The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) announced that they have partnered in a national campaign to educate employers and service providers about their fiduciary responsibilities under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). As part of the partnership, the AICPA will participate in a series of DOL seminars designed to educate small business plan sponsors and other fiduciaries on their obligations. Other partners involved in the campaign include: the National Federation of Independent Business, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Society for Human Resource Management, and the U.S. Small Business Administration.
In making this announcement, Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao said, "Strong fiduciary oversight and protecting workers' benefits is our highest priority." "Getting it right, however, can be challenging. This is particularly true for small and medium-sized employers who have limited time, resources and access to professional help with benefit programs."
"Nothing can be more important than educating fiduciaries in their critical responsibility in the protection of employee benefit plans," said Barry Melancon, President and CEO of the AICPA. He added, "We're pleased with Secretary Elaine L. Chao's efforts to raise awareness of this important small business issue. Many of our CPA members, including CPA/PFS (Personal Financial Specialist) credential holders, serve as trusted advisors to the small business owner and provide advice to investment committees of public and private companies. Critical to the proper delivery of these services is guidance on prudent investment practices."
On September 28th, 2004 the DOL, the AICPA and the Arizona Society of CPAs will present a seminar in Phoenix, AZ that will be open to the small business community. The seminar program will emphasize the obligation of plan sponsors and other fiduciaries to:
- Understand the terms of their plans.
- Select and monitor service providers carefully.
- Make timely contributions to fund benefits.
- Avoid prohibited transactions.
- Make timely disclosures to workers, their beneficiaries, and the government.
Plan sponsors and other fiduciaries have a solemn responsibility to protect the interests of the workers and retirees in their benefit plans. The DOL program -- "Getting It Right - Know Your Fiduciary Responsibilities" -- will provide employers and plan officials with an understanding of the law and the responsibilities which focus on steps to avoid the most common problems we encounter in enforcement activities.
The campaign includes educational materials, which will be featured on the fiduciary education web site. The publications and information on the upcoming seminars are available electronically at http://www.dol.gov/ebsa or by calling toll-free 1-866-444-EBSA (3272).