Clark Law Group, PLLC
Department of Labor Pursues ERISA Compliance
Located in Washington, D.C., the Employee Benefits Security Administration of the Department of Labor returned over $1.1 billion to employee benefits plans in 2017. The funds were restored to health plans, retirement plans and life and disability insurance benefit plans covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.
Under ERISA, employee benefits like pension plans are protected from misuse or wastage by the fiduciaries responsible for administering them. The law establishes a number of minimum standards regarding disclosures, reporting, safeguards, and the conduct of plan administrators. In 2017, there were 1,707 civil investigations performed, and of those, 1,114 led to the recovery of $682.3 million. From that amount, $326.7 million was due to terminated participants in defined benefit plans. This means that 63.5 percent of the investigations opened resulted in recoveries.
Beyond the investigations opened, EBSA also restored $418.7 million to employee benefit funds through informal complaint resolution processes. As a result of these investigations, 113 people were indicted for their actions or misuse of benefit funds, including corporate officials, service providers and plan administrators. Another issue pursued by EBSA during 2017 was that of abandoned plans that had previously been terminated. The administration worked with 586 different plans to distribute $27.9 million remaining in them to their participants.
A number of companies and plan administrators also reached out to voluntarily correct and comply with ERISA benefit rules. In 2017, the administration handled 1,303 applications to voluntarily correct filings as well as 22,139 annual reports filed as part of its voluntary compliance program for late-filing companies. An attorney can often be of assistance to plan participants who feel that they have been harmed by their employers or plan administrators.