Simplification Award Rules

Fourth Annual Employee Benefits Simplification Award

The American College of Employee Benefits Counsel hereby invites academics, practitioners, and any other individuals interested in the employee benefits system to submit proposals to simplify employee benefits law. A $10,000 prize for the winning submission will be awarded at the College’s annual black-tie dinner to be held at the Chicago Club on Saturday, October 2, 2021.

Format of Submissions

  • ABSTRACT: Each submission should begin with a brief abstract describing the proposed change and its benefits.
  • BLUE BOOK FORMAT: Thereafter, the submission should follow the format used in the Joint Committee on Taxation’s “Blue Book” explanation of enacted tax legislation (i.e., Current Law, Reasons for Change, Description of Proposal).
  • DETAILED ANALYSIS OF PROPOSAL: In addition, each proposal should include a final section of “Detailed Analysis” that:
    • Thoroughly details the simplification that will result from the proposal and the benefits of that simplification. The more those benefits can be quantified, the better. In terms of cost reductions, the cost impact on all the stakeholders in the employee benefits system (regulators, employers, participants, third-party providers, etc.) should be considered, but no formal cost-benefit analysis is required. In addition to reducing costs, other simplification benefits, such as increasing the availability or level of benefits, making compliance with the benefit rules more user-friendly or easier to navigate, or increasing participants’, employers’, and the public’s understanding and appreciation of benefits should be described.
    • Explains how the proposal either enhances or, at the least, has no material adverse impact on employee/participant rights.
    • Identifies and analyzes other ancillary advantages or benefits and any policy tradeoffs.
  • STATUTORY/REGULATORY CHANGES: Each submission should identify the specific statutory or regulatory provision(s) that would need to be amended to implement the proposal. Submissions that include detailed proposed statutory or regulatory language changes are strongly encouraged but are not mandatory (as long as the nature and extent of the required changes are clear).
  • LENGTH OF SUBMISSIONS: Submitters are encouraged to limit the length of submissions to 15 pages (not counting citations in footnotes or endnotes, or the statutory or regulatory changes).
  • The Simplification Award Template, available here, provides comprehensive guidance on the format of a submission. The template is the preferred and recommended method of submitting a simplification proposal to this competition. The template ensures that the submission considers all of the relevant criteria against which the proposal will be judged.

Criteria for Evaluation of Submissions

  • SIMPLIFICATION OF THE EMPLOYEE BENEFITS SYSTEM: A primary criterion for judging submissions will be the extent to which the simplification suggested would be expected to improve the effectiveness/efficiency of the employee benefits system, specifically plans governed by ERISA or the tax code.
  • ORIGINALITY: Each submission should also explain why the proposal is “original,” and the degree of originality will be a criterion in evaluating submissions. Of course, “originality” is a somewhat elusive concept, but submissions that simply repeat ideas that have previously been explored extensively in the public domain are discouraged. In any event, each submission should indicate that, as of the time of submission, the author is not aware of any substantially similar legislation pending currently in Congress or recently introduced but not adopted by Congress. In addition, the author should note (in footnotes or endnotes) any other proposals that she or he is aware of that are similar to the proposal being presented and identify the original elements in the submission. In judging the proposal’s originality, the existence of similar proposals that have been part of the public discussion (for example, those offered by scholars or benefit organizations) will be taken into account even if the applicant does not identify them.
  • LIKELIHOOD OF ENACTMENT AND IMPLEMENTATION: Another important criterion for evaluating submissions will be the ease or difficulty of having the suggested changes adopted and carried out. This includes consideration of the reaction of all stakeholders, particularly participant advocates and the plan sponsor community and, as appropriate, potential revenue implications of the suggested simplification (although formal revenue estimates are not expected).
  • PAPERS SUBMITTED FOR PUBLICATION: ACEBC Simplification Award submissions that are based on a paper submitted for publication in law reviews or other law school journals or periodicals, or for scholarly seminars or symposia are eligible for the Prize, provided that the College receives any consents necessary to publish or republish the submission.

Process for Submitting Proposals

  • DEADLINE: Submissions for the Fourth Annual ACEBC Simplification Award must be received no later than Midnight, Eastern Time on May 1, 2021. It is anticipated that the winner of the Prize will be notified by July 31, 2021, or shortly thereafter.
  • PROCESS FOR MAKING SUBMISSION: Participants are strongly encouraged to use the Simplification Award Application Template in preparing their submissions. Papers must be submitted as email attachments to and should be submitted as Word documents. No information identifying the author or the author’s professional affiliation should be included in the text, the footnotes, or the filename. The author’s name, professional affiliation, email address, mailing address, and telephone number should be provided in the cover email message.

Process for Evaluation of Submissions

  • SIMPLIFICATION AWARD COMMITTEE: The winning submission will be selected by the Simplification Award Committee (Award Committee), which is composed of ACEBC Members selected by the ACEBC Board of Governors. The Award Committee’s selection will be based on the factors identified above and on any other factors that the Committee (in its sole discretion) deems relevant. The Award Committee’s selection of a winner will be subject to the approval of the Board of Governors as further discussed below.
  • PROCESS: To the maximum extent possible, submissions will be evaluated by the Award Committee on a blind basis (that is, the Award Committee will not know the identity of the submitter). The Award Committee will select the winning submission based upon a majority vote of its members. However, the Committee will not recommend any winning submission to the Board of Governors if any Award Committee member believes that suggested policy change would reduce protections or rights of employees and/or their beneficiaries, or is intended to implement major policy changes beyond simplification. Similarly, if four or more members of the Board of Governors object to the Award Committee’s choice because they believe it would detract from employee rights or make major policy changes beyond simplification, then the BOG would veto the Award Committee’s choice of award recipient. The BOG may request the identity of the Award Committee’s choice of award recipient.
  • DETERMINATIONS ARE FINAL: The determinations of the Board of Governors will be final. No award will be granted for a year if the Board of Governors determines (after consideration of the comments and recommendations of the Award Committee) that none of the proposals submitted fully satisfy the criteria set forth in the rules, as elaborated in the FAQs and any other guidance posted on the College website.

Other Matters

    • Any individual or individuals with an interest in employee benefits is eligible, except that members of the Award Committee and current Members of the Board of Governors (and their family members) cannot receive any portion of the Prize.
    • Informal groups of individuals are welcome to collaborate on a submission. A group must identify all individuals collaborating on a submission and designate one individual as the lead contact. The award will be paid to that individual, unless otherwise specified by the group.
    • A simplification proposal will not be considered by the Award Committee or the Board of Governors if the person submitting or collaborating in the submission of a proposal (or a firm or organization to which such a person belongs or by which he or she is employed) has been engaged by a client to make a submission with respect to, or otherwise to influence the development or outcome of, the specific subject matter addressed by the proposal. This disqualification rule does not apply solely because a person working on or submitting a proposal has clients that might be affected by the principles addressed by the proposal.