Carol Buckmann

Carol Buckmann

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP

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Latest Publications


De-Risking At Risk? Lawmakers Urge Changes

Plan sponsors such as Ford, General Motors and more recently, Motorola, have made headlines for implementing strategies to remove liabilities from their balance sheets by cashing out participants and transferring their...more

10/30/2014 - Benefit Plan Sponsors Compliance DOL Employee Benefits Employer Liability Issues ERISA Ford General Motors Motorola PBGC Risk Management Third-Party Agents

IRS Simplifies Rules for Participants in Canadian Plans – Or Does it?

Under the US-Canada Income Tax Treaty, U.S. taxpayers who participate in Canadian registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) and registered retirement income funds (RRIFs) (the Canadian Plans) are not required to pay tax on...more

10/24/2014 - Canada Retirement Plan Tax Deferral Tax Treaty

401(k) Plans and the Free Market: Is Your Vendor Ever a Fiduciary?

The Department of Labor and plaintiffs class action lawyers have been urging the courts to find that 401(k) vendors are fiduciaries when they design investment platforms or have contract provisions permitting them to adjust...more

10/7/2014 - 401k Beneficiaries Employee Benefits Pensions Vendors

The Ambushed Fiduciary: Does Authority over a Corporate Account Cross the Line?

Corporate officers can wear two hats under ERISA: the corporate officer hat or the ERISA fiduciary hat. Actions taken wearing the corporate officer hat are traditionally not fiduciary functions. The courts recognize...more

9/17/2014 - Benefit Plan Sponsors Corporate Officers Employee Benefits Employer Contributions ERISA Fiduciary Duty Fiduciary Liability

The Reckless Fiduciary: When Are Imprudent U.S. Fiduciaries Liable For Plan Losses?

“A pure heart and an empty head are not enough.” This is a quote from an early case defining the scope of ERISA fiduciary liability. However, ERISA has always made fiduciaries responsible only for losses caused by their...more

8/14/2014 - Benefit Plan Sponsors Breach of Duty ERISA Fiduciary Duty Fiduciary Liability

Are You Selling Or Downsizing A U.S. Business? Plant Closing Liability Relief May Be Coming

A long overlooked and long unenforced provision of ERISA sometimes referred to as the “plant closing rule” has caused a stir in recent years as the U.S. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) began aggressively pursuing...more

8/6/2014 - Canada Cross-Border Employee Benefits ERISA PBGC Pensions

The Mistaken Fiduciary: Can You Correct Overpayments to U.S. Retirees?

Even the best run pension plans occasionally pay retirees the wrong amount due to errors in employee classification, or calculating participant service or compensation. Correcting underpayments is easy enough – though it is...more

7/8/2014 - Overpayment Pensions Retirement Retirement Plan

The Inadvertent Fiduciary: Mass Mutual Crosses The Line

Plan fiduciaries are held to the highest performance standards and can be personally liable for breaches of fiduciary responsibility. Because of this potential liability, there should be clear and rational rules enabling...more

6/17/2014 - Breach of Duty Compliance Fiduciary Duty

De-Risking Your Retiree Pensions? Verizon Court Affirms Plan Sponsor Rights to Shed Obligations

Plan sponsors interested in removing pension liabilities from their balance sheets have been waiting with interest to see the end result of the challenge by Verizon retirees to Verizon’s deal with Prudential annuitizing...more

4/29/2014 - Annuities Benefit Plan Sponsors Employer Liability Issues Prudential Retirement Plan Verizon

The Teflon Fiduciary: Could Your U.S. Adviser Avoid Responsibility For Bad Advice?

Ronald Reagan was referred to years ago as “the Teflon President” because voters never seemed to hold him responsible for his administration’s missteps. A significant decision on fiduciary status has just been issued by the...more

4/3/2014 - Breach of Duty Fiduciary Duty Professional Liability

Your 401(k) Plan and the Shape of the Earth

I used to work with a very smart lawyer who said that he could give a legal opinion that the world was flat if his qualifying language was not limited. In that case, he would have stated something on the order of: this...more

3/5/2014 - 401k Disclosure Requirements DOL ERISA Fees Fiduciary Warranty Retirement Plan

Is Your 401(k) Vendor a Fiduciary? The U.S. Department of Labor Thinks It Is

If you adopted a pre-approved 401(k) plan through an outside vendor such as Fidelity, Vanguard, or one of the large insurance companies, your choices were limited to what your vendor offered. Further, the documents you had to...more


Can You Save Money By De-Risking Your U.S. Defined Benefit Plan?

Do you know how much keeping former employees in your defined benefit plan costs? Mercer’s US Pension Buyout Index for November 2013 reports that as of December 31, 2013, the economic cost of retaining retiree liabilities...more

2/13/2014 - Employee Benefits PBGC Pensions Retirement Plan Risk Management

PBGC Finds Deep Pocket in Japan: U.S. Court Finds Parent Liable for Termination Underfunding

As the U.S. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) faces increasing strain on the pension insurance program it runs, it has become more aggressive in pursuing deep pockets after underfunded defined benefit plans are...more

10/25/2013 - Employee Benefits Funding Japan PBGC Pensions

Another Participant Challenge to Defined Benefit Plan Investments: Could Your Plan Defend its Investment Program?

The focus of U.S. litigation challenging plan investments has been 401(k) plans, but that may be changing. Defined benefit plan sponsors may have felt that they were immune to these types of claims because the funding rules...more

10/7/2013 - 401k Benefit Plan Sponsors Employee Benefits ERISA Retirement Plan

IRS Clarifies Some Same-Sex Marriage Issues, But Leaves Retroactive Employee Plan Relief Open

Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the central provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) defining marriage as between a man and a woman, employee benefit plan sponsors have been seeking guidance on how to...more

9/11/2013 - 401k DOMA Employee Benefits FMLA IRS Residency Requirements Retirement Plan Same-Sex Marriage SCOTUS

Can a Class of Participants Challenge 401(k) Plan Investments? An Appeals Court Says “Yes”

One participant’s investment losses don’t generate recoveries or legal fees sufficient to interest many plaintiffs’ lawyers in filing suit, so often, a class certification is sought in lawsuits challenging plan investments as...more

9/3/2013 - 401k Breach of Duty Class Action Fiduciary Duty

Canadian (and U.S.) Investment Funds Face New Risk of Pension Liability – What’s Keeping Fund Sponsors up at Night

The Issue: Commonly controlled trades or businesses are jointly and severally liable for pension liabilities under the U.S. Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)....more

8/7/2013 - Benefit Plan Sponsors Canada Employer Liability Issues ERISA Investment Funds Pensions Retirement Plan

New 401(k) Fee Controversy Goes Viral: What Should Fiduciaries Really Be Looking At?

The web was on fire this past week with reports from advisers whose clients had received some very unusual letters from a Yale law professor who doesn’t teach an ERISA course....more

7/25/2013 - 401k DOL ERISA Fees Fiduciary Duty

Right from the Source: IRS Guidance for U.S. Plan Sponsors on Fixing Mistakes and Surviving IRS Employee Plan Audits

Those of you who participated in our July 16 webinar on plan fix-it programs heard us emphasize the importance of self-audits and internal controls to increase your chances of coming out clean in an employee plan audit....more

7/23/2013 - Audits Benefit Plan Sponsors Compliance Employer Group Health Plans Internal Controls IRS Self-Disclosure Requirements Self-Reporting

U.S. Employee Benefit Plans Must Comply with Supreme Court’s DOMA Decision: What to Do Now and What Is Still Undecided

When the United States Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) provision defining marriage under federal law as between a man and a woman, the decision had broad implications for U.S. employee benefit...more

7/9/2013 - 401k Civil Unions DOMA Domestic Partnership Employee Benefits ERISA Health Insurance Healthcare HIPAA Marriage Retroactive Application Same-Sex Marriage SCOTUS Title VII US v Windsor

Verizon De-Risking Challenge Dismissed – Maybe Not Ended

U.S. defined benefit plan sponsors have been eager to explore de-risking options to control asset volatility and remove pension liabilities from their balance sheets. A report jointly issued on June 25 by the consulting firm...more

7/2/2013 - Annuities De-Risking Defined Benefit Plans ERISA Pensions

DOMA’S Demise Has Broad Impact on U.S. Benefit Plans: Prepare for new claims and practices

When you heard about the invalidation of the part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that defined marriage as between a man and a woman by the United States Supreme Court, you probably thought: “Now my plan is going to...more

6/29/2013 - Benefit Plan Sponsors COBRA Death Benefits DOMA Equal Protection Income Taxes IRA Rollovers Retirement Plan Same-Sex Marriage SCOTUS US v Windsor

U.S. Plan Audit Activity is on the Rise – How to Lower Your Risk

Does your 401(k) plan pay higher than average fees? Do you have more than one qualified plan? A number of recent reports indicate why you may receive special scrutiny if your plan is selected for audit or...more

5/23/2013 - 401k Audits Benefit Plan Sponsors DOL Fees IRS Qualified Benefit Plans

President Obama’s Pension Cap: Who Would Really Be Affected?

The President’s recent budget proposal would impose a new cap on tax-favored retirement benefits. Annual contributions and accruals under tax-favored plans are already limited, but this would be a complex new limit...more

5/8/2013 - 401k Barack Obama Federal Budget IRA Retirement Plan

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