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New DOL Final Regulations on Multiple Employer Plans: Determining Which Employers Can Sponsor MEPs Under ERISA

Association-Run Retirement Plans, PEOs, ERISA, and IRS Limitations; FAB 2019-01 Transition Relief; Fiduciary Duties; Working Owners

Recording of a 90-minute premium CLE webinar with Q&A

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Conducted on Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Recorded event now available

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This CLE course will provide ERISA counsel, plan sponsors, and administrators guidance on the Department of Labor's recent final regulations on multiple employer plans (MEPs). The panel will discuss key provisions in the final regulations and their impact on small and mid-size employers; factors in determining which bona fide groups, associations, or professional employer organizations (PEOs) can sponsor MEPs; practical methods in avoiding MEP compliance pitfalls; and navigating ERISA and IRS rules and limitations.


On July 29, 2019, the DOL issued final regulations establishing association retirement plans. The regulations provide a host of conditions applicable to any group or association seeking to participate or sponsor MEPs. ERISA counsel must have a complete understanding of the rules, structure, and compliance challenges of MEPs under the new regulations to effectively advise employers.

The rules are in response to a 2018 executive order requiring the DOL and IRS to consider policies that would expand the availability of MEPs to small and mid-size employers to provide retirement benefits at manageable costs. However, there are certain limitations under both ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code that must be considered.

Under ERISA, a plan must be established and maintained by an "employer" defined as "any person acting directly as an employer, or indirectly in the interest of an employer, in relation to an employee benefit plan; and includes a group or association of employers acting for an employer in such capacity." The final regulations provide some clarity on determining who is an "employer" and what it means to be "acting directly as an employer" for purposes of MEPs.

In addition, the 2018 executive order also directed the IRS to issue regulations addressing the consequences to the tax-qualified status of an MEP if an employer fails to meet the tax qualification requirements under the Internal Revenue Code. In response to this "one bad apple rule," the IRS issued proposed regulations with the intent to provide an exception that would not terminate the tax-qualified status of an MEP under certain circumstances.

Listen as our distinguished panel discusses the key provisions of the DOL final regulations, the ERISA and IRS rules and limitations, and effective methods to avoid compliance pitfalls.



  1. Background on MEPs and applicable regulations
  2. New DOL final rules
  3. ERISA and IRS rules and limitations
  4. Key compliance challenges and methods to overcome them


The panel will review these and other related issues:

  • What impact do the DOL final regulations on MEPs have on small and mid-size employers and the self-employed?
  • What employers are allowed to sponsor multiple employer plans under the DOL final regulations?
  • What factors determine a "bona fide group" or "association" under the new rules?
  • How do the final regulations apply to PEOs and what are the risks in using them?
  • What compliance challenges can arise in the implementation and administration of MEPs, and what are the methods to overcome them?


Levine, David
David N. Levine

Groom Law Group

Mr. Levine advises plan sponsors, advisors, and other service providers on a wide range of employee benefits matters,...  |  Read More

Carrasco, Lisa
Lisa Rhein Carrasco

Smith, Gambrell & Russell

Ms. Carrasco is a Partner in the Executive Compensation and Employee Benefits Practice of Smith, Gambrell &...  |  Read More

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