April 20, 2021

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Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) Coverage May No Longer Apply to Puerto Rico- Only Qualified Retirement Plans

Employers that sponsor defined benefit qualified retirement plans benefiting only Puerto Rico employees should be aware that Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) coverage may no longer apply. Last year, the PBGC withdrew old prior opinion letters (Opinion Letters 77-172 and 85-19) regarding PBGC coverage in Puerto Rico and Guam. Those opinion letters articulated the PBGC’s position at that time, that Title IV of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) (providing for PBGC coverage), may apply to defined benefit plans covering only Puerto Rico participants if the Puerto Rico plan is either qualified under Section 401(a) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code or has been operated in practice in accordance with the requirements of Section 401(a) for at least the five preceding years. Earlier this year, in remarks made at an enrolled actuaries meeting, PBGC officials stated that, going forward, PBGC will determine that a plan is not covered under Title IV of ERISA if (1) the plan’s trust is created or organized outside of the United States (e.g., Puerto Rico) and (2) no election under ERISA section 1022(i)(2) has been made. As a result, it appears the new PBGC position is that Puerto Rico-only qualified plans generally are not covered under Title IV of ERISA (although dual-qualified plans with Puerto Rico participants are covered). Since few Puerto Rico plans have made an election under ERISA section 1022(i)(2) due to the strict U.S. laws applicable to such arrangements, this new PBGC position will affect a number of Puerto Rico-only defined benefit plans. PBGC officials also stated that if the PBGC determines that a plan is not covered under Title IV of ERISA, it may refund up to six years of premiums.

Employers with Puerto Rico-only defined benefit plans should consider whether PBGC coverage of their plan is still possible or desired. If not, a refund of PBGC premiums should be sought.

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© 2021 McDermott Will & EmeryNational Law Review, Volume IV, Number 216
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About this Author

Jeffrey M. Holdvogt, Employee Benefits, Executive Compensation, McDermott Will Emery, Law Firm
Partner

Jeffrey M. Holdvogt is a partner in the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery LLP and is based in the Firm’s Chicago office. 

Jeffrey focuses on matters related to employee benefits and executive compensation, including pension, profit sharing, 401(k), ESOPs, welfare and nonqualified deferred compensation plans.   Prior to joining McDermott, Jeffrey served as a law clerk for the Honorable Paul H. Anderson and James H. Gilbert of the Minnesota Supreme Court.

While in law school, he was an...

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