NU Online News Service, March 14, 2005, 4:01 p.m. EST

Federal officials want to streamline the process for salvaging retirement plans that have been abandoned by their sponsors.[@@]

The U.S. Department of Labor has proposed rules to standardize the process of taking over orphaned plans and giving the financial services companies that manage the assets the authority to distribute the assets to workers and workers’ families.

Labor officials have been working with the courts on a case-by-case basis to rescue members of about 1,650 orphaned 401(k) plans each year, Labor officials estimate.

Public comments on the rules are due May 9.

The rules appear in the Federal Register at http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20051800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2005/pdf/05-4464.pdf