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News Release

Labor Department Issues Additional Guidance To Employee Benefit Plans On Y2K Compliance

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration took a major step today to address concerns of the employee benefit industry about fiduciary liability and the Year 2000 (Y2K) computer problem. To help the benefit community understand these issues, the agency is releasing sample questions used by the agency's investigators to evaluate Y2K compliance in the course of civil investigations of benefit plans across the United States.

This release is in response to hundreds of inquiries from concerned employee benefit plan administrators and trustees and from their service providers who want to know what PWBA information is seeking from the plans to show they are working to solve their internal computer problems and to head off any potential disruption in service to their participants and beneficiaries. Like most business operations, employee benefit plans rely on computers to perform critical operations such as benefit calculations and payments.

Earlier this year, the agency issued two news releases emphasizing that plans needed to address Y2K issues relating to their own computer systems. In addition, the agency widely distributed a Y2K pamphlet on commonly-asked questions and answers about the compliance issue which was posted on the agency’s website at . The pamphlet concentrates on the fiduciary liability of plan officials and service providers in addressing the Y2K issue in connection with any computer systems their plans utilize.

According to Alan Lebowitz, deputy assistant secretary for program operations at PWBA, “Since we first discussed this issue publicly in February, we’ve met with officials from umbrella groups and companies throughout the employee benefits industry and talked before dozens of groups and with hundreds of individuals. It was obvious we needed to provide more assistance so we decided to release the sample questions we’ve given our personnel to use when they are in the field.

“It is our intent today not to scare the plan community,” Lebowitz concluded, “but to further accentuate the critical nature of this issue and to help plan officials focus even more effort on voluntarily working to solve this complex problem. This will assure their plan participants and beneficiaries that there is no disruption in receiving their benefits -- be it health claims or retirement checks.”

PWBA enforces Title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974 and has jurisdiction over approximately 700,000 private sector retirement plans and approximately six million health and welfare plans.

U.S. Department of Labor news releases are accessible on the Internet. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format upon request (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the Central Office for Assistive Services and Technology. Please specify which news release when placing your request. Call 202.693.7773 or TTY 202.693.7755.

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

Contact Name:Sharon Morrissey
Phone Number: 202.219.8921

Employee Benefits Security Administration
December 14, 1998
Release Number
USDL: 99-9