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DOL Releases Statistics on ERISA Benefit Plan Enforcement for Fiscal Year 2021



Fact Sheet: EBSA Restores Over $2.4 Billion to Employee Benefit Plans, Participants and Beneficiaries

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The DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), the agency that enforces Title I of ERISA, has released a fact sheet announcing its fiscal year (FY) 2021 enforcement statistics. According to the fact sheet, EBSA has enforcement authority over nearly 734,000 retirement plans, 2 million health plans, and 662,000 other welfare benefit plans, covering about 158 million workers and their dependents and over $12.9 trillion in plan assets. Total monetary recoveries for FY 2021 exceeded $2.4 billion, including $499.5 million in benefits recovered and assets restored to plans through informal resolution of individual complaints.

Just under 70% of the civil investigations conducted in FY 2021 resulted in monetary results or other corrective action. Nonmonetary corrective actions included removal of plan fiduciaries, appointment of independent fiduciaries, and reforms of plan procedures. Highlighting nonmonetary results specific to health plans, the fact sheet explains that EBSA focuses on correcting violations at the plan service provider level to have the greatest impact on plan participants and beneficiaries. For example, one investigation led to a service provider distributing corrected benefit booklets to participants in 76 health plans. The fact sheet also includes statistics on criminal investigations, compliance assistance programs such as the Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program for fiduciary issues and the Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance Program for Form 5500 filing issues, and EBSA’s outreach and education efforts.

EBIA Comment: EBSA is a small agency, but its enforcement efforts have consistently produced outsized results (see our article). This year, EBSA’s monetary recoveries were more than 13 times the agency’s $181 million budget (an amount which also pays for participant assistance, outreach, rulings, and other agency activities). To minimize their likelihood of becoming an EBSA statistic, plan sponsors, administrators, and service providers need to stay on top of ERISA compliance requirements. For more information, see EBIA’s ERISA Compliance manual at Section XXXVII (“DOL Audits and Investigations Under ERISA”); EBIA’s Self-Insured Health Plans manual at Section XXXII.B (“DOL Civil Investigations (Audits) Under ERISA”); and EBIA’s 401(k) Plans manual at Section XXXII.C (“DOL Investigations”). You may also be interested in our webinar, “DOL Investigations: Tips and Best Practices” (recorded 9/16/2021).

Contributing Editors: EBIA Staff.

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