Advisory Opinions

Requests for interpretations and other rulings under Title 1 of ERISA are handled by the Office of Regulations and Interpretations under the provisions established by ERISA Procedure 76-1.  The office answers inquiries from individuals and organizations in the form of advisory opinions, which apply the law to a specific set of facts, or information letters, which merely call attention to well established principles or interpretations.

Data Dictionary

AO/ Date/ Reference Recipient Description of Request

Alexander T. Renfro, JD, LLM
The Law Office of Alexander Renfro
3200 West End Avenue, Suite 500
Nashville, TN 37204

Whether LP Management's limited partnership programs are employee welfare benefit plans within the meaning of section 3(1) of ERISA, and, if so, whether the arrangements constitute single-employer group health plans sponsored by the limited partnerships as an "employer."

This advisory opinion has been set aside by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. Data Marketing Partnership v. Scalia, Case No. 19-800, 2020 WL 5759966 (N.D. Tex. Sep. 28, 2020). The government has appealed the decision and the case is pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Case No. 20-11179.

AO/ Date/ Reference Recipient Description of Request

Alden J. Bianchi
Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C.
One Financial Center
Boston, MA 02111

Whether the Ace Hardware Ace Hardware Corporation Cooperative Group Health Plan is an "employee welfare benefit plan" within the meaning of section 3(1) of ERISA that is maintained by a "group or association of employers" within the meaning of section 3(5) of ERISA and whether it is a MEWA that is fully insured within the meaning of sections 3(40) and 514(b)(6)(A) of ERISA.

AO/ Date/ Reference Recipient Description of Request

J. Spencer Williams
Founder, President and CEO
Retirement Clearinghouse, LLC
3545 Whitehall Park Drive, Suite 400
Charlotte, NC 28273

This advisory opinion concerns the status of certain parties as fiduciaries within the meaning of section 3(21)(A) of ERISA and section 4975(e)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code as a result of actions undertaken as part of a Retirement Clearinghouse Auto Portability Program designed to help employees consolidate certain small accounts in plans and IRAs when they change jobs.

AO/ Date/ Reference Recipient Description of Request

Darcy L. Hitesman
Hitesman & Wold
12900 – 63rd  Avenue North
Maple Grove, MN 55369

Whether a sub-group of employer members of a trade association could constitute a “group or association of employers” within the meaning of section 3(5) of ERISA capable of sponsoring a multiple employer plan, and whether a group health plan proposed by the sub-group would constitute a multiple employer welfare arrangement within the meaning of section 3(40) of ERISA.


Vanessa A. Scott, Esq.
Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP
700 Sixth Street NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20001-3980

This advisory opinion concerns how the definition of employee welfare benefit plan and the definition of multiple employer welfare arrangement might apply to a program of administrative services.

AO/ Date/ Reference Recipient Description of Request

Christopher Chediak
Weintraub Tobin
400 Capitol Mall, 11th Floor
Sacramento, California 95814

Whether a long term disability program is an "employee welfare benefit plan" within the meaning of ERISA 3(1) sponsored by the California Law Enforcement Association as an "employees' beneficiary association" within the meaning of ERISA 3(4).


Nancy S. Gerrie
McDermott Will & Emery
227 West Monroe Street
Chicago, Illinois 60606-5096


Whether stop-loss insurance policies purchased by a plan sponsor to manage risk associated with a self-insured contributory welfare plan would constitute plan assets.

AO/ Date/ Reference Recipient Description of Request
PTE 84-14

Susan M. Camillo, Esq.
Dechert LLP
200 Clarendon Street, 27th Floor
Boston, MA 02116-5021

Whether certain deferred prosecution agreements entered into by an investment manager's affiliate constitute criminal "convictions" for purposes of Section I(g) of PTE 84-14, thereby disqualifying the investment manager from acting as a qualified professional asset manager under PTE 84-14.

PTE 77-4

Melanie Franco Nussdorf, Esq.
Steptoe & Johnson LLP
1330 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036

Whether the delivery of a "summary prospectus" satisfies certain disclosure requirements of PTE 77-4.


Stephen M. Saxon
Andree M. St. Martin
Groom Law Group, Chartered
1701 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20006-5811

This advisory opinion concerns the application of ERISA plan asset and fiduciary obligations to contractual arrangements between plans and service providers whereby a plan obtains credits or rights to share in revenue sharing payments the service provider receives as a result of plan investments.