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Questions about ESOP Rules and Laws

For a layman, it is often difficult to understand his/her eligibility for an ESOP program. There can be many different questions like what is ESOP? Am I eligible for the ESOP program? What are the ESOP rules that I need to know, and so on. Asking Employment Lawyers on JustAnswer to help you understand the rules and guidelines of an ESOP program is cost effective and easy. Here are some of the top questions about the Employee stock Ownership Program, answered by Experts on JustAnswer.

As a terminated ESOP employee, 100% vested, 24 years of service, how can I get paid my benefits before the said time of 2 years?

You will first need to refer to the Employee Stock Ownership Program that your employee should have given you. Depending upon the time frame mentioned on it you will be able to decide whether they can get you to buy out sooner than two years or not. An exception to this rule is the Internal Revenue Code of the year 1986. Under this rule, distribution has to be done no later than the end of the year that follows the year in which a person died, became permanently disabled or retired. This means that you only have two years exactly from the day you left the job due to any of the above mentioned conditions. If the reason for leaving the job is not any of the above, you would normally have a time frame of maximum 6 years. However, the value of the stock you got under the ESOP program could increase in value if the company is performing well. If you have any other questions, you can ask an Employment Lawyer on JustAnswer.

Can an employer cash out of an ESOP but remain with the company in a consultant or advisor role? Where would I find the rule of law for this issue?

Normally, ESOP schemes are governed by the plan documents drafted by an employer and not by any federal law agency. Usually, you should be able to cash out of your ESOP and remain a consultant or advisor to your company, as per the following provisions of the law: once any employee terminates his employment, he or she is entitled to take control of all the benefits that any ex-employee gets from the company. This includes benefits under the ESOP program. Taking this into consideration and assuming that by the words “advisor” or “consultant” you wish to be an independent contractor of the firm and that you will be working as a non-employee having an association “at arm’s length” with the company, you normally cannot be prohibited from any and every benefit that an ex-employee is entitled to as you are no longer an employee of the firm. However, you will need to go through the ESOP scheme documents once and check if it mentions that you are not entitled to certain benefits as long as you remain associated with the company, or until a certain point of time. If there is such a condition, then the provisions of the plan would dictate whether you can be prohibited or not. You can ask an Employment Lawyer on JustAnswer to know more.

I am 100% vested in an ESOP scheme. How can I cash out my stocks?

You will generally need to adhere to the guidelines and rules mentioned in the ESOP document to know your eligibility to withdraw the money or cash the stocks you have. Read the plan description carefully and see what it states about withdrawals. In most ESOP company plans, taking the money out early means that the same would be taxable, as it is recorded as an early withdrawal before retirement. One option would be to roll-over the money into another retirement account. The last option is to apply for periodic payments. This is the best in most cases because; in this case you will not be attracting any early withdrawal penalty. But as mentioned earlier, you should refer the ESOP document first.

If the employees of an ESOP company feel the president/trustee is misusing their money, how can they remove him or have him fired?

Normally, the employees will have to call a shareholders’ meeting for the same and the reason for the meeting will have to be stated. If these shareholders hold voting shares in accordance with the corporation bylaws, then can usually vote and decide upon the ouster of the president. A fact to be noted here is that despite being shareholders, if the employees do not have voting shares, then they may not have a right to vote as per the corporation and bylaws. ESOP guidelines can be complex. There can be a string of different questions that can crop up and one will often need the help of an expert or an employment lawyer to answer them. A quick and affordable option is to ask an Employment Lawyer on JustAnswer.
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