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

Publication/Podcast

Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation 2020 Year-End Client Advisory

Click here to view as a PDF . This Client Advisory highlights important developments in the law governing employee benefit plans over the past year. It offers insight into what these developments mean for...

Blog

Reporting Deferred Compensation on Form 990

Tax-exempt organizations often provide deferred compensation to their officers, key employees, and most highly compensated employees. Like current compensation payable to such employees, deferred compensation must be reported annually on Form 990, Schedule J...

Blog

Identifying Plan Assets in ERISA Health & Welfare Plans

Last month, we advised readers of this blog to consider efforts to formalize the fiduciary governance of their health and welfare benefit plans. In that post , we described some of the reasons that...

Blog

ESG Ping-Pong®

The recent regulatory back-and-forth over the investment of ERISA-governed retirement plan assets based on environmental, social, and corporate governance (“ESG”) factors has demonstrated that ESG investing will remain under an intense spotlight for some...

Blog

DOL Guidance on Missing Pension Plan Participants - Part II

On January 18, we published a blog post regarding new Department of Labor (“DOL”) guidance on missing plan participants. That post is available here , and describes the DOL’s guidance on Missing Participants...

Blog

Partial Plan Terminations – An Update

In our April 2020 post , we detailed how employee layoffs can cause a qualified retirement plan to undergo a “partial termination,” resulting in required 100% vesting of the affected employees’ benefits. As 2020...

Blog

IRS Notice 2021-15 Provides Clarity Regarding FSA Relief Available Under Consolidated Appropriations Act

Section 214 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (CAA) provides a substantial amount of flexibility for the operation of health and dependent care Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs). The CAA did, however, leave many open...

Blog

Webinar: The Effect of COVID-19 on Employee Benefit Plans – Making Sense of the Abundance of New Legislation and Guidance

Join us on Thursday, March 18 for the next segment in the virtual series that comprises Verrill’s 2021 Employment Law Annual Update! For this segment, employee benefits attorneys Karen Hartford, Bill Jewett, and Chris...

Blog

Establish an Administrative Committee for Your ERISA Health and Welfare Benefit Plans

The fiduciary standards of ERISA apply to all employee benefit plans that are subject to Title I of ERISA. The duty of loyalty, the duty of prudence, and the duty to administer a plan...

Blog

Order of Benefit Deductions from Employee Pay

From time to time we field questions about the order in which deductions for various employee benefits ( e.g. , 401(k) plan elective deferrals and insurance premiums for welfare benefit plan benefits) should be...

Contact Verrill at (855) 307 0700