Biography

Karen partners with employers of all sizes on a broad range of employee benefit plan design, drafting, implementation, and operational matters.

Karen's practice focuses on advising clients on their group health benefits, including cafeteria plans, self-insured plans, consumer-directed/HDHPs, HRAs, and HSAs, and providing guidance on HIPAA, COBRA, and Affordable Care Act (ACA) compliance. She also has significant experience working with defined contribution and defined benefit pension plans, with particular experience in de-risking plans, terminating plans, filing voluntary correction submissions with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Department of Labor, handling benefit claim disputes, and drafting and reviewing QDROs.

Employers turn to Karen for creative and straightforward solutions to complex issues surrounding retirement plans, health care benefits, and taxation. They rely on her to explain all the possible strategies and solutions in clear terms, and to organize a step-by-step plan of action. Her diligent, thoughtful approach assures clients that, together, they can successfully steer through any challenge and reach a beneficial resolution.

Karen's representative matters include:

  • Terminating multiple defined benefit pension plans for a client, and navigating the almost two-year, highly government-regulated process—from seeking agency approvals to making distributions to participants—of removing millions of dollars of volatile retirement liability from the company's books
  • Harmonizing the health and welfare benefit offerings of two large companies following their merger, including rewriting plan documents and employee communications
  • Assisting a client in adding employer stock as an investment offering under its 401(k) plan, which involved amending the plan document and expanding the plan's summary plan description to comply with ERISA, the Internal Revenue Code, and Securities and Exchange Act regulations; and providing education and advice on the fiduciary implications of holding company stock in an ERISA-governed plan
  • Responding to the Internal Revenue Service's proposed six-to-seven-figure penalty assessments under the employer shared responsibility provisions of the ACA for multiple clients and negotiating for significantly reduced to no penalty
  • Submitting a voluntary correction application to the IRS on behalf of a client that mistakenly excluded certain groups of employees from its qualified retirement plan; Karen's rapid response permitted the client to significantly reduce the amount of corrective contributions it was required to make, while protecting its plan's tax-qualified status for the future

Karen currently serves on the firm's Diversity Committee and is the immediate past Chairperson of the Associate Development Committee.

A native Mainer, Karen thoroughly enjoys the outdoors through all seasons with her husband, two boys, and a very energetic soft coated wheaten terrier.

Services/Industries

Education

  • University of Maine School of Law  (J.D., cum laude)
    • Editor, Maine Law Review
  • Wesleyan University  (B.A.)

Bar Admissions

  • Maine

Memberships

  • Maine State Bar Association
  • Maine Employee Benefits Council
  • New England Employee Benefits Council

Honors

  • AV® rated by Martindale-Hubbell
  • Listed in The Best Lawyers in America© for Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law in Portland, Maine
  • Selected by peers for inclusion in New England Rising Stars© under Employee Benefits

To learn more about third-party ratings and rankings, and the selection processes used for inclusion, click here.

Firm Highlights

Blog

How many participants is too many for a top hat plan?

A client recently reviewed a census of participants in its deferred compensation plan and found that the covered group amounted to nearly 15% of its total workforce. Mindful of the need to limit the...

News

Verrill Appoints Karen Hartford as Firm’s New Diversity & Inclusion Committee Chair

Blog

Deciphering First Circuit’s Thirty-page Primer on NQTL Analysis and ERISA Information Requests

The widely publicized 2022 Report to Congress regarding the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (“Parity Act”) forewarned greater enforcement efforts by the Department of Labor and highlighted suspected deficiencies in health plans&rsquo...

Publication/Podcast

Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation 2021 Summer Client Advisory

Click here to view as a PDF. This Client Advisory summarizes developments in the law governing employee benefit plans prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We explain what these developments mean for plan sponsors and...

Blog

Correcting 401(k) Plan Excess Elective Deferrals

With the April 15 deadline for distributing excess elective deferrals fast approaching, this post summarizes the rules for correcting excess elective deferrals made to a 401(k) plan. In brief, excess elective deferrals not distributed...

Publication/Podcast

2021 Year End Employee Benefit Plan Amendments

Health and Welfare Plans Employers that made available COVID-19 relief and benefit enhancements in 2020 – such as the increased carry over limit and extended grace period for health flexible spending accounts – need...

Blog

Proposed IRS Regulations Clarify SECURE Act Changes to RMD Rules for Beneficiaries

When the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Security Act of 2019 (SECURE Act) took effect on January 1, 2020, it changed the rules for retirement plan required minimum distributions (RMDs) to participants and...

Blog

DOL Signals Heightened Enforcement of Non-Quantitative Treatment Limitation Requirements

Introduction . When the U.S. Department of Labor issued its biennial 2022 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (“MHPAEA”) Report to Congress earlier this year, it outlined significant noncompliance by health plans. (Full...

Blog

Surprise Medical Bills: Texas District Court Vacates Portion of Independent Dispute Resolution (IDR) Process in Agency Rule

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas recently vacated a portion of the Requirements Related to Surprise Billing, Part II, Interim Final Rule (the “Rule”) regarding the independent dispute resolution (IDR...

Blog

How to Shoot Yourself in the Foot with Your SPD

Benefit plan sponsors sometimes send out Summary Plan Descriptions (SPDs) having given too little thought to the legal consequences. Two recent cases illustrate how an organization can end up in serious and costly litigation...

Contact Verrill at (855) 307 0700