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Missing Participant Guidance


The Department of Labor has issued guidance to help retirement plan fiduciaries when trying to locate and distribute retirement benefits to missing or nonresponsive participants. The guidance comes in three parts, 1) A page titled, "Missing Participants - Best Practices for Pension Plans, 2) Compliance assistance release 2021-01, and 3) Field assistance bulletin 2021-01.


The best practices piece is available here.


The compliance assistance bulletin is available here. In it, you can see what the EBSA staff is looking for and the items they would potentially request from plan sponsors.


The FAB 2021-01 is available here.


The language used shows that plan sponsors will need to have a regular process in place. Frequently plans that are not doing regular housekeeping can balloon in size. Working with an advisor who can assist with this process is key. For small plan sponsors, this can also help them stay small and not go over the threshold for a large plan filer. Specifically the language used is:


  • We also seek information to determine whether the plan takes sufficient steps to address missing participant situations when they occur.3 This includes examining internal procedures and practices for reaching out to unresponsive TVPs or for searching for them (for example, through the plan sponsor’s human resources department or in the records of related employee benefit plans), and contracts and experience with third-parties who perform recordkeeping and missing participant search functions for the plan. These documents and information, combined with interviews of the relevant parties, help us to verify what the plan, responsible plan fiduciaries, and relevant service providers do (or do not do) when confronted with TVPs or beneficiaries who are eligible to receive their benefits, but have not made a claim for benefits or otherwise entered pay status.

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