EBSA highlights results of enforcement and compliance activity in FY 2017

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) 2017. EBSA’s oversight authority extends to nearly 681,000 retirement plans, approximately 2.3 million health plans, and a similar number of other welfare benefit plans, such as those providing life or disability insurance. As of October 2, 2015, these plans covered about 143 million workers and their dependents and included assets of over $8.7 trillion.
In fiscal year (FY) 2017, EBSA recovered $1.1 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-$682.3 million and $418.7 million, respectively.

Civil investigations

In FY 2017, EBSA closed 1,707 civil investigations with 1,114 of those cases (65.3%) resulting in monetary returns for plans or other corrective action, which EBSA claims exhibits its ability to effectively target ERISA violators in the employee benefit plan universe. Of the $682.3 million recovered in its investigations, EBSA helped vested participants in defined benefit plans collect benefits of $326.7 million due to them. Also, 134 cases were referred for litigation, and nationwide in FY 2017, the Department of Labor filed suit in 50 civil cases.

Criminal investigations

In addition, EBSA closed 307 criminal investigations in FY 2017. EBSA’s criminal investigations, as well as its participation in criminal investigations with other law enforcement agencies, led to the indictment of 113 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 79.

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 174,000 inquiries and recovered $418.7 million in benefits on behalf of workers and their families through informal resolution of individual complaints in FY 2017. These inquiries are also a major source of enforcement leads. In FY 2017, 617 new investigations were opened as a result of referrals from the benefits advisors.

Abandoned plans and compliance programs

During FY 2017, EBSA received 1,004 applications from Qualified Termination Administrators and closed 584 applications with terminations approved, with 586 plans making distributions of $27.9 million directly to participants pursuant to the terminations.

Compliance assistance programs

In FY 2017, EBSA received 1,303 applications for the Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program and 22,139 annual reports (and $14.4 million) were received through Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance Program.

Education and outreach events

EBSA reported that it conducted over 1,800 education and outreach events for workers, employers, plan officials and members of Congress in FY 2017. Of the 1,815 total events, 735 were dislocated worker rapid response sessions, 234 were Congressional briefings, 364 were compliance assistance activities, and 482 were other participant assistance and public awareness activites.

Source: EBSA Fact Sheet for FY 2017 enforcement and compliance activities.
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