Pension De-Risking for Employee Benefit Sponsors: Avoiding Litigation and Enforcement Action

Designing and Implementing a Strategy to Minimize Risk and Ensure ERISA Compliance

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

Conducted on Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Recorded event now available

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Course Materials

This CLE course will provide benefits counsel with a review of pension de-risking approaches companies can use to reduce some of the risks involved with employee retirement benefits and keep retirement plans adequately funded. The panel will offer best practices for leveraging the precautions to prevent ERISA fiduciary law violations when making transfers.


New mortality tables, volatile interest rates and market conditions, and increased PBGC premiums may make pension de-risking an attractive option for benefit plan sponsors. Opting to transfer some or all of a sponsor’s plan risk may make sense for many companies.

De-risking approaches can take many forms, from transferring company obligations to third parties, to offering payouts to plan participants, to undertaking liability-driven investing and other strategies. Counsel and companies must tread carefully to avoid ERISA-based litigation or regulatory inquiries.

Prudent de-risking requires thorough financial analysis and clear demonstrations that ERISA fiduciary standards are met. Counsel should guide companies on how to establish the reasonableness of decisions and prepare to defend against possible court challenges.

Listen as our panel of experienced employee benefit practitioners provides guidance on precautions for companies undertaking transfers of pension plan obligations to third parties or other de-risking options. The panel will outline best practices for assembling a thorough financial review, complying with ERISA requirements, and responding to potential legal challenges from plan participants.



  1. De-risking overview
    1. Current trends
    2. Different approaches
      1. Transfers to third parties
      2. Lump sum payouts for participants
      3. Investment strategies
  2. Procedural prudence and meeting ERISA fiduciary requirements
    1. Prudence
    2. Care
    3. Loyalty
  3. Potential challenges from plan participants
    1. Grounds for challenges
    2. Likelihood of success


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • How can pension providers demonstrate they have met their ERISA standards of prudence, care and loyalty to plan participants?
  • What steps should be taken in preparation for termination of a pension plan?
  • What are the grounds for the various challenges to de-risking approaches and what are the steps that can be taken to mitigate this risk?


Maureen J. Gorman
Maureen J. Gorman

Mayer Brown

Ms. Gorman’s practice focuses on executive compensation and employee benefits matters. Her work includes advising...  |  Read More

David Hartman
David Hartman
Vice President and General Counsel
General Motors Asset Management

Mr. Hartman is general counsel to a wholly owned subsidiary of General Motors Company that serves as investment...  |  Read More

Dr. Susan Mangiero
Dr. Susan Mangiero

Fiduciary Leadership

Dr. Mangiero has provided testimony before the ERISA Advisory Council, the OECD and the International Organization...  |  Read More

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