Millions Restored Towards Plan Participant Balances
The Department of Labor released how much money they were able to restore for ERISA plan participants. The DOL Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) collected $696 million in the 2015 fiscal year to restore participant balances. With $8.7 trillion in plan assets (including retirement health and other welfare benefit plans), the Department restored 8% of plan assets – a significant rate of return by any standards and why the Department remains focused on their auditing mission.
Most of the DOL’s yield stems from resolutions – both voluntary and complaint driven. The fact is only 61 individuals out of 681,000 ERISA retirement plans monitored in 2015 were indicted for criminal activity, a very small number percentage-wise, which leads me to believe that the majority of the assets were from mistakes made by unaware business professionals.
I believe the Department will remain determined to protect the benefits of America’s workers and retirees. The message here is to become aware of your responsibilities and obligations under ERISA. The good news is that the DOL offers resources and programs to help plan sponsors stay updated and compliant.
Some of the programs include:
Dislocated Worker Rapid Response Sessions
Compliance Assistance Activities
Other Participant Assistance and Public Awareness Activities
They have also developed voluntary fiduciary correction programs (VFCP) designed to encourage employers to self-correct ERISA violations in 19 categories of transactions that are covered. The VFCP is eligible to anyone liable for fiduciary violations under ERISA.
As a plan sponsor, maintain prudent processes and continue your due diligence. Mistakes can happen, so when you become aware of such, be sure to utilize the resources available to you to correct them.