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

SECURE Act: Change to RMD Trigger Age Should Trigger Your Attention Now

As summarized in our January 7 Client Advisory , the SECURE Act includes many changes that affect the design and administration of retirement plans. One of those changes is the increase to the trigger...

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

Paying Health Insurance Premiums for Furloughed or Laid Off Employees

Employers of all sizes in nearly every industry have had to lay off or furlough employees in an attempt to deal with the massive business disruptions caused by the spread of COVID-19. Facing this...

Blog

Supreme Court: written disclosures not enough to show actual knowledge in ERISA suits

The United States Supreme Court unanimously decided last week that a plan participant who received written disclosures about the plan’s investments, but does not remember reading them, does not necessarily have “actual knowledge” of...

Blog

What You Need to Know About the SECURE Act

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 a decade. Due to its importance, we...

Blog

Leave Sharing Programs: A Critical Bridge for Employees Affected by COVID-19

The federal government may soon be providing paid leave assistance to employees affected by COVID-19. In the meantime, however, employers that maintain leave sharing programs can leverage those programs to help soften the financial...

Blog

High-deductible health plans can cover coronavirus costs

Recognizing the need to eliminate potential administrative and financial barriers to testing for and treatment of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), in Notice 2020-15 , posted today on IRS.gov, the IRS advised that high-deductible...

Blog

Supreme Court – Updates for 2020

We are barely two months into the new year and already there are significant updates to the 2020 Supreme Court Preview included in our December 2019 Client Advisory (available here ). Below are updates...

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

Congress Passes Emergency Paid Leave Laws in Response to Coronavirus Pandemic

On March 18, Congress passed and the President signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act , a temporary measure designed to increase the availability of paid leave during a time when many...