New Jersey employers that offer certain types of benefit plans have an obligation to observe their fiduciary duties as established by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. In fiscal 2017, the Employee Benefits Security Administration that investigates complaints related to employer retirement plans recovered $1.1 billion, with $682.3 million coming directly from enforcement actions. All monies recovered represented a 42 percent increase from fiscal 2016, and the financial results of enforcement actions nearly doubled compared to the year before.
While recouping money in excess of $1 billion, the agency closed 1,707 civil investigations and recommended civil action for 134 cases. Among retirement plan complaints that involved criminal charges, the EBSA resolved 307 criminal cases and indicted 113 people. Convictions or guilty pleas resulted in 79 of the cases.
In fiscal 2017, the agency focused significant resources on investigations that involved terminated vested participants in defined benefit plans. Out of the over $600 million collected through enforcement actions, investigators recovered $326.7 million owed as benefits to pension plan participants. The figures reported by the agency illustrated its ongoing commitment to the investigation of ERISA violations against pension participants.
People who suspect that an employer has taken an action meant to undermine their access to benefits could consult an attorney. A legal evaluation of situations that include retaliation for lawful complaints or a denial of benefits could reveal whether they suffered a violation of their employee rights. An employer could organize evidence, document the wrongs experienced by the employees and communicate this information to the employer. This step could also include alerting regulatory authorities to the person’s workplace complaint.