a natural progression from Mr. Saakvitne's more than 35 years experience
in pension law, now virtually all of his practice consists of serving as
Trustee, Plan Administrator, or Independent Fiduciary in plan
terminations, ESOPs and other special ERISA plan situations, to assist
in managing plan assets and overseeing the operation of ongoing
plans. Often this involves close coordination with a governmental
investigation of the plan by the U.S. Department of Labor, the
Internal Revenue Service, or the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
(PBGC). Frequently his task is to accomplish the distribution
of plan assets following the sale or dissolution of the plan sponsor.
Coordinating plan terminations includes the responsibility to
locate missing participants. Mr. Saakvitne has served as Special
Trustee/Independent Fiduciary for purposes of obtaining Department
of Labor Prohibited Transaction Exemptions. He acts as Trustee
Fiduciary/Administrator of Rabbi Trusts, to oversee
the provision of non-qualified plan benefits.
with employer stock (such as ESOPs) present special fiduciary
challenges. Mr. Saakvitne serves as Trustee for more than
50 ESOPs, including many for which as independent fiduciary
he negotiated the ESOP's sale of its stock or company assets, and the ESOPs are
now liquidating. Following the sale, Mr. Saakvitne generally
meets with plan participants to explain the timing and mechanics
of ESOP distributions (particularly if an escrow or earn-out
agreement results in staggered distributions to participants). He is a professional member of
Bankruptcy Courts have approved Mr. Saakvitne's appointment by
Bankruptcy Trustees as Plan Trustee and Plan Administrator on
numerous occasions to oversee the termination of bankrupt plan
sponsors' retirement plans; on other occasions, he has been appointed
by U.S. District Court order, state court order, or as part of a settlement agreement
including the U.S. Department of Labor, or by a financial institution
Trustee. Most frequently, however, he is appointed by Board of
Directors' action, often at the time the plan sponsor ceases
Saakvitne has also served as Independent Fiduciary for Prohibited
Transaction Class Exemption 2003-39 review to evaluate the reasonableness
of ERISA litigation settlements, and/or to revive plans to
coordinate the distribution of settlement proceeds, and for other special ERISA-related
projects and transactions.
one significant ongoing appointment beginning in 1997, a U.S. District Court appointed
Mr. Saakvitne the Plan Administrator and independent named fiduciary
of a large 501(c)(9) trust, and he engaged a preeminent Los Angeles
law firm and a large bank's trust department to resolve the trust's
problems. In the case of very large plans, he works with separate
pension counsel; in smaller matters, the firm provides the plan
with ERISA legal advice as well to control costs.
Saakvitne was appointed Trustee and Plan Administrator in 2000
for a multi-employer pension plan with several thousand
participants; that plan has exhausted its assets and is
continuing to operate with PBGC financial assistance.
He recovered mass withdrawal liability assessments against a
number of participating employers; and he supervised investment professionals and administrators as well
as independent legal counsel
states in addressing that plan's needs.
In early 2005 he was
appointed Trustee and Plan Administrator of another
multi-employer pension plan, with 700 participants, which also
is receiving PBGC financial assistance.
another unique project, he served as Trustee for the retirement
plans of a Hawaiian art gallery; the law firm received a ship's container
full of art work for the plans when the gallery closed its doors,
and the firm's administrator, Steven E. Rosebaugh, coordinated
the sale of that art work on behalf of the plans over an extended
period of time (establishing a dba of "Pension Liquidators"
for the purpose). In that case, the U.S. Department of Justice
ultimately obtained criminal convictions against the plan's former
fiduciaries for transferring most of the plan assets to the plan
law firm established the Saakvitne ERISA Group Trust, a tax-exempt
investment fund with a financial institution trustee and investment
manager, to pool and invest under professional management the
assets of smaller plans for which Nick serves as Trustee.