“Plan sponsors are requesting that their service providers combine the 404(a)(5) disclosures with other plan materials, such as year-end disclosures, or provide them after the start of a new calendar year when year-end investment alternative performance and benchmark information is available,” said Larry Goldbrum, general counsel of The SPARK Institute.
The 404(a)(5) participant disclosure regulations that took effect in 2012 require plan sponsors to furnish certain materials at least annually, which is defined as “at least once in any 12-month period.” Out of an abundance of caution, the rule is being interpreted as requiring this and future years’ materials to be furnished within 12 months of the prior year’s disclosures (generally by August 30th).
“That is hindering many plan sponsors from being able to synchronize the delivery of the 404(a)(5) disclosures with other plan materials, and adding to plan costs,” Goldbrum said.
The SPARK Institute has asked the Department of Labor (DOL) to issue guidance that would allow good faith compliance with the “at least annually” requirement by permitting plan sponsors to furnish the materials at any time during each calendar year, provided that the materials are furnished no more than 18 months from the date the prior year’s materials were provided.
The aim of this proposed approach, said Goldbrum, is to simplify and facilitate efficient compliance with the 404(a)(5) participant disclosure regulations, as the 18-month compliance window allows plan sponsors to synchronize delivery of the 404(a)(5) materials with other disclosures and notices, and to reduce plan costs by eliminating one or more separate mailings of the investment option comparative chart. The proposed relief does not permit plan sponsors to skip delivering plan materials in any calendar year.
The American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries (ASPPA) has also asked for guidance.
A copy of the letter to the DOL can be found at http://www.sparkinstitute.org/comments-and-materials.php.