According to a News Release (dated November 16, 2010), the Employee Benefits Security Administration (the “EBSA”), of the Department of Labor (the “DOL”), has announced a series of enforcement actions to protect more than $7 million for workers in retirement plans or health plans governed by ERISA.
According to the News Release, under ERISA, the DOL has the authority to conduct civil and criminal investigations to protect employee benefit programs and the assets set aside to pay benefits to workers and their families. The enforcement cases announced today represent civil cases filed in federal district courts across the country to protect the contributions made by employees and matching contributions promised by their employers. In these cases, workers had contributions to their pension or health plans withheld from their paychecks, but the employers did not deposit those contributions in the plans. Instead, the employers kept the workers’ contributions and used them for their own purposes or other purposes unrelated to the plans.
The News Release further said that, in the criminal arena, the EBSA works with U.S. attorneys as well as state and local law enforcement agencies nationwide to bring criminal cases under ERISA that protect the contributions of American workers. The Contributory Plans Criminal Project is the EBSA’s first criminal national enforcement project targeting persons who commit fraud and abuse against participants and beneficiaries of contributory employee benefit plans, including 401(k)s and contributory health plans.
The EBSA’s “10 Warning Signs That Your 401(k) Contributions are Being Misused” provide workers with useful information to identify possible problems with their benefit programs. These may include situations where too much money is concentrated in one type of investment, unusually high administrative expenses, or improper business dealings with parties who manage and invest plan money.
Fact sheets on EBSA’s civil and criminal enforcement programs, along with the 10 warning signs, are available at http://www.dol.gov/ebsa.