Authority and Coordination

Administrative Procedures

Enforcement Programs

The Employee Benefits Security Administration published this manual solely for the use of its employees. It is not meant to limit EBSA’s discretion regarding its responsibilities set by ERISA.

This manual is not intended to:

  • be an interpretation of law or regulation,
  • address agency policy on issues or potential violations,
  • serve as guidance for persons outside the Department of Labor,
  • give any person, including the subject of an EBSA investigation or enforcement action, a right to rely on any policy or procedure contained in the manual, or
  • create any other substantive or procedural rights.


Since at least 1996, EBSA has had an Enforcement Manual Committee (Committee). The Director of Enforcement is responsible for appointing and overseeing the Committee. The Committee is comprised of national and regional office members (including, but not limited to: Regional Directors, Deputy Regional Directors, Associate Regional Directors, Supervisory Investigators, Investigator and Office of Enforcement staff). The Committee’s co-chairs will be a Senior Enforcement Advisor, Enforcement and a Deputy Regional Director. EBSA staff can suggest changes to the Enforcement Manual through an e-mail address posted on the EBSA Intranet.


The Enforcement Manual review process is as follows:

  • The Committee reviews and drafts proposed changes to the Enforcement Manual that impact the investigative process, as needed, but not less than every two years.
  • The Committee makes recommendations for any changes or updates to the Enforcement Manual to the Director of Enforcement.
  • Director of Enforcement reviews proposed changes with the Regional Directors (RDs) and the Deputy Assistant Secretary for National Office Operations and the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Offices, as appropriate.
  • Office of the Solicitor (SOL)/Plan Benefits Security Division (PBSD) review and clear proposed changes.
  • The Director of Enforcement, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for National Office Operations and the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Offices review final changes, as appropriate.


Changes to the Enforcement Manual are made electronically. A table describing the changes and dates of changes will be included as an Appendix to the Enforcement Manual. The electronic version annotates by section the date of changes. A memorandum to the field summarizes the changes, as needed, but no less than every two years.

Record Maintenance

The Committee will maintain the following records:

  • Suggestions for changes.
  • A redline of all revisions.
  • A chart of all revisions, reason for the change and date.
  • Copies of all memorandum memorializing the changes.
  • HTML and PDF versions.

The Employee Benefits Security Administration is an agency within the Department of Labor that administers and enforces the provisions of Title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). ERISA established fiduciary and other standards for employee benefit plans sponsored by private-sector employers. The Assistant Secretary, appointed by the President, directs EBSA and reports directly to the Secretary of Labor.

Headquarters and Staffing

EBSA headquarters is located in Washington, D.C. Its enforcement activities are performed mostly in field offices located in 13 cities throughout the United States. Over 400 investigators/auditors work in field offices, all of whom are highly skilled professionals. Many are lawyers or Certified Public Accountants, and others have advanced degrees in business and finance. The Office of Enforcement is responsible for operational review and oversight, and enforcement policy.


EBSA shares responsibility with the Internal Revenue Service and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation for the administration and enforcement of ERISA. Under ERISA, the Secretary of Labor is responsible for protecting the rights and financial security of approximately 143 million employee benefit plan participants and beneficiaries and for assuring the integrity and effective management of the private pension and welfare benefit system. EBSA has enforcement authority over employee benefit plans covering workers in a variety of industries, including communications, retail, shipping, and financial services.

Employee benefit plans invest in a variety of investment vehicles, including stocks, bonds and real estate. Individuals and companies who provide services to employee benefit plans, such as investment advisors, trust departments, insurance companies, consultants, and others, are also governed by ERISA.

EBSA carries out its responsibilities by conducting a wide range of activities, including civil and criminal investigations, to determine whether there are violations of ERISA and the sections of Title 18, as they relate to employee benefit plans.

  • ACA – Affordable Care Act
  • APP – Abandoned Plan Program
  • COBRA – Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act
  • Department - Department of Labor
  • DOL - Department of Labor
  • DES - Division of Enforcement Support
  • DFO - Division of Field Operations
  • DO - District Office
  • DOJ - Department of Justice
  • DRC - Division of Reporting Compliance
  • DS – District Supervisor
  • DTAI - Division of Technical Assistance and Inquiries
  • EBSA – Employee Benefits Security Administration
  • ERISA - Employee Retirement Income Security Act
  • FBI – Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • FDIC - Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
  • FOIA - Freedom of Information Act
  • FRB - Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
  • HHS – Health and Human Services, Department of
  • HIPAA – Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
  • HMO – Health Maintenance Organization
  • IRC - Internal Revenue Code
  • Code - Internal Revenue Code
  • IRS - Internal Revenue Service
  • MEWA - Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangement
  • MHPA – Mental Health Parity Act
  • MHPAEA - Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act
  • MOU – Memorandum of Understanding
  • NCUA - National Credit Union Administration
  • NO – National Office
  • OCA - Office of the Chief Accountant
  • OCC - Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
  • OE - Office of Enforcement
  • OED - Office of Exemption Determinations
  • OIG – Office of the Inspector General
  • OPM - Office of Personnel Management
  • OHPSCA – Office of Health Plan Standards and Compliance Assistance, EBSA
  • OLR – Office of Labor Racketeering
  • OOCR - Office of Organized Crime and Racketeering
  • OPA – Office of Participant Assistance, EBSA
  • OPM – Office of Personnel Management
  • OPPEM - Office of Program Planning, Evaluation and Management
  • ORI – Office of Regulations and Interpretations, EBSA
  • OTS - Office of Thrift Supervision
  • PA – Plan Administrator
  • PBGC - Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
  • PBSD – Plan Benefits Security Division, SOL
  • PHS – Public Health Service
  • PRA – Paperwork Reduction Act
  • PTE – Prohibited Transaction Exemption
  • PWBA – Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration
  • RD - Regional Director
  • RFPA - Right to Financial Privacy Act
  • RI - Report of Interview
  • RO - Regional Office
  • ROI - Report of Investigation
  • RSOL - Regional Office of the Solicitor
  • SBREFA – Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act
  • SEC – Securities and Exchange Commission
  • Secretary - Secretary of Labor
  • SOL - Office of the Solicitor
  • SPD – Summary Plan Description
  • SSN – Social Security Number
  • TE/GE – Tax Exempt and Government Entities, IRS
  • USAO - U.S. Attorney's Office
  • UCC – Uniform Commercial Code
  • UST – U.S. Trustee’s Office
  • VC – Voluntary Compliance
  • VFCP – Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program
  • WHCRA – Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act