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November 25, 2020

Through its enforcement of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) is responsible for ensuring the integrity of the private employee benefit plan system in the United States. EBSA issued its fiscal year (10/1/2019 through 9/30/2020) 2020 enforcement fact sheet highlighting the Agency’s recovery of over $3.1 billion in direct payments to plans, participants, and beneficiaries in Fiscal Year 2020.

EBSA’s Extensive Plan Oversight

EBSA’s oversight authority extends to nearly 722,000 retirement plans, approximately 2.5 million health plans, and a similar number of other welfare benefit plans, such as those providing life or disability insurance. These plans cover about 154 million workers and their dependents and include assets of over $10.7 trillion.

EBSA Civil Investigations

EBSA often pursues voluntary compliance to correct violations and restore losses to employee benefit plans. However, in cases where voluntary compliance efforts have failed, or are inappropriate, EBSA forwards a recommendation to the Solicitor of Labor to initiate litigation.

In Fiscal Year 2020, EBSA closed 1,122 civil investigations with 754 of those cases (67%) resulting in monetary payments for plans or other corrective action, and 82 cases referred for litigation

EBSA Criminal Investigations

EBSA investigates potential violations of the criminal provisions of ERISA and those provisions of Title 18 of the United States Code that relate to employee benefit plans.

§ EBSA closed 230 criminal investigations resulting in:

  • 59 individuals who either pled guilty or were convicted, and
  • the indictment of 70 individuals – including plan officials, corporate officers, and service providers.

Compliance Assistance Programs

EBSA provides compliance assistance programs to encourage plan administrators to voluntarily correct ERISA violations without becoming subject to an enforcement action. In Fiscal Year 2020, EBSA received 1,309 Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program (VFCP) applications and 19,624 Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance Program (DFVCP) submissions.

$456.3 Million Restored to Workers through Informal Complaint Resolution

When workers experience a problem with an employee benefit plan, they can directly contact EBSA Benefit Advisors for assistance.

  • EBSA’s Benefits Advisors closed more than 171,000 inquiries and recovered $456.3 million in benefits on behalf of workers and their families through informal resolution of individual complaints.
  • In Fiscal Year 2020, EBSA opened 357 new investigations from Benefits Advisors referrals.

Plan sponsors must be mindful; it only takes a call or email to initiate an employee complaint. Many of the inquiries came through via EBSA’s toll-free number 1-866-444-EBSA (3272), and the website at askebsa.dol. gov. When EBSA becomes aware of repeated complaints with respect to a particular plan, employer, or service provider, or when there is information indicating a violation of ERISA, the matter will be referred for investigation.

Source: Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) Fact Sheet, updated 10/14/2020