It’s your fiduciary duty to locate missing participants
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In January 2021, the DOL announced welcome guidance on this critical topic. Although the guidance is neither formal nor dispositive, it's consistent with positions previously taken by the DOL and its regional offices in investigations and audit situations. The guidance is an attempt to respond to requests for assistance and provide guidelines for locating missing or nonresponsive participants and, ultimately, distributing their account balances.
The guidance issued in January came in three forms
- Missing Participants—Best Practices for Pension Plans, which provides several best practices for fiduciaries to follow to prevent participants from becoming “missing” and locate them when they go missing
- Compliance Assistance Release No. 2021-01, which outlines the general investigative approach that will guide all DOL regional offices in audits under its Terminated Vested Participants Project for defined benefit plans
- Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2021-01, which permits fiduciaries of terminated defined contribution plans to use the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation program for missing/unlocatable participants
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Deciphering the U.S. Department of Labor's guidance on missing participants