April 9, 2002 – The Dept. of Labor issues Final Rules Relating to Use of Electronic Communications and Recordkeeping Technologies by Employee Pension and Welfare Benefit Plans, adopting standards for the electronic distribution of plan disclosures required under ERISA and creating Labor Reg. 2520.104b-1. These rules create a safe harbor permitting all pension and welfare benefit plans covered by Title I of ERISA to use electronic media to satisfy disclosure of certain employee benefit plan information through electronic media, and the maintenance and retention of employee benefit plan records in electronic format. They establish the DOL’s general standards for electronic disclosure as:
The final rule provides that electronic media may be used for purposes of complying with the records maintenance and/or retention requirements of sections 107 and 209, provided:
(1) The recordkeeping system has reasonable controls to ensure the integrity, accuracy, authenticity and reliability of the records kept in electronic form;
(2) the electronic records are maintained in reasonable order, in a safe and accessible place, and in such manner as they may be readily inspected or examined (for example, the recordkeeping system should be capable of indexing, retaining, preserving, retrieving and reproducing the electronic records);
(3) the electronic records can be readily converted into legible and readable paper copy as may be needed to satisfy reporting and disclosure requirements or any other obligation under Title I of ERISA; and
(4) adequate records management practices are established and implemented (for example, following procedures for labeling of electronically maintained or retained records, providing a secure storage environment, creating back-up electronic copies and selecting an off-site storage location, observing a quality assurance program evidenced by regular evaluations of the electronic recordkeeping system including periodic checks of electronically maintained or retained records, and retaining paper copies of records that cannot be clearly, accurately or completely transferred to an electronic recordkeeping system).
These Final Rules were first proposed on Jan. 28, 1999 to permit electronic distribution of summary plan descriptions (SPDs) and summary annual reports (SARs), and to permit electronic storage and automated data processing systems for the maintenance and retention of records.
On April 7, 2011, the DOL issued a Request for Information Regarding Electronic Disclosure by Employee Benefit Plans. The DOL said the purposes behind this RFI was to explore whether, and possibly how, to expand or modify these standards taking into account current technology, best practices and the need to protect the rights and interests of participants and beneficiaries. The DOL requests comments by June 6, 2011.
On Thursday, May 31, 2012, from 2pm ET to 2:50pm ET, we are holding a live web seminar discussing on the DOL’s Standards for Electronic Disclosure.