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Practice Tip: Warning Signs Your Plan May Have a Missing Participants Problem

When participants in a qualified retirement plan terminate employment with the plan sponsor, it can be challenging to ensure that their contact information in the plan’s records is kept up to date and accurate. Inaccurate contact information is problematic for a variety of reasons, including potentially causing an operational failure when such participants do not receive distribution of their plan benefits by their required distribution date, as well as increasing the possibility of fraud when a participant’s information is sent to the wrong address. In addition, a plan sponsor’s failure to make reasonable efforts to locate missing participants would be a breach of their fiduciary duties of loyalty and prudence. Often, the first indication that a participant may be missing is that mail sent to their last known address is returned undeliverable or their distribution checks are returned or remain uncashed. In addition, a plan sponsor should check to see… Continue Reading

Practice Tip – Missing Participants Remain a Significant Concern for Retirement Plan Sponsors

When participants in qualified retirement plans are no longer current employees of the plan sponsor, it can be challenging to ensure that the contact information in the plan’s records is up to date and accurate. However, inaccurate contact information in the plan’s records is problematic for a variety of reasons, including causing operational failures when participants do not receive distribution of benefits by the plan’s required distribution date and increasing the possibility of fraud when a participant’s information is sent to the wrong address. Plan administrators should review their procedures for locating missing participants and ensure that they are (1) consistent with available guidance from the IRS and the DOL, (2) appropriate for the plan and its participant population, and (3) being followed consistently by the plan administrator or its delegate. Plan administrators should also document any steps undertaken to locate missing participants. The plan’s procedures should also address how… Continue Reading

PBGC Adds Fiduciary Breaches to Mediation Program

In 2017, the PBGC introduced a program that offered voluntary mediation with certain termination liability collection and Early Warning Program cases. The program was made permanent and was expanded to include fiduciary breach cases in 2019. Mediation is offered to eligible plan sponsors either with the demand letter (for fiduciary breach cases) or at the outset of mediation (for Early Warning Program cases) or after review of the information disclosed to the PBGC under 29 C.F.R. § 4062.6 (for termination liability cases). View the PBGC Mediation Program.

PBGC Expands Missing Participants Program to Terminated Defined Contribution Plans

The PBGC issued a final rule on December 22, 2017, that expands the missing participants program from covering only terminated PBGC-insured, single-employer defined benefit plans to also covering defined contribution plans (“DC Plans”), such as 401(k) plans, PBGC-insured multiemployer plans, and non-PBGC-insured defined benefit plans sponsored by professional service organizations that terminate on or after January 1, 2018. Participation will be voluntary for DC Plans and professional service organization plans, and terminating DC Plans will have the option of transferring all missing participants’ benefits to the PBGC in lieu of establishing an IRA. There would be a one-time fee upon the transfer of assets to the PBGC, and thereafter participant accounts would not be reduced by ongoing maintenance fees. After a participant is located, the PBGC would pay his or her initial account balance with interest to the participant when located. View the PBGC’s Missing Participants Program webpage. View the… Continue Reading

PBGC Provides Disaster Relief to Persons in Texas Affected by Hurricane Harvey

In Disaster Relief Announcement 17-09, the PBGC announced that it is waiving certain penalties and extending certain deadlines in response to Hurricane Harvey. In accordance with the relief granted by the IRS in Tax Relief Notice TX-2017-09, the PBGC will provide relief relating to PBGC deadlines to persons responsible for meeting PBGC deadlines who reside or are located in the disaster area consisting of Aransas, Bee, Brazoria, Calhoun, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Harris, Jackson, Kleberg, Liberty, Matagorda, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, Victoria and Wharton Counties in Texas (“Designated Persons“). The relief generally extends from August 23, 2017 through January 31, 2018 (the “Relief Period“). Importantly, the relief offered by the PBGC does not cover every situation in which relief may be warranted. For example, it does not provide relief for certain filings that involve particularly important or time sensitive information where there may be a high risk of substantial… Continue Reading

PBGC Issues Guidance Listing Triggers Under its Early Warning Program

ERISA section 4042(a)(4) provides that the PBGC “may institute proceedings . . . to terminate a plan whenever it determines that the possible long-run loss of the corporation with respect to the plan may reasonably be expected to increase unreasonably if the plan is not terminated.” The PBGC investigates potential candidates for involuntary termination under its early warning program. The PBGC recently issued guidance listing examples of situations that would trigger such an investigation. Some examples relate to corporate transactions (e.g., transferring the plan to a weaker sponsor or controlled group following a controlled group breakup) whereas others relate to the financial deterioration of the plan sponsor (e.g., downgrading of a plan sponsor’s credit ratings or a downward trend in cash flow). View a full list of the early warning triggers.

PBGC Issues Final Rule for Penalty Relief for Late Premium Payments

The PBGC issued a final rule implementing relief for penalties resulting from late payment of premiums. The final rule implements the changes reflected in the proposed rule published in April.Under the final rule, if the plan sponsor corrects the delinquency before being notified by the PBGC, the plan would be responsible for a monthly penalty of 0.5 percent of the late premium amount and, if the plan corrects the delinquency after being notified by the PBGC, it would be responsible for a monthly penalty premium of 2.5 percent. These penalties are reduced from 1 percent and 5 percent, respectively. In addition, if the sponsor has a good payment history and pays promptly after receiving the PBGC notice, the PBGC will waive 80 percent of the 2.5 percent penalty payment. Read the final rule.

PBGC Missing Participant Program to Include 401(k) Plans and Certain Other Plans That Terminate after 2017

The PBGC issued a proposed rule that would expand its existing missing participants program to cover terminated defined contribution plans, such as 401(k) and profit-sharing plans, as well as certain other plans not currently covered under the program, that voluntarily elect to participate. Under the program, for a low one-time fee, and following a diligent search, the terminating plan may transfer the account balances or accrued benefits of all missing participants to the PBGC. The PBGC will then maintain a centralized, online searchable directory of the missing participants and periodically search for the missing participants. In the proposed rule, the PBGC also modifies the criteria for a participant to be considered ”missing” and provides specific diligent search rules for plans to attempt to locate missing participants. Read the proposed rule.

PBGC Announces Inflation Adjusted Civil Penalties for Failure to Provide Certain Plan Notices

The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 requires certain civil penalties to be adjusted for inflation. PBGC released an interim final rule adjusting the maximum civil penalties provided for in Sections 4071 and 4302 of ERISA regarding failure to provide certain plan notices or other material information. The new maximum amounts are: $2,063 per day for Section 4071 penalties (up from $1,000 per day) and $275 per day for Section 4302 penalties (up from $100 per day). The adjusted amounts are effective August 1, 2016. The interim final rule is available here.

PBGC Proposes Rule to Lower Penalties on Late Premiums

PBGC issued a proposed rule to lower the penalty rates charged for late premium payments and to provide a waiver of most of the penalty for plans with a demonstrated commitment to premium compliance. The penalty for a late premium payment is a percentage of the late payment amount multiplied by the number of full or partial months the amount is late, subject to a floor of $25 (or the amount of the late premium, if less). The lower rate applies to self-correction where the premium underpayment is corrected before PBGC gives notice that there is or may be an underpayment. This proposed rule would cut the rates and caps in half and eliminate the floor. The proposed rule would also create a new penalty waiver that would apply to underpayments by plans with good compliance histories if corrected promptly after notice from PBGC. PBGC proposes to apply these changes… Continue Reading

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