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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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DOL's Strategic Plan - Live Q&A Session with EBSA - Static Page

This chat about the DOL Strategic Plan was held on Tuesday, April 6 at 1:45 p.m. EDT with EBSA.

1:41 Moderator: Welcome! The chat will begin in about 5 minutes, but you can submit your questions at any time and they will go into a queue.

1:48 Asst. Sec. Phyllis Borzi: Thanks for taking the time to participate in today’s chat. I’m Phyllis C. Borzi, Assistant Secretary of Labor of the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA).

The U.S. Department of Labor is currently updating its 5-year Strategic Plan. As an important stakeholder to the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), I am seeking your feedback in the DOL Strategic Plan development process. The Secretary has created a dedicated web page to explain her strategic planning principles. This may be found at www.dol.gov/strategicplan2010 . The Secretary has established an overarching vision of Good Jobs for Everyone. Supporting this vision, EBSA activities will support the DOL goal of improving health benefits and retirement security for all workers. This goal is not new to EBSA, but we are considering new ways to measure our progress in this area. I look forward to our discussion.

1:51 Moderator: Don't be shy! We have a few questions in the queue that you've submitted but we can always use more.

1:56 Comment From Lucia: What methods have you used in the past to measure or track participation/enrollment in benefit programs? Have you employed survey tools for example?

1:56 Phyllis: Lucia, good question. There are a number of surveys that we use. These include Census Bureau surveys of households, and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) surveys of private companies. We also rely on annual reports that employee benefit plans file with us at the Labor Department. As you might guess, benefit enrollment is widespread but not universal.

1:57 Comment From Jane Smith: At the Pension rights Center we are delighted that EBSA has included a World Class participant assistance program as a measurable outcome in its strategic plan. In evaluating the participant assistance program does EBSA plan to identify areas where additional regulation or legislation would assist individuals seeking to enforce their rights under private retirement plans? For example, will EBSA activities in the next five years include updating key aspects of the pension claims rules (such as timing for appeals) to provide some of the important participant protections of the health claims rules?

1:57 Phylis: Jane, thanks for your question. We believe that measuring customer satisfaction is the most effective way to measure our participant assistance program since it measures all aspects of our interactions with our customers. Information that our benefit advisors gather from their interactions with participants does inform our regulatory and policy development process. And of course, we are constantly reviewing areas where additional regulations are necessary to protect participants. You will see some of these on our next regulatory agenda, which should be published in the next couple of weeks.

2:00 :

2:00 Moderator: That's a photo of Assistant Secretary Borzi working on one of the questions.

2:01 Comment From Guest: Can you elaborate on what specific enforcement efforts you have planned focusig on retirement plans?

2:01 Phyllis: Hello, Guest. For FY2010 we have four national enforcement projects that focus on retirement plans. 1) Our Consultant/Adviser Project (CAP) investigates investment advisers and other service providers to pension plans (as well as other plans) to determine whether they have violated Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) by providing conflicted advice to the plan. 2) Our newest project is the Contributory Plans Criminal Project (CPCP) which seeks to identify criminal violations involving contributory plans such as 401k plans. 3) We are continuing to investigate Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOP) to identify violations of ERISA. 4) Finally, our Rapid ERISA Action Team (REACT) project seeks to protect pension plans as well as other plans when the plan sponsor is in financial difficulty or has filed for bankruptcy.

2:01 Phyllis: Here's a question for you all: Secretary Solis has set a goal for EBSA of improving health benefits and retirement security for all workers. In order to measure those outcomes, we are going to be looking at recidivism and overall compliance rates. Are there any other outcome measures you all think we ought to consider? We would love to hear your thoughts.

2:01 Comment From David Pittman: What are your plans for issuing the regulations and other guidance that plan sponsors and administrators will need to comply with the recent health reform legislation?

2:01 Phyllis: David: We have already begun working with other federal agencies (the Departments of the Treasury and Health and Human Services) to develop regulations and other guidance on the provisions of the health reform law that go into effect shortly. We would expect to issue guidance as it is completed.

2:05 Comment From David Pittman: How will DOL utilize "management letters" (a.k.a. "SAS 112" letters) obtained from plan auditors? What role will they plan in DOL's audit and enforcement activities?

2:05 Phyllis: Good question David. As you are probably aware, EBSA investigators review a variety of documents as part of their investigation. The accountant's opinion and related documents play an important role in then determining the scope of the investigation.

2:14 Comment From Roberta: In the area of ESOP's, what regulatory or stautory changes can we expect that will allow younger participants to better protect their employer stock accounts when they move onto another job? Have you considered diversification rights for younger employees?

2:14 Phyllis: Thank your for your question. We are reviewing a variety of issues involving ESOPs. It is not clear at this juncture what regulatory and other changes will result.

2:14 Comment From Brian Graff: As a follow-up to the health regulation question, between your already extensive retirement plan policy agenda and now the new health law, does EBSA have adequate resources to meet the combined demands? Will the regulatory agenda need to change, and if so, how?

2:14 Phyllis: Brian, you are correct that the new health law presents our agency with new challenges which we will meet. At the same time we expect to continue to maintain an aggressive regulatory program. Obviously, we will, from time to time, review our regulatory agenda and make changes as necessary.

2:21 Phyllis: Thank you for taking the time to participate in today's Web chat on EBSA's contribution to the DOL strategic plan. We’re going to have to cut this a little short today, but I look forward to your continued comments as we move forward through the strategic planning process. Your input is important to us as we develop and refine our goals, measurements and outcomes to move us toward improving health benefits and retirement security for all workers. If you would like to comment, please email ebsastratplan@dol.gov. A final draft of the plan will be posted on the DOL strategic plan page for review and comment later in the year. I want to hear from as many voices as possible in putting together EBSA's roadmap for 2010-2016. Thank you for your time today.

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