You likely recognize the importance of seeing your doctor for an annual physical to keep your health in tip-top shape, or taking your car in for routine maintenance to keep it running like new.
But what about checking the health of your retirement plan? When is the last time you reviewed your retirement committee charter, investment policy statement (IPS) and other key retirement plan documents to monitor your plan’s compliance with specific standards of conduct and fiduciary responsibilities under the law?
Ideally, you should meet with your plan’s advisor at least once a year to evaluate the overall health of your retirement plan, which includes reviewing plan documents and operations to help ensure they are up to date with current guidance and regulations.
Always a Fiduciary: An Ongoing Responsibility
As a retirement plan fiduciary, adhering to plan documents is one of your most important roles. As a plan sponsor, you are a fiduciary to the plan. This means you have an ongoing and continuous responsibility to monitor the plan, service providers, investment offerings and operations. It’s your job to ensure they are being managed in the sole interest of your participants and their beneficiaries, and for the exclusive purpose of providing benefits and paying plan expenses. Not following these standards of conduct could subject you to personal liabilities. In addition, courts could take action against plan fiduciaries who breach their responsibilities. There has already been a plethora of lawsuits against plan fiduciaries in recent years.
Associate Supreme Court Justice, Stephen J. Breyer, famously submitted his verdict of the landmark Tibble v. Edison case, which set a precedent for fiduciary breach cases regarding the monitoring and selection of retirement plan investments. He stated that “… a trustee has a continuing duty — separate and apart from the duty to exercise prudence in selecting investments at the outset — to monitor, and remove imprudent, trust investments.” In short, monitoring and managing your retirement plan, its investments and operations are not responsibilities to be taken lightly.
Compliance Never Sleeps
Moreover, government and regulatory agencies such as the Department of Labor are continually monitoring plan fiduciaries to make sure they are following plan documents and procedures in accordance with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the law that governs employer-sponsored retirement plans. Ultimately, this puts the onus of compliance and proper plan management on you. That said, it can be helpful to partner with your plan advisor to perform annual plan reviews for any common mistakes while managing your retirement plan and investments.
Addressing six common mistakes:
If you identify operational or compliance errors during your annual review — don’t panic. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Department of Labor (DOL) have programs to assist you in fixing mistakes. Your plan’s advisor and third-party administrator (TPA) can help with operational and compliance errors, too.
Keep in mind that once you’ve identified and corrected any plan errors, you should put processes in place to avoid future mistakes. In addition to conducting annual reviews, you should also perform regular maintenance to ensure your plan remains in good health — just like sticking to a healthy diet and exercise regimen prevent illness and performing routine tune-ups on your car keep it performing at its best.
This information was developed as a general guide to educate plan sponsors and is not intended as authoritative guidance or tax/legal advice. Each plan has unique requirements, and you should consult your attorney or tax advisor for guidance on your specific situation.
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