Department of Labor Releases Results of its 2021 Employee Benefit Plan Investigations:

On November 24, 2021, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) released a Fact Sheet stating that “In FY 2021, EBSA [the DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration] recovered over $2.4 billion for plans, participants and beneficiaries” via its plan investigations and other enforcement activities. That amount included the following:

  • $1.9 billion in recoveries from enforcement actions, which consist of plan audits and lawsuits.  Plan audits can be triggered by a wide array of factors. Those include information reported on Form 5500 filings with respect to the number of participants, the types of plan investments, and the amount of and timeliness of plan contributions. The DOL often files lawsuits against plan sponsors when the DOL is not able to collect the monetary penalty that it proposes during a plan audit.
  • $499.5 million that was restored to workers through informal complaint resolution. This program applies when workers experience a problem with an employee benefit plan and they contact the DOL’s Benefit Advisors for assistance. (These worker inquiries sometimes also lead to enforcement actions. When the DOL becomes aware of repeated complaints with respect to a particular plan, employer, or service provider, the matter is often referred to the proper DOL personnel for investigation.)

The Fact Sheet also states that “EBSA’s enforcement program also obtains non-monetary corrections and injunctive relief in civil cases that result in increased protections for plans and their participants. In FY 2021, EBSA obtained 449 non-monetary corrections. Examples of these results included removal of 6 fiduciaries, orders barring 34 individuals from acting as fiduciaries, court appointments of 16 independent fiduciaries, and 124 cases involving reforms of plan procedures, such as improved search procedures for missing participants.” In addition, during FY 2021, EBSA opened 188 criminal investigations and closed 208 criminal investigations.