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

News

Verrill Named ‘Ceiling Smasher’ in Law360 Pulse’s 2022 Glass Ceiling Report: Women in Law

News

77 Verrill Attorneys Recognized by Best Lawyers® 2023, Including Six Named Lawyers of the Year

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...

Publication/Podcast

Amending Your Retirement Plans this Year for SECURE Act and CARES Act Changes

This post was updated on September 29, 2022. On August 3, 2022, the IRS extended the deadline for retirement plan sponsors to adopt amendments necessary to comply with the Setting Every Community Up for...

Blog

Amending Your Retirement Plans this Year for SECURE Act and CARES Act Changes

This post was updated on September 29, 2022. On August 3, 2022, the IRS extended the deadline for retirement plan sponsors to adopt amendments necessary to comply with the Setting Every Community Up for...

Matter

Advised Fortune 500 Company on Group Health and Welfare Benefit Plans

We were engaged by a Fortune 500 manufacturing company to provide legal and compliance services regarding its group health and welfare benefit plans. During the course of our representation, we have advised the company...

Blog

2025 Is the New 2022: IRS Extends Deadline to Adopt SECURE Act Amendments and CARES Act Waiver of 2020 RMDs Amendment

This post was updated on September 27, 2022. On August 3, 2022, the IRS released Notice 2022-33 , which extends the deadline for plans to adopt: all SECURE Act [1] amendments, optional or required...

Blog

Proposed Changes to Massachusetts Paid Family & Medical Leave Regulations

The Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave has proposed changes to the regulations governing the state’s paid family and medical leave program. The proposed changes are intended to clarify the requirements related to...

News

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

Blog

The How and When of Separations from Service Under Section 409A

Readers who regularly work with deferred compensation plans will know that Section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code (“Section 409A”) prescribes six events or times at which deferred compensation may be distributed to participants...

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