August 28, 2013

For additional information:
Jason Hammersla
office 202-289-6700
cell 202-422-4652 (cell)

Council, American Airlines to DOL advisory council: additional guidance needed on lost, missing participants

WASHINGTON, DC — As the ERISA Advisory Council (EAC) considers recommendations to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) regarding the problem of lost and missing participants from retirement plans, American Airlines' Senior Benefits Counsel Vicki Blanton suggested the issuance of additional regulatory guidance that would assist plan sponsors in locating these participants and ensuring they receive their due benefits.

Testifying on behalf of the American Benefits Council, Blanton said that "with proper guidance, plans could save millions of dollars in wasted postage and the cost of printing, while advancing the intended goal of reaching and informing participants of plan benefits."

Blanton's testimony supplemented the earlier testimony provided by the Council in the person of Allison Klausner, Assistant General Counsel - Benefits for Honeywell International Inc., in June of this year.

Among Blanton's recommendations:

  • DOL should consider new or coordinated guidance regarding the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation's (PBGC) recently issued request for information[1] on whether and how the PBGC should implement a missing participant program for terminating individual account plans, similar to its current program for terminating defined benefit plans. (The Council filed a comment letter with the PBGC on August 20.)

  • DOL should revise existing guidance to make facilitating electronic delivery easier, regardless of whether an employee has regular computer access as part of his or her duties.

  • DOL should clarify that plans (and therefore the plan's active participants) will not bear the substantial expense of tracking lost or missing participants. The department should also clarify how extensively a plan must search for a participant.

  • DOL should consider clear guidance on plan coordination with state escheatment programs that would allow a plan to decide whether to participate in such programs with fiduciary protection.

"Our ongoing plans present unique challenges given the mobile employee population and base transfers, which cause a need for additional data," Blanton said. "The issuance of clarifying guidance - with an understanding of the cost and administrative burdens imposed upon plan sponsors - would make the location of lost participants much more effective."

For more information, please contact Jason Hammersla, Council director of communications, at or by phone at 202-289-6700 (office) or (202) 422-4652 (cell).

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The American Benefits Council is the national trade association for companies concerned about federal legislation and regulations affecting all aspects of the employee benefits system. The Council's members represent the entire spectrum of the private employee benefits community and either sponsor directly or administer retirement and health plans covering more than 100 million Americans.