Compliance

EBSA Says Plan Consultant Mistreated Small Businesses

Improper asset transfers and process failures are at the heart of a complaint filed by EBSA on behalf of clients of a Pennsylvania-based advisory firm.

By John Manganaro editors@plansponsor.com | August 22, 2016
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An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) suggests a Pennsylvania-based advisory and benefits consultant, Belanger and Co. Inc., violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) by improperly transferring plan assets and failing to fully disclose fees, among other allegations.

Belanger and Co. describes itself as is “a fee-only, independent, qualified retirement plan administrator and consultant for small to medium sized companies.” According to EBSA, the firm on a variety of occasions “failed to timely remit assets to certain plans, fully and timely terminate some plans and process some plan distributions, destroying documents, and making errors in the administration of some plans.”

The complaint seeks restoration of all plan losses, lost earnings, and disgorgement to the plans of “all unjust enrichment received by the defendants, and removal of the defendants as fiduciaries and service providers to any ERISA-covered employee benefit plan that they serve as fiduciaries and service providers.” Additionally, it seeks an injunction permanently preventing the defendants from exercising custody, control, or decisionmaking authority with respect to the assets of any employee benefit plan covered by ERISA, preventing the defendants from acting directly or indirectly as a service provider for any employee benefit plan subject to ERISA. It also seeks to bar the defendants from engaging in any future violations of ERISA.

EBSA filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. In the text of the complaint, EBSA investigators note the firm serves as an “administrator of employee benefit plans within the meaning of Sections 3(3) and (16) of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1002(3), (16),” working with plans in this capacity throughout Montgomery, Pennsylvania. A number of small businesses are called out by name in the complaint as having been mistreated, ranging from manufacturers to ambulatory care centers and a yoga studio.

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