CCI interviews Laurie Duchateau of Buck, an integrated HR and benefits consulting, administration, and technology services provider. Laurie discusses her start in compliance and what needs Buck is meeting in the ever-evolving benefits compliance space.
Corporate Compliance Insights: How did you get started on a career in compliance?
Laurie Ducheateau: I started my career as an employee benefits attorney in private legal practice. As a first-year attorney, I found the work challenging and interesting, but I was unaware that this choice would lead me down a career path with compliance at its core. Employee benefits is all about compliance, legal, statutory, regulatory, etc. I believe the keystone of any good employee benefit program is compliance.
CCI: Who helped shape your views?
LD: Time, experience and my legal mentors have been instrumental in shaping my views on compliance. I have come to realize that by viewing employee benefits and HR compliance through a practical and solutions-based lens, we are able to assist clients with the development of meaningful benefit programs while allowing them to sleep at night. The complexities, uncertainties and detail surrounding employee benefit compliance is ever evolving, making solutions-based compliance even more important.
CC: How do you stay current on ethics and compliance issues?
LD: Staying current in compliance is a core component of Buck’s Knowledge Resource Center, as is keeping current on employee benefit and HR compliance issues, so I have resources available to me daily. Our nationally recognized team of subject matter experts, attorneys, actuaries and compliance experts stay abreast of emerging trends and quickly evolving legislative and regulatory developments affecting the employee benefits community and HR industry and creates timely, market-differentiating intellectual capital both for our clients and staff. Our consultants have extensive experience in regulatory compliance and the administration of qualified and nonqualified retirement plans, health and welfare plans, labor and employment-related issues and executive benefits. Having this deep bench allows us to leverage our technical expertise and our practical administration skills to report on emerging compliance issues.
Our compliance experts are constantly reviewing and interpreting guidance from the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Labor, Department of Health & Human Services and other governmental agencies. We regularly publish For Your Information (FYI) among other publications that summarize and analyze recent developments and focus primarily on rulings/guidance and their potential impact on the workplace.
CCI: What are some of the significant issues facing CCOs, Risk Managers, etc.?
LD: Governmental changes in the HR and employee benefits arena have made the plan sponsor’s responsibility for compliance monitoring and correction more burdensome. IRS and DOL “random” audit activity have increased significantly, with audits lasting longer than in the past. HIPAA responsibilities are increasing, as are the penalties imposed for HIPAA failures. To exacerbate matters, the number of lawsuits against employee benefit plan fiduciaries are on the rise. Combine this with increased state and local activity, and employers must be vigilant in maintaining compliant programs.
CCI: Otherwise, what do you see as the regulatory and business risks facing companies today?
LD: An increase in state and local regulations – for example, state-mandated retirement programs and state and local leave requirements – present increasing challenges for employers. So, in addition to the federal regulation, state and local law changes are increasing and creating challenges for employers in mandating different regulatory requirements for different locations.
I believe another significant risk to companies involves the growth of cloud-based data systems. The way employers – and particularly HR and benefits departments – use this technology with respect to their employee benefit plans and HR information is becoming increasingly important. How employers, collect, store and analyze data is rapidly shifting and will change the way HR and benefits department act. As federal and state legislation evolves to accommodate these new systems, CCOs and risk managers will need to consider smart contracts and data security in a way they haven’t done to date.
CCI: How might Chief Compliance Officers, Chief Audit Officers and Chief Risk Officers prepare to face these risks?
LD: By making sure the company’s HR and benefits team are keeping abreast of this ever-changing landscape.
CCI: How does Buck effect change within clients’ environments and help them mitigate risk?
LD: Buck provides timely insights, aiding our clients in staying compliant in the ever-changing world of employee benefits and HR. Armed with knowledge on trends and regulatory developments, Buck makes the benefit landscape and the potential impact of regulatory changes easier to understand, and we ultimately help clients to find practical solutions. This allows our clients to look after their employees instead of worrying about the effects of unseen issues.
CCI: What new service offerings do you have in the queue?
LD: Given the increased attention to regulators in ways never before seriously considered, we believe our understanding of the compliance environment and the insights that we bring to our advice and solutions distinguish Buck.
Our compliance review services can help keep employee benefit plans compliant with applicable law and regulations and operations consistent with the plan. Buck’s compliance review is part of the continual process of plan oversight and governance. Undergoing periodic compliance reviews may result in less costly correction penalties and a reduction in the time and expense of dealing with agency audits. In addition, our operational review of a company’s health plan focuses on its compliance with HIPAA privacy and security. This service, handled by compliance and security experts, provides a comprehensive overview of how an organization’s privacy standards are being upheld.
Laurie Duchateau is the Principal and Leader of the U.S. Knowledge Resource Center (KRC) team at Buck, where she is responsible for the firm’s cross-practice thought leadership, publications, compliance consulting, government relations/policy, research, surveys, and training. She joined Buck in 2011 and has over 25 years of experience in the area of employee benefits.
Before joining Buck, Laurie was an employee benefits attorney in private practice for over 20 years representing numerous Fortune 250 clients with respect to employee benefits. She consults with clients on compliance, plan design and administration issues and finding innovative solutions to address their compliance needs with respect to retirement plans, non-qualified executive compensation plans and health and welfare benefit plans. She regularly advises clients on compliance matters related to remediation and correction of plan document and operational failures.
Laurie holds a J.D. from Duquesne University School of Law and a bachelor’s in Political Science from Westminster College. She is also a member of the Allegheny County Bar Association.