The Employee Benefits Security Administration today answered questions about benefit plan fiduciary bonding and unveiled the 2008 Form 5500.

EBSA, an arm of the U.S. Labor Department, has published the bonding guidance in Field Assistance Bulletin, Number 2008-04.

Robert Doyle, an EBSA director, writes in the guidance that a benefit plan official must be bonded for at least $1,000 per plan, and for at least 10% of the amount of funds that the official handles.

For most plan officials, the maximum bond required is $500,000 per official per plan.

For officials of plans that hold employer securities, the maximum bond requirement increased to $1 million for plan years starting on or after Jan. 1, 2007, Doyle writes.

Section 412 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act requires that a plan official bond protect the plan against losses caused by the bonded person’s direct or indirect acts of fraud or dishonesty, even if the bonded person did not profit from the acts.

“Deductibles and other similar features that transfer risk to the plan are prohibited,” Doyle writes.

Doyle gives answers to 42 ERISA fidelity bond questions, including questions about whether an ERISA fidelity bond is the same thing as fiduciary liability insurance (it is not); which entities can provide ERISA bonds (the surety or reinsurer must be named on the Treasury Department’s list of approved sureties); and whether the same bond can insure more than one plan (it can).

Doyle also discusses exemptions from bonding requirements; the precise meaning of the terms used in Section 412; the form and scope of a fidelity bond; fidelity bond terms and provisions; and the amount of the bond.

In other benefit plan news, EBSA has posted an informational copy of the new Form 5500 employee benefit plan return on the Web.

EBSA will continue to offer a voluntary simplified reporting option for some plans with fewer than 25 participants at the beginning of the plan year, EBSA officials say.

Multiemployer defined benefit pension plans will have to send more information along with the Schedule R Retirement Plan Information form, and defined benefit pension plans with 1,000 or more participants will have to attach financial asset breakout information to the Schedule R form, officials say.