ERISA's Participant Benefit Statement Requirements: Current Rules Under PPA '06 and a Suggested Blueprint for Future Interpretation
Tax Management Compensation Planning Journal, Vol. 35, pp. 211-36, 2007
25 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2008
The Pension Protection Act of 2006 now mandates certain automatic disclosure of benefit statements, as well as more timely and expansive disclosure, to ERISA participants and beneficiaries, effective beginning in 2007. While the Department of Labor (DOL) provided good faith reliance regarding these requirements through a field assistance bulletin, that guidance left plan sponsors and third party administrators with a number of unanswered questions.
Due to the importance of these issues, one of the 2007 Working Groups for the DOL's ERISA Advisory Council has scheduled testimonies for the summer and fall of 2007 so as to provide recommendations to the DOL by November of 2007. To facilitate in the dialogue between the employee benefits community and the DOL, this article explains the new requirements in light of prior proposed regulations (issued under prior law) and the recent field assistance bulletin, and then provides a suggested blueprint for change, that hopefully will result in meaningful disclosure to participants and beneficiaries without unduly burdening plan administrators. When writing the regulations, the DOL will need to balance meaningful disclosure of benefits with the administrative impacts and costs of such disclosure for covered plans.
The author concludes that these new requirements will have a significant impact on the administrative burdens and costs of employee benefit plans, which unfortunately in the defined contribution plan model, may be passed along to the participants and beneficiaries either directly or indirectly.
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