A frequent complaint I hear about multiemployer pension plans is that employers cannot get information from plan administrators. The primary problem has always been that ERISA requires plan administrators to provide information to participants, but contributing employers were not entitled to receive any specific plan information. Employers could not get access to actuarial information, financial data or investment information. Well that is about to change.

Under the new regulations, effective in April of 2010, multiemployer pension plan administrators are obligated to provide to participants, beneficiaries, employee representatives AND contributing employers, the following documentation if requested:

  1. Periodic actuarial report (including any sensitivity testing) received by the plan for any plan year which has been in the plan's possession for at least 30 days prior to the date of the written request; and
  2. Quarterly, semi-annual, or annual financial report prepared for the plan by any plan investment manager or advisor (without regard to whether such advisor is a fiduciary within the meaning of section 3(21) of the Act) or other fiduciary which has been in the plan's possession for at least 30 days prior to the date of the written request.

This new disclosure rule stops well short of requiring disclosure of all plan data, and contributing employers are still not listed as persons entitled to receive things like summary plan descriptions, plan documents or summary annual reports. But it does now give participating employers some opportunity to get additional financial information about the plan. A copy of the regulation is available here.

As with all information, having access to the information does not mean it will be easily understood. And there is nothing in the changes that gives an employer the ability to question or challenge the investment decisions or financial information provided. The new rules also do not apply to multiemployer welfare funds. But at least now contributing employers should have an easier time finding out the inner workings of the pension plans to which they contribute.