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 ACA compliance. She also has significant experience working with defined contribution and defined benefit pension plans, with particular experience de-risking plans, terminating plans, filing voluntary correction submissions with the IRS and DOL, handling benefit claim disputes, and drafting and reviewing QDROs.

Employers turn to Karen for creative and straight forward solutions to complex issues surrounding retirement plans, healthcare benefits, and taxation. They rely on her to explain all the possible strategies and solutions in clear terms, and to organize a clear, 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.

Some of 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—removing millions of dollars of volatile retirement liability from the company 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 Affordable Care Act for multiple clients and negotiating for significantly reduced to no penalty.
  • Submitting a voluntary correction application to the Internal Revenue Service on behalf of a client who 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 Preeminent Rated by Martindale-Hubbell
  • Listed in The Best Lawyers in America© under Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law
  • 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

Form 1094 and Form 1095 Reporting for Expatriate Employees

Every IRS Form 1094/1095 filing season (roughly January and February of each year), we receive questions on reporting for expatriate employees.  The most common questions: do we need to furnish a Form to expat...

Blog

Revenue Procedure 2019-19: Enhancements to EPCRS are Great News for Plan Sponsors

Newly published  Revenue Procedure 2019-19  modifies and supersedes prior IRS guidance regarding the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (EPCRS) to allow plan sponsors to self-correct an expanded number of problems that may affect retirement...

Blog

UPDATED: Summer Break - Massachusetts Employers Get Extension on Paid Family and Medical Leave Implementation

UPDATE:  The Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave announced that along with the start of contributions being delayed from July 1, 2019 to October 1, 2019, the following aspects of the program are...

Blog

Handling Missing Participants under Code Section 409A

Deferred compensation payments are due to one of your former executives, but the former executive is nowhere to be found. You know that the IRS has strict timing rules for payments subject to Code...

Blog

403(b) Plans Must Comply with the “Once In, Always In” Rule This Year

Tax-exempt employers whose 403(b) plans have failed to comply with the “once in, always in” eligibility rule in the past should be well on their way to compliance by now.   IRS Notice 2018-95  granted...

Blog

Plan Sponsors: You Should Have a Model QDRO

ERISA Section 206(d)(3)(G)(ii) requires sponsors of qualified retirement plans to maintain written procedures for the administration of qualified domestic relations orders (“QDROs”), and the plan administrator has an obligation to ensure that a domestic...

Blog

Who is a Highly Compensated Employee?

Identifying an employer’s highly compensated employees is crucial to the administration of qualified retirement plans, as well as 403(b) plans that provide employer contributions.  This post provides an overview of the rules for determining...

Blog

Recap of Change to Retirement Plan Rollover Rules for Plan Loan Offsets

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (“2017 Tax Act”) includes a provision that changed the rollover rules for certain plan loan offset distributions and that may not be well known to retirement...

Publication/Podcast

December 2018 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...

Blog

IRS Guidance Regarding the Section 4960 Excise Tax Is (Somewhat) Helpful

IRS Notice 2019-09  provides guidance intended to help “applicable tax-exempt employers” determine whether compensation paid to their most highly compensated employees will be subject to the 21 percent excise tax imposed under Code Section...