The Labor Department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration recovered more than $2.5 billion in payments to plans, participants and beneficiaries and recovered more than $2 billion from its investigations in fiscal 2019.
EBSA also reported late Thursday that its criminal investigations led to the indictment of 76 individuals — including plan officials, corporate officers and service providers — for offenses related to employee benefit plans.
Under its Terminated Vested Participant Project — a major enforcement priority — EBSA helped participants collect nearly $1.5 billion in retirement benefits in the form of lump sum payments, present value of lifetime annuity payments and interest.
“Overall, these numbers reflect a continued high level of enforcement activity by the DOL,” said Joshua Lichtenstein, a partner at Ropes & Gray in New York who focuses on ERISA and employee benefits.
EBSA’s activity “reflects a significant increase in recovered amounts for plans and plan participants versus prior years, with nearly $1 billion more in recoveries than 2018 despite a reduction in the number of closed civil investigations compared to the prior year,” Lichtenstein said.
“A significant portion of the recovery is related to the DOL’s terminated vested participant program, which has seen steady increases each year since it became a DOL focus,” Lichtenstein added.
Labor “has been concerned that people who are no longer at an employer but have vested benefits are not getting paid out because they failed to update the plan on changes in their contact information (address, phone number, etc.).”