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Employee Benefits Security Administration Related Questions

The Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) is part of the U.S. Department of Labor and is, in its own words, “…committed to educating and assisting the 140 million Americans covered by more than 707,000 private retirement plans, 2.5 million health plans, and similar numbers of other welfare benefit plans holding over $6 trillion in assets; as well as plan sponsors and members of the employee benefits community.”

However, while there may be a framework to safeguard an individual’s interests when it comes to retirement planning, not everyone is aware of what EBSA is, their rights, the law and the EBSA regulations. This often results in questions about EBSA like the ones below, answered by Experts.

EBSA has sent a letter to my company to investigate our retirement plans and check for violations, since we have switched over from being managed by an outside firm and are now self-managed. Is this standard procedure? And would EBSA need to subpoena my records for me to cooperate with them? Also, for former employees the retirement plan has less than $20,000 in the 401(k). Does that have a bearing on anything?

In view of what you have said, it is probable that EBSA is just following rules under ERISA and is either conducting an audit or is acting on a complaint by a beneficiary of the 401(k). You could ask them to give you a subpoena, but your action could end up making you look suspicious for the right or wrong reasons. Therefore, if you have done nothing wrong, it is best to avoid doing that.

EBSA is basically set up to help employers in ensuring that the programs they offer their employees, under ERISA, follow the law. Therefore, EBSA will help point out any deficiencies in your program so that you can fix it and avoid litigation by an employee later on. To understand what investigative and enforcement powers EBSA is vested with, visit http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/oemanual/cha10.html.

My company fired me and never gave me my COBRA benefits. It’s been 18 months and they continue to ignore me. The state says that I have to file a claim in the federal courts. Should I do that or try and hire an attorney?

If an employer does not pay an employee his or her COBRA benefits, the employee can get in touch with the Employee Benefit Security Administration (EBSA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Labor, and file a complaint. The EBSA can also penalize employers for not complying with COBRA requirements. Some of the fines that an employer can get hit with include being asked to pay $110 by the IRS for every day of non-compliance with the law. Or even up to $200 a day if more than one qualified beneficiary was affected, along with an ERISA penalty of $110 for every day of non-compliance.

For more information, you can visit http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/.

I was an employee of Bank One for 15 years and was part of a program called the Bank One Savings and Investment Plan. JPMChase bought Bank One and now says that there are no records of the existence of this plan. I have proof that shows that I contributed to the plan. What can I do now?

To begin with, you should get in touch with the U.S. Department of Labor since it is the governing body that enforces the rules and regulations of Title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The Dept. of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration enforces rules that govern what plan managers have to do, the investment of plan assets, reporting and disclosure of plan information, enforcement of the fiduciary provisions of the law, and workers' benefits rights. You could also call EBSA's toll-free Employee & Employer Hotline at: 1.866.444.EBSA (3272) for more information.

However, in view of what you have said about your case, it is possible that you might have to go to court and sue JPMChase since they would have, in all probability, seen all business and account information when they bought Bank One. Therefore, they would have known about the existence of the plan. You could also contact previous employees you worked with and check on what happened to their accounts.

EBSA is a government body that ensures that employees fully understand and receive the employment benefits due to them. Therefore, it is important for both employers and employees to know how EBSA works. If you are not sure or have questions of your own about EBSA, you could get clarification by asking Experts.
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