>EBSA’s 2003 haul represented a 60% increase over the previous year’s results and came from a variety of different enforcement actions. This included civil investigations, criminal investigations and voluntary fiduciary correction program (VFCP) applications, according to a news release.
>While the number of civil investigations closed may have dropped 13.64% during the past year, the percentage of civil investigations closed with results was up 18.28%. EBSA attributes this trend to “improved targeting and more resource-intensive investigations.” Not seeing a drop was the number of criminal investigations closed, up 13.64% from FY 2002, and the number of those investigations closed with guilty pleas or convictions, up 16.33%.
>Additionally, EBSA’s VFCP, which encourages self-correction of benefit violations, saw a 336% increase in applications in FY 2003 and more than $8.7 million in restored assets to employee plans, an increase of 348%.
>The record windfall for the Department of Labor (DoL) division comes through its enforcement of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). EBSA’s oversight authority extends to approximately 730,000 pension plans and another 6 million health and welfare plans that cover approximately 150 million workers and their dependents and include assets of nearly $4 trillion.
>Further, the increased enforcement activities reaped rewards for other DoL divisions. Total back wages including overtime that were collected by the Department’s Wage and Hour division for workers in FY 2003 increased by 21% over the previous year, representing an 11-year high. The number of workers receiving back wages jumped from 263,593 workers to 342,358 – nearly a 30% increase in one year.
Also recording an increase were the enforcements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA cited employers for 83,760 violations in FY 2003, a nearly 8% increase with nearly 60,000 of those violations were considered serious, an 11% increase over FY 2002. In all, the enforcement appears to have paid off as the most recent data available show the rates of workplace injuries and fatalities fell to the lowest point ever in 2002.
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