Nonprofit Weighs in on Electronic Disclosure Debate

June 10, 2011( The Pension Rights Center, a nonprofit consumer rights organization, believes that current safe harbor rules balance the interests of participants and beneficiaries with the interests of efficient plan administration.

According to a recent press release, in its letter to the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), the Center expressed its belief that “the safe harbor should be strengthened by requiring that participants affirmatively consent to the electronic delivery of a Summary Plan Description or the Periodic Pension Benefit Statement, even for employees who work with computers daily.”

The Center pointed out that for individual account plans, the Department of Labor’s (DoL) disclosure rules do not require all investment-related information be delivered individually to participants. The final regulations for fee disclosure to participants use a layered approach to disclose investment information so that supplemental investment information may be presented on a website. The Center recommends that paper copies be provided upon request.

The Center’s second point, the release stated, was that electronic disclosure should not be the exclusive means of reducing the burden of disclosure requirements for plan administrators. The Center has previously testified that use of model notices and standard language, combining disclosure notices, and tailoring disclosure requirements to the specific notice might be ways to streamline disclosure requirements.

Lastly, the Center stated that email is not the only form of electronic communication that should be addressed. “It is our view that required pension disclosures cannot be delivered in an understandable manner by voice mail nor are most participants able to record or otherwise retain copies of these disclosures for future reference,” the Center wrote in its letter.  “The Pension Rights Center recommends that the Department of Labor adopt a rule prohibiting use of any voice delivery technology to provide required disclosures.”

The Pension Rights Center’s complete letter is available here.


-Nicole Bliman