By Pension and Benefits Editorial Staff
The Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has issued the results of its enforcement and compliance activity for employee benefit plans and participants in fiscal year (FY) 2019. EBSA’s oversight authority extends to nearly 694,000 retirement plans, approximately 2.2 million health plans, and a similar number of other welfare benefit plans, such as those providing life or disability insurance. These plans cover about 143 million workers and their dependents and include assets of over $9.8 trillion.
In fiscal year (FY) 2019, EBSA recovered $2.5 billion for direct payment to plans, participants, and beneficiaries. These recoveries resulted from enforcement actions and voluntary fiduciary corrections, as well as amounts recovered through the abandoned plan program and informal complaint resolution. The largest recoveries came from enforcement actions and informal complaint resolutions—$2.02 billion and $510.0 million, respectively.
Civil investigations. In FY 2019, EBSA closed 1,146 civil investigations with 770 of those cases (67%) resulting in monetary returns for plans or other corrective action. EBSA notes that recoveries for terminated vested participants was a large part of these results. Of the $2.02 billion recovered in its investigations, EBSA helped terminated vested participants in defined benefit plans collect benefits of $1.476 billion due to them. Also, 89 cases were referred for litigation.
Criminal investigations. In addition, EBSA closed 275 criminal investigations in FY 2019. EBSA’s criminal investigations, as well as its participation in criminal investigations with other law enforcement agencies, led to the indictment of 76 individuals - including plan officials, corporate officers, and service providers - for offenses related to employee benefit plans. The number of criminal cases closed with guilty pleas or convictions was 80.
Workers’ informal requests for assistance. Demonstrating how effective EBSA is in resolving workers’ problems with their employee benefit plans, EBSA’s benefits advisors closed more than 166,000 inquiries and recovered $510.0 million in benefits on behalf of workers and their families through informal resolution of individual complaints in FY 2019. These inquiries are also a major source of enforcement leads. In FY 2019, 501 new investigations were opened as a result of referrals from the benefits advisors.
Abandoned plans and compliance programs. During FY 2019, EBSA received 1,199 applications from Qualified Termination Administrators and closed 741 applications with terminations approved, with 661 plans making distributions of $33.2 million directly to participants pursuant to the terminations.
Compliance assistance programs. In FY 2019, EBSA received 1,600 applications for the Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program and 20,088 annual reports were received through Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance Program.
Education and outreach events. EBSA reported that it conducted 1,788 education and outreach events for workers, employers, plan officials and members of Congress in FY 2019. Of the 1,788 total events, 844 were dislocated worker rapid response sessions, 259 were Congressional briefings, 325 were compliance assistance activities, and 360 were other participant assistance and public awareness activites. EBSA also reaches the public through its printed materials and electronically on its website. FY 2019, EBSA reported that 376,991 publications were distributed, and its website had 3.91 million visitors.
Source: EBSA News Release No. 19-2071-NAT.
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