The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) is a comprehensive federal law that sets minimum standards for retirement and health benefit plans in private industry. ERISA laws and regulations, which apply to employers sponsoring retirement, health and/or other welfare benefit plans, set forth detailed requirements for reporting information about benefit plans to the government as well as to plan participants. In addition, the law establishes a high fiduciary standard for those who handle and invest assets set aside for plan benefits to ensure those assets are available when needed. ERISA has been expanded to include health laws including COBRA, HIPAA and the Affordable Care Act.
Failure to comply with ERISA presents considerable risks to companies and individuals. In particular, individuals who administer ERISA plans or handle plan assets may be subject to criminal penalties for violations such as embezzlement, kickbacks and false statements related to benefit plans. The U.S. Department of Labor may impose civil penalties on individuals administering ERISA plans or handling plan assets for violations such as:
ERISA provides plan participants with the right to sue plans, plan sponsors and plan fiduciaries. Individuals who administer ERISA plans or handle plan assets may be held individually liable for breaches of fiduciary duties set forth in ERISA.
Calfee’s benefits attorneys are experienced in the interpretation, application and enforcement of ERISA and regulatory matters impacted by ERISA. They assist clients in putting new plans in place as well as ensuring that existing benefit plans are ERISA-compliant and properly administered.