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

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

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

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

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...

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

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

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

DOL Proposes New Electronic Disclosure Rules for Retirement Plans

News

61 Verrill Attorneys Honored as Best Lawyers, 12 as Lawyers of the Year

(September 3, 2019) – More than 60 Verrill attorneys were once again recognized as "Best Lawyers" by Best Lawyers® 2020 . In addition, 12 attorneys from the firm were named "Lawyer of the Year,"...

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...