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

A Chronology of COVID-19 Relief for ERISA Plans

This chronology traces the major ongoing relief provided by legislation, regulatory action, and other agency guidance to assist ERISA plan participants, fiduciaries, and sponsors during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic through August 10, 2020. Superseded...

Publication/Podcast

The SECURE Act

Click here to view as a PDF. The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (the “SECURE Act”) is the most far reaching new law affecting retirement benefits in more than...

Blog

401(k) Plan Sponsors – Time to Focus on Compliance with the SECURE Act’s Eligibility and Vesting Rules for Long-Term, Part-Time Employees

As noted in our January 7, 2020 Client Advisory , the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (the “SECURE Act”) requires 401(k) plans to allow certain long-term, part-time employees to...

Blog

Proposed Regulations Clarify Application of Excise Tax under Code Section 4960

Proposed Regulations published by the Treasury Department last month provide helpful clarifications regarding the application of the excise tax under Section 4960 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the “Code”). The...

Blog

DOL Proposed Regulation Highlights the Risks of ESG Investing for ERISA Fiduciaries

On June 23, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued a proposed regulation outlining the duties of an ERISA fiduciary when considering an investment that incorporates environmental, social, and corporate governance (“ESG”) factors...

Publication/Podcast

December 2019 Client Advisory

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

Blog

Allocation of Medical Loss Ratio Rebates and Premium Refunds

One consequence of the current COVID-19 crisis for group health plans has been the significant reduction in employee preventive care and elective medical procedures as people shelter in place and socially distance. When group...

News

Nearly 80 Verrill Attorneys Recognized by Best Lawyers® 2021, Including a Dozen Named Lawyers of the Year

(August 24, 2020) – Nearly 80 Verrill attorneys were recognized as "Best Lawyers" by Best Lawyers® 2021 , including 12 attorneys named “Lawyer of the Year,” a distinguished recognition for only a single lawyer...

Blog

ERISA and COBRA Implications for EAPs and Wellness Programs

There is a growing trend for employers to provide employee assistance programs (“EAPs”) and wellness programs for the benefit of their employees. Typically, the employer pays for benefits under these programs out of its...

Blog

IRS Allows Tax-Advantaged Leave Donation to COVID-19 Relief Organizations

Under new guidance, the IRS will give favorable tax treatment to employees who donate leave to COVID-19 relief organizations. In IRS Notice 2020-46 , the agency announced that employees who donate paid leave for...