The bill passed by the House amends the Internal Revenue Code and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) to increase the disclosures provided to administrators and participants of defined contribution plans, incorporating provisions that are based on the 401(k) Fair Disclosure and Pension Security Act.
Plan Administrator Disclosures
Service providers must provide a written statement to the plan administrator describing the services to be provided and the total annual revenue to be collected by the service provider in connection with the plan (disclosed in dollar amounts or as a formula) before entering into a contract with a plan administrator (and additionally for each year subsequent to the initial contract year). (Service providers with contracts less than $5,000 in the aggregate are exempt from these disclosure provisions.)
The revenue must be allocated among three categories:
- administration and recordkeeping services,
- investment management, and
- other services.
The bill directs the Secretary of Labor to develop safe harbors and other guidance on the allocation of revenue among the categories.
Plan Participant Disclosures
The plan administrator must provide an employee prior to his eligibility with a notice describing the plan, key characteristics of each investment option in the plan, and a plan fee comparison chart.
To participants, administrators must provide a quarterly benefit statement that includes information on each investment option in which the employee is invested (small plans may provide the benefits statement on an annual rather than quarterly basis).
Touted as a job saving provision, the bill also provides for funding relief for both single and multiemployer pension plans, allowing more time for employers to make up those losses their pension plans suffered when the stock market plummeted in the fall of 2008. This aspect of the bill is estimated to raise $1.987 billion over 10 years.
A provision in the bill would permit single employer defined benefit plan sponsors to elect an extended nine year amortization period (instead of the current seven year allowance for a funding shortfall) with interest only being paid in the first two years. Plan sponsors can elect relief for up to two plan years during the four-plan-year period from 2008 to 2011.Under the provision, the plan’s funding obligation for a plan year is increased if the sponsoring employer makes excessive employee or shareholder payments.
The bill also provides for funding relief for plans that are subject to the prior law funding rules (i.e., plans not yet subject to the requirements of the Pension Protection Act of 2006) and allows the sponsors to calculate its minimum required contribution without regard to the deficit reduction contribution rules for up to two plan years. This is done by offering an alternative election under which a plan may instead amortize funding liability under a 15-year payment schedule for one plan year. The provision generally allows plan sponsors to elect relief for plan years beginning during the three-plan-year period from 2009 to 2011.
The bill extends through 2011 the Worker, Retiree, and Employer Recovery Act of 2008 (WRERA) relief that permitted a plan to use its pre-financial crisis funded percentage in applying the accrual restriction rule for the first plan year beginning after September 30, 2008, thereby allowing single employer defined benefit plans to use their funded percentage for the last plan year ending before September 30, 2009.
The bill also:
- Allows an employer to use its credit balances for the period of 2009 to 2011 if the plan was at least 80% funded prior to the financial crisis
- Modifies the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) reporting requirement by requiring additional reporting if aggregate unfunded vested benefits of plans maintained by the sponsor exceed $75 million
- Permits qualified airline employees to rollover bankruptcy settlement amounts to a traditional IRA (present law permits rollover of such settlements to a Roth IRA), and to recharacterize a prior contribution of a settlement amount to a Roth IRA as a contribution to a traditional IRA
The bill permits multiemployer pension plans to elect to use a 30-year amortization period for certain losses incurred in either or both of the first two plan years ending on or after June 30, 2008, instead of over the 15-year period mandated under present law. (The 30-year amortization extension is not available unless the plan is projected not to have a decrease in its funded percentage in 15 years.)
However, if a plan elects the extended amortization periods, benefit increases are restricted for a two-year period, unless the plan actuary certifies that increases are fully paid for by additional contributions by the plan sponsor and certain funding levels are projected to be met. The maximum smoothing period for determining plan asset values is also increased from five years to 10 years for the either or both of the first two plan years ending on or after June 30, 2008.
Also, for those underfunded multiemployer pension plans that elected WRERA relief, the bill provides up to an additional 2 year extension, bringing the WRERA relief to a five-year extension over the 10-year (or 15-year for a seriously endangered plan) period.
As it relates to multiemployer pensions plans, the bill also:
- Modifies certain amortization extensions under prior law, allowing certain plans to treat the return on plan assets for plan years that contain any of the period from June 30, 2008 to October 31, 2008 as the interest rate used for charges and credits to the plan’s funding standard account.
- Permits plan trustees to elect to use as the default schedule the contribution schedule that has been approved by the bargaining parties and that covers at least 75% of the employees actively participating in the plan.
- Provides transition rules with respect to certifications of a plan’s funded status for plans whose certifications are due after the date of enactment and for certain plans whose most recent certification does not take into account an election to take funding relief with respect to a plan year that begins on or after October 1, 2009
“We’ve seen some significant improvements in the national economy, but many employers are still struggling to recover,” Congressman Earl Pomeroy (D-North Dakota) said in a statement issued after the passage of the bill. “Even here in North Dakota, the Wall Street excesses have hurt pension plans and are pinching a lot of good companies. This legislation will give them some relief so they can focus on creating jobs and getting our economy back on track.”
Because there were amendments made to the bill, it will now have to be reconsidered in the Senate.
The legislative text of H.R. 4213 (including amendments to the Senate amendment to H.R. 4213)is located here http://waysandmeans.house.gov/media/pdf/111/HWC_711_xml.pdf
CBO's Budgetary Effects Table of H.R. 4213 is here http://waysandmeans.house.gov/media/pdf/111/HR4213_Budgetary_Effects.pdf