Monday, March 8, 2010

DOL Issues Final Rule Regarding Provision of Plan Documents

The United States Department of Labor ("DOL") has issued a final rule requiring multiemployer benefit plans to provide copies of certain actuarial and financial documents regarding the plan upon written request. The DOL published the new plan document requirements in the March 2, 2010 Federal Register.

Generally speaking, the final rule provides that requested documents must be furnished within 30 days of the date a written request is made by a plan participant, beneficiary, employee representative or contributing employer. Failure to timely provide the requested documents may result in a civil penalty of up to $1,000 per day late (note that this is significantly more than the $110/day penalty plan administrators historically have faced for failing to turn over copies of benefit plans and summary plan descriptions).

More specifically, the following documents must now be provided upon written request:
(a) a copy of any periodic actuarial report (including sensitivity testing) received by the plan for any plan year which has been in the plan’s possession for at least 30days prior to the date of the written request; (b) a copy of any quarterly, semi-annual, or annual financial report prepared by any plan investment manager or advisor or other fiduciary which has been in the plan’s possession for at least 30 days before the plan receive written request; and (c) a copy of applications filed with the Secretary of the Treasury requesting an extension under Internal Revenue Code Section 431(d) or ERISA Section 304 and the determination of such Secretary pursuant to such application. There are also limits to what plan administrators are required to furnish upon request. A plan administrator is not required to produce the following:(a) more than one copy of a document during any 12-month period; (b) any report or application that has been in the plan’s possession for 6 years or more as of the date on which the request was received by the plan; (c) information that has not been in the plan’s possession for less than 30 days prior to the date of the written request - because requestors may not know about this limitation, plan administrators must provide a notice to the requestor informing them of the existence of the report and the earliest date it may be available; (d) any information or data that served as the basis for any report or application that is required to be furnished; or (e) individually identifiable information regarding any plan participant, beneficiary, employee, fiduciary, or contributing employer or proprietary information.

The final rule is effective April 1, 2010. Multiemployer plans will need to amend their summary plan descriptions to include language that informs participants and beneficiaries of their disclosure request rights.