providers truly is a trustee’s best friend.
This Monitoring a Service Provider post is Part One of our three-part series. Part Two: Hiring a Service Provider and Part Three: Service Providers as Fiduciaries, are coming soon. Read More
Doing Your Fiduciary Duty
Over and over during your time as a trustee you will hear about needing to act in accordance with your “fiduciary duty.” Instinctively, you probably understand that this duty obligates you to act with good intentions and not in your own self interest. However, more than good intentions are required of trustees in order for them to meet their basic fiduciary duty.
Most of the trust funds in our industry are subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended, (“ERISA”). Those not can still be well guided by the fiduciary responsibilities set forth in ERISA. These responsibilities include:
Latest News Brief
- Extension of Amortization Periods for Multiemployer Plans
- EBSA Semi-Annual Regulatory Agenda for 2011
- FAQ Released on Affordable Care Act and Mental Health Parity
- Fee Disclosure Rules for Defined Contribution Plans
- ACA's Small Business Tax Credit Available to Employers Contributing to Certain Multiemployer Plans
Welcome to the Trustee Advisor Blog
Why would anyone want to be a trustee? Perhaps you were roped in to it. Maybe no one else stepped up to the plate. Or, perhaps you’re doing a favor for your chapter exec. That’s a question we won’t be tackling in the Trustee Advisor, SMACNA’s new quarterly newsletter for trustees... Read More