DOL Announces Enforcement Plan to Protect Workers' Retirement, Health Benefits

The U.S. Department of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) Wednesday announced a series of enforcement actions to protect more than $7 million for workers in retirement plans or health plans governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

"Employees sacrificed wages to provide important benefits for themselves and their families," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "These enforcement actions underscore the Labor Department's commitment to ensure that these workers' contributions are protected and available to pay future benefits."

Under ERISA, DOL has the authority to conduct civil and criminal investigations to protect employee benefit programs and the assets set aside to pay benefits to workers and their families. The enforcement cases represent civil cases filed in federal district courts across the country to protect the contributions made by employees and matching contributions promised by their employers. In these cases, workers had contributions to their pension or health plans withheld from their paychecks, but the employers did not deposit those contributions in the plans. Instead, the employers kept the workers' contributions and used them for their own purposes or other purposes unrelated to the plans.

DOL is represented in civil ERISA cases by its solicitor of labor, and these cases were filed by each of the solicitor's eight regional offices.

In the criminal arena, EBSA works with U.S. attorneys as well as state and local law enforcement agencies nationwide to bring criminal cases under ERISA that protect the contributions of American workers. The Contributory Plans Criminal Project is the agency's first criminal national enforcement project targeting persons who commit fraud and abuse against participants and beneficiaries of contributory employee benefit plans, including 401(k)s, and contributory health plans.

"Workers are often the first line of defense in identifying problems with their benefit programs early," said Phyllis C. Borzi, assistant secretary for EBSA. "Therefore, we want to equip them with information to help the department protect and preserve their right to plan benefits."

EBSA's "10 Warning Signs That Your 401(k) Contributions are Being Misused" provide workers with information to identify possible problems with their benefit programs. These may include situations where too much money is concentrated in one type of investment, unusually high administrative expenses, or improper business dealings with parties who manage and invest plan money.

For fact sheets on EBSA's civil and criminal enforcement programs, along with the 10 warning signs, visit http://www.dol.gov/ebsa.

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