Features

Tom Shaevsky – BeneSys Inc.

BeneSys GC applies legal expertise and counsel for everyone’s benefit

For almost 45 years, the company has provided third-party administrative and software services for trust funds, especially those created under the Taft-Hartley Act to provide health insurance and retirement and other benefits to union labor.

While it may be a niche business, BeneSys serves over 250 clients representing more than 500 trust funds and has offices in 30 locations besides its headquarters.

Tom Shaevsky | General Counsel | BeneSys Inc.

Tom Shaevsky | General Counsel | BeneSys Inc.

On a day-to-day basis, Shaevsky manages contracts and negotiations, whether administrative service or vendor agreements and provides some support as BeneSys protects clients’ data and privacy. In doing so, he draws on decades of experience in employee benefits and litigation gained from working on all sides and in teaching law.

“The legal-compliance department and I are ensuring BeneSys maintains its leadership position in the market,” Shaevsky says. “We’re a historied company; we’re looking to keep the momentum of our legacy and carry it into the modern era.”

Serving trustees

Founded in 1979, BeneSys is headquartered in Troy, Michigan, and has its West Coast headquarters in Pleasanton, California. As Shaevsky explains, the company provides administrative services to health, retirement and other trust funds that fall under the rubric of the Taft-Hartley Act.

The Taft-Hartley Act itself was passed by Congress in 1947. It reformed existing labor laws in part by redefining some unfair labor practices and ensuring that employees weren’t required to participate in union activities—although they could still be required to join a union as a condition of employment.

The Taft-Hartley Act also allowed the creation of multiemployer trust funds governed by boards of trustees comprised of 50 percent union labor and 50 percent employer representatives.

Using its proprietary software system, BenefitDriven, BeneSys administers those trust funds on instructions and guidance from the trustees and government regulations. Its services include claims processing, eligibility, contributions, pension, self-service portals, and a mobile application.

“The boards of trustees have oversight, but BeneSys implements their decisions and instructions,” Shaevsky explains.

He says it’s also important to note the company is not the fiduciary agent for plans it administers, although his work can entail answering internal questions about the IRS, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and Employee Retirement Income Security Act matters.

Securing the changes

Shaevsky says much of his work this year has been assisting BeneSys and its clients in making changes to comply with the SECURE 2.0 Act passed by Congress in December 2022.

The new legislation addresses retirement funds with some significant changes to administering the trust funds. For instance, it increases the age at which retirees need to begin taking required minimum distributions from retirement accounts from 72 to 73 (and increases the age to 75 in 2033).

SECURE 2.0 Act also allows people ages 60 to 63 to make annual $10,000 “catch-up” contributions to workplace retirement plans beginning Jan. 1, 2025. For people who aren’t nearing retirement age, the SECURE 2.0 Act requires businesses that are starting new 401(k) and 403(b) retirement plans to automatically enroll eligible employees with a contribution rate of at least 3 percent of their income, also beginning January 1, 2025.

As he leads a team including another corporate counsel, a HIPAA compliance officer and a paralegal, Shaevsky emphasizes an open-door policy for his team and all the departments and clients they work with. He also does so as he takes part in the BeneSys quarterly town hall meetings and contributes content to the company’s quarterly newsletter.

“I view my department as a service unit within the organization,” Shaevsky says. “I want to ensure we’re being used proactively regarding client relations.”

Open perspective, open door

A native of Michigan, Shaevsky has followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming an attorney. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science and his J.D. from the University of Michigan.

After graduating from law school in 1992, Shaevsky served as a law clerk to Judge John Feikens of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. In September 1993, he entered private practice as an attorney with Jaffe, Raitt, Heuer & Weiss P.C.

In August 2000, Shaevsky went in-house as vice president and in-house counsel for the institutional trust and retirement services department at Comerica Bank. He returned to private practice as an attorney and shareholder with the firm of Butzel Long in September 2006, a position he held until joining BeneSys in March 2022.

While at Butzel Long, Shaevsky also taught a course in employee benefits for Master of Law students at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School.

Outside the office, Shaevsky has also represented individuals and families suffering from severe food allergies—considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act—by getting them proper public accommodations, including at schools.

To get away from it all, Shaevsky says he and his family enjoy trips to northern Michigan and attending University of Michigan sports events.

He was well versed in benefit plan administration before joining BeneSys, although he did so from the plan sponsor’s perspective, not as a third party. That and his work as an adjunct instructor and litigator enable him to understand issues wholly with a unique level of insight.

“I don’t have tunnel vision when I look at an issue. I pride myself on considering the other party’s perspective,” he says. “The additional perspective helps me anticipate arguments and formulate responses and counterarguments. It also helps foster a genteel approach to resolutions.”

View this feature in the Vanguard Fall III 2023 Edition here.

Published on: October 27, 2023

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