PBGC’s Expanded Missing Participant Program Final Rule Covers DC Plans and non-PBGC Insured DB Plans

As authorized by the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA), the Pension and  Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) has issued a final regulation that expands PBGC’s missing participants program, effective as of plan terminations that occur on or after January 1, 2018. PBGC’s missing participant program was previously limited to terminated single-employer DB plans covered by title IV’s insurance program. It is now available to other terminated retirement plans.

Summary of How the PBGC MIssing Participant Program Applies to Defined Contribution (DC) Plans and non-PBGC Defined Benefit Plans

The revised program now provides that PBGC’s missing participants program is voluntary for terminated non-PBGC-insured plans, e.g.,DC plans.

In addition, a non-PBGC-insured plan that chooses to use the program may elect to be a “transferring plan” or a “notifying plan.” A transferring plan sends the benefit amounts of missing distributees to PBGC’s missing participants program. A notifying plan informs PBGC of the disposition of the benefits of one or more of its missing distributees. Section 4050(d)(1) of ERISA permits but does not require non-PBGC-insured plans covered by the program to turn missing participants’ benefits over to PBGC.

A DC plan that chooses to participate in the missing participants program and elects to be a transferring plan must transfer the benefits of all its missing participants into the missing participants program. PBGC explains that this is to prevent the possibility of “cherry-picking”—that is, selective use of the missing participants program—by transferring plans.

PBGC will charge a one-time $35 fee per missing distributee, payable when benefit transfer amounts are paid to PBGC. There will be no charge for amounts transferred to PBGC of $250 or less. There will be no charge for plans that only send to PBGC information about where benefits are held (such as in an IRA or under an annuity contract). Fees will be set forth in the program’s forms and instructions.

The program definition of “missing” for DC plans follows Department of Labor regulations, which treat DC plan distributees who cannot be found following a diligent search similar to distributees whose whereabouts are known but who do not elect a form of distribution.

A distributee is treated as missing if, upon close-out, the distributee does not accept a lump sum distribution made in accordance with the terms of the plan and, if applicable, any election made by the distributee. For example, if a check issued pursuant to a distributee’s election of a lump sum remains uncashed after the last date prescribed on the check or an accompanying notice (e.g., by the bank or the plan) for cashing it (the “cash-by” date), the distributee is considered not to have accepted the lump sum.

A DC plan must search for each missing distributee whose location the plan does not know with reasonable certainty. The plan must search in accordance with regulations and other applicable guidance issued by the Secretary of Labor under section 404 of ERISA. See the DOL’s FAB 2014-01 for guidance on search steps. Compliance with that guidance satisfies PBGC’s “diligent search” standard for DC plans.

Some other major features of the new program include:

  • A unified unclaimed pension database of information about missing participants and their benefits from terminated DB and DC plans.
  •  A centralized, reliable, easy-to-use directory through which persons who may be owed retirement benefits from DB or DC plans could find out whether benefits are being held for them.
  • Periodic active searches by PBGC for missing participants.
  • Fewer benefit categories and fewer sets of actuarial assumptions for DB plans determining the amount to transfer to PBGC and a free on-line calculator to do certain actuarial calculations.

Visit the PBGC’s Missing Participant site for more information, including an  explanation of the plans covered by the program and the forms and instructions to use with the program.

Our prior post on the proposed regulations is here

PBGC Expands Missing Participant Program to Defined Contribution Plans

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) has issued a Proposed Rule that would redesign its existing missing participants program for single employer Defined Benefit (DB) plans and to adopt three new missing participants programs that will cover most Defined Contribution (DC) plans, as well as multiemployer DB plans and professional service employer DB plans. All four programs would follow the same basic design. Among the most prominent changes to the existing program would be:

• Provision for fees to be charged for plans to participate in the missing participants program.

• A requirement to treat as ‘‘missing’’ non-responsive distributees with de minimis benefits subject to mandatory cash-out under the plan’s terms.

• More robust requirements for diligent searches, using sponsor and related plan records, free web-search methods, and (subject to waiver) commercial locator services (which would be clearly defined).

• Fewer benefit categories and fewer sets of actuarial assumptions for determining the amount to transfer to PBGC.

• Changes in the rules for paying benefits to missing participants and their beneficiaries.

An important part of all of the missing participants programs will be a new unified pension search database.  This database would include information about missing participants and their benefits and a directory through which members of the public could easily query the database (using a choice of fields) to determine whether it contained information about benefits being held for them. PBGC anticipates that its new pension search database will provide a comprehensive, nationwide, authoritative, reliable, easy to use source of information about missing participants and the benefits being held for them.

‘‘Missing’’ would be defined more specifically than in the current regulation. As explained below, a distributee would be missing if—

(1) For a DB plan, the plan did not know where the distributee was (e.g., a notice from the plan was returned as undeliverable), unless the distributee’s benefit was subject to mandatory ‘‘cashout’’ under the terms of the plan, or

(2) For a DC plan, or a distributee whose benefit was subject to a mandatory cash-out under the terms of a DB plan, the distributee failed to elect a form or manner of distribution.

For DC plans, PBGC proposes to specify simply that a diligent search is one conducted in accordance with DOL guidance, the most recent of which was issued on August 14, 2014 by the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) in Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2014–01 regarding Fiduciary Duties And Missing Participants In Terminated Defined Contribution Plans (the FAB). The FAB provides guidance about required search steps and options for dealing with the benefits of missing participants in terminated DC plans.

PBGC is proposing to charge a one-time $35 fee per missing distributee, payable when benefit transfer amounts are paid to PBGC, without any obligation to pay PBGC continuing ‘‘maintenance’’ fees or a distribution fee. There would be no charge for amounts transferred to PBGC of $250 or less. There would be no charge for plans that only send information about missing participant benefits to PBGC.

More…

Overview of Proposed Expanded Missing Participants Program

Proposed Expanded Missing Participants Program FAQs

Read the Proposed Rule