It is our pleasure to report to the Employee Benefits Committee that the 2019 Midwinter Meeting, held February 6-9 in Nashville, Tennessee, was a great success. Two hundred forty-four employee benefits attorneys from across the country participated in the Midwinter Meeting this year. Our program began Wednesday evening with an opportunity for old and new friends and colleagues to get together during a wonderful reception. Our first day of programming opened Thursday morning with the deservedly popular “Top Ten Employee Benefits Topics…. A Mile High View of What Happened…in the Benefits World” in 2018, which touched on preemption and state PBM regulation, loss causation in fiduciary matters and post-Tackett retiree health litigation, among other subjects. We also were delighted to hear from Assistant Secretary of Labor Preston Rutledge on Thursday, and to explore ERISA, arbitration and the effect of the Epic Systems decision.
On Friday the well-planned programming continued with a panel explaining “What ERISA Practitioners Need to Know About Accounting for Plans,” followed by a discussion of engagement letters in benefits matters by the always-excellent Ethics panel, and valuable breakout sessions, which explored, among other topics, issues in sharing plan expenses with plan sponsors or other parties in interest, fiduciary issues in alternative investments and outsourcing, and a fiduciary litigation update. As always, the Midwinter Meeting provided unique opportunities for networking with members of all affiliations -- plaintiff, management, union and public.
So it’s no wonder, as Labor Employment Law Section Chair Joe Tilson noted in his brief remarks on Friday, that our Midwinter Meeting continues to be one of the best-attended Committee meetings in the Section. We thank the Programming Committee for its tireless and excellent work. The Committee was expertly led, again, by Mary Ellen Signorille, and did an amazing job putting our program together.
In addition to the programming, there were a number of terrific events and accomplishments throughout the weekend:
- This year’s EBC’s pro bono project raised $3,860 for the Tennessee Justice Center, doubling the amount raised in 2018. Thank you to everyone who contributed, and particularly to Pro Bono Subcommittee members Marie Casciari and Dinah Leventhal, whose work made possible this outstanding accomplishment.
- The Diversity Committee put on another well-attended and very valuable program over lunch on Thursday, this year featuring A. Faith English, Manager of Diversity and Inclusion at the Lowenstein Sandler firm, whose presentation led to an active and provocative discussion of promoting diversity and inclusion in our varied organizations. Our thanks to Ms. English, to the Diversity Committee for its continuing important work and to event sponsors, Seyfarth Shaw LLP, Trucker Huss APC, and Debofsky, Casciari and Sherman, PC.
- Committee members attended another outstanding Law Student Outreach event in connection with the Midwinter Meeting, this year at Belmont University College of Law in Nashville, to promote the practice of employee benefits law to Belmont students and to share with them the various career paths that led panel members to the field. Thank you to John Harney for coordinating the outreach program and to the several volunteers from our Committee who shared their experiences with the young people who attended.
- The Women’s Lunch (thank you to Proskauer Rose for its continued sponsorship) was, yet again, a smashing success.
It also is a great pleasure to mark the publication in late 2018 of the Winter 2018 Cumulative Supplement to Employee Benefits Law’s Fourth Edition, published by Bloomberg BNA. Congratulations and thanks to the dozens of Committee members who wrote and edited each chapter, and particularly to Editor-In-Chief Ivelisse Berio LeBeau, and her Co-Chairs Erin Riley and Ian Morrison, for their collective accomplishment. As always, we encourage all of you to contribute (or to continue to contribute) to the Employee Benefits Law treatise, the Committee’s crown jewel, as you all are well-aware. This terrific resource would not exist without the efforts of volunteers like all of you, and Committee members over many years have contributed to and benefitted from this tremendous resource. If you are not involved already, further resistance is futile: Contact one or more of us to get involved, and we will be certain to connect you with the right people.
Looking ahead, it’s not too late to sign up for the JCEB ERISA Basics National Institute, to be held June 5-7 in Washington, DC. We encourage you to send your new attorneys, and look forward to seeing many of you there. “Basics” is making its first DC appearance in a number of years, and we expect an excellent turnout and conference.
We hope to see you all throughout the year and, of course, at the next Employee Benefits Committee Midwinter Meeting, in Palm Springs, California, February 5-8, 2020.