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News Release

Labor Department Seeks Comments On Disclosure Of Employee Benefit Plan Information

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

The U. S. Department of Labor’s Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration today is publishing in the Federal Register a request for public comments on the adequacy of its current rules requiring employers and employee benefit plans to disclose information to participants and beneficiaries in those plans.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) requires pension, health and other welfare plans to give participants and beneficiaries certain information automatically or on request. The law also sets standards for the timing and content of these disclosure requirements.

Recent events, including decisions in the federal courts, have suggested that another part of ERISA which sets fiduciary standards creates additional disclosure obligations. The department seeks to evaluate whether additional guidance is necessary to reconcile these disclosure obligations.

"We want workers to get the information about their benefit plans that they need," said Acting Assistant Secretary Leslie B. Kramerich. "We want to build on conversations we have been having regarding the adequacy and timeliness of plan communications today. In addition, we know that the courts have been addressing these issues and the developing case law gives rise to questions as well. Therefore, we want to raise these questions and hope to hear from the public about the information that workers need today and how to get it to them in a timely manner so that both employees and employers feel that communications about pension and health benefits are meaningful."

The request for information (RFI), scheduled to be published in the Sept. 14 Federal Register, is designed to assist the department in resolving concerns by employees and the employer community over the adequacy of disclosure under certain circumstances, including both pension and health plans. These include:

  • whether current disclosure requirements fail to address the needs of participants and beneficiaries in understanding their benefits, rights under ERISA and the consequences of the choices offered to them under plans;
  • whether current administrative practices of plans fail to meet certain standards, including those related to completeness, accuracy and clarity;
  • practical factors the department should consider in developing guidance about disclosure required by plan fiduciaries;
  • what changes would be needed for plans to meet standards listed in the RFI;
  • whether state and other federal requirements should be considered in developing guidance;
  • the costs and benefits to plan sponsors and participants associated with changing plan administrative practices on disclosure among various types of plans and by plan size; and
  • the nature of disclosure plan fiduciaries are currently providing under various hypothetical situations to satisfy their obligations under ERISA.

Written comments should be provided to the department on or before January 12, 2001. The comments should be addressed to the Office of Regulations and Interpretations, Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration, U. S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Room N-5669, Washington, D. C., Attention: Disclosure RFI.

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 202.693.7775.

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

Employee Benefits Security Administration
September 14, 2000
Release Number