Recently, the Employee Benefits Security Administration (“EBSA”) published its Fiscal Year 2008 results. EBSA, which is responsible for ensuring the integrity of employer-sponsored welfare and retirement plans, oversees approximately 700,000 retirement plans, 2.5 million health plans, and another 2.5 million welfare benefit plans. These plans cover about 150 million workers and their dependents and include assets of approximately $6 trillion.
Civil Investigations: In FY 2008, EBSA closed 3,570 civil investigations, with 75.52% resulting in monetary recovery for plans or other corrective actions. EBSA often pursues voluntary correction as a means to correct violations and restore losses to employee benefit plans. In cases where voluntary compliance efforts have failed or which involve matters where voluntary compliance is not appropriate, EBSA forwards a recommendation to the Solicitor of Labor that litigation be initiated. In FY 2008, 205 cases were referred for litigation. After review by the Solicitor of Labor, litigation was filed in 91 civil cases.
Criminal Investigations: EBSA is also responsible for investigating criminal violations of ERISA. In FY 2008, EBSA closed 212 criminal investigations. Through its own investigations, as well as EBSA’s participation with other law enforcement agencies, 101 individuals, including plan officials, corporate officers, and service providers were indicted for various offenses related to employee benefit plans.
Compliance Assistance: To encourage plan sponsors and plan fiduciaries to self-correct violations of ERISA, EBSA administers the Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program (“VFCP”) and the Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance Program (“DFVCP”). Under VFCP, plan officials who have identified certain violations of ERISA are permitted to take corrective action and voluntarily report the violation to EBSA, without becoming subject to an enforcement action. In FY 2008, EBSA received 1,658 applications under VCFP. Under DFVCP, plan sponsors are permitted to bring their plans into compliance with ERISA’s report filing requirements. In FY 2008, 26,603 previously un-filed reports were filed.
Informal Complaint Resolution: If an employee experiences a problem with an employee benefit plan, he or she may request EBSA assistance. Often, employees request assistance by calling an EBSA Benefit Advisor via a toll-free number (1-866-444-EBSA (3272). In FY 2008, EBSA Benefit Advisors handled about 175,000 inquiries and recovered $139.2 million in benefits on behalf of employees and their dependents. These employee inquiries/complaints about a plan, a plan sponsor and/or a service provider are also a source of enforcement actions and investigations. In FY 2008, as a result of a referral from a Benefit Advisor, EBSA opened 871 new investigations.