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Pooled Employer Plans (“PEPs”): Putting a little PEP in a 401k retirement plan could help to protect your Portfolio Companies

Set against the backdrop of the continuing wave of ERISA litigation that is being brought against employers who sponsor retirement plans, Pooled Employer Plans (“PEPs”) are emerging in the US retirement plan marketplace as an alternative that may limit employers’ risk of retirement plan-related litigation. There have been over 220 ERISA class action suits filed in connection with retirement plans since 2018, and the top ten ERISA settlements for 2021 alone totaled $840 million in the aggregate. Since ERISA litigation is a serious and relevant concern, many plan sponsors, including private equity sponsors and their portfolio companies, would benefit from evaluating whether a PEP is a viable retirement plan solution for them.

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Bush Tax Bill Reduces Tax on Dividends by 61% Creating Opportunity for Private Equity Firms


Time to Read: 1 minutes Practices: Private Equity

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The Tax Bill just passed by Congress creates an opportunity for private equity firms to increase the IRR from portfolio investments. The Tax Bill:

  • Reduces the maximum federal individual income tax rates for 2003 through 2010 from 38.6% to 35% (a 9.3% reduction)
  • Reduces the federal income tax rate on long-term capital gains for sales after May 6, 2003 through Dec. 31, 2008 from 20% to 15% (a 25% reduction), and
  • Reduces the maximum federal income tax rates on most dividends from corporations received after Jan. 1, 2003 through Dec. 31, 2008 from 38.6% to 15% (a 61% reduction).

This reduction of the tax rate on dividends to the same rate as long-term capital gains creates a unique opportunity for private equity firms to increase the IRR generated from portfolio investments. Generally, because of the time value of money, the sooner money is returned to investors, the greater the IRR on a particular investment. Because the tax rate on dividends is now equal to the tax rate on capital gains, there is no tax reason for portfolio companies to retain excess cash until a realization event so that private equity funds receive the benefits of long-term capital gains rates. Thus, private equity funds should examine each of their portfolio companies to see whether it is advisable to dividend excess cash or to effect a leveraged recapitalization and distribute the excess cash as a dividend to shareholders.

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To discuss this opportunity further, please call or email your regular Ropes & Gray attorney.

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