Disabusing any notions to the contrary, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced that it remained very active in its 2019 fiscal year enforcement of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). ERISA is the federal law that regulates employee benefit plans. DOL's Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has oversight authority over nearly 694,000 retirement plans, approximately 2.2 million health plans, and a similar number of other welfare benefit plans, such as those providing life or disability insurance. These plans cover about 143 million workers and their dependents and include assets of over $9.8 trillion.
In FY 2019, EBSA recovered over $2.5 billion in direct payment to plans, participants and beneficiaries. These results include plan assets restored, benefits paid to participants, disgorgement of profits, reversal of prohibited transactions that benefit plans or participants, as well as amounts recovered through the abandoned plan program and informal complaint resolution. In addition, DOL announced that it achieved significant benefit plan protections, administrative reforms, and other corrections totaling over $93 million.
EBSA also continued to reach out to plan fiduciaries and others to participate in the agency’s Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program (VFCP), and Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance Program to encourage the correction of ERISA violations. These programs provide incentives for plan fiduciaries and others to self-correct compliance issues by reducing or eliminating potential penalties and/or avoiding other adverse consequences. In FY 2019, EBSA received over 20,000 delinquent filings and 1,600 applications for the VFCP. VFCP corrections totaled $14.6 million during FY 2019.
Finally, EBSA’s FY 2019 criminal investigations led to the indictment of 76 individuals – including plan officials, corporate officers, and service providers – for offenses related to employee benefit plans.