Together with United Income, Benefit Strategies provides valuable insight into governance and how plan sponsors fulfill their obligations through fiduciary audits, governance reviews, and policy assessment and development.
Five Things Plan Sponsors Must Understand
If you’re a plan sponsor, you’re an ERISA fiduciary.
If you have discretion in administering and managing the plan, or if you control the plan’s assets (such as choosing the investment options or choosing the firm that chooses those options), you are a fiduciary to the extent of that discretion or control. Ditto, if you are able to hire individuals to control or invest those assets.
If you’re an ERISA fiduciary, you have specific legal responsibilities.
There are several specific duties under the law, but the primary one is that the fiduciary must run the plan solely in the interest of participants and beneficiaries and for the exclusive purpose of providing benefits and paying plan expenses.
ERISA fiduciaries must avoid conflicts of interest.
This means that ERISA fiduciaries may not engage in transactions on behalf of the plan that benefit parties related to the plan, such as other fiduciaries, services providers or the plan sponsor.
A plan sponsor must not cause the plan or participants to pay for services if it results in free and/or discounted services for the employer/plan sponsor… even if the price the plan or participants pay is deemed reasonable.
You’re expected to be an ERISA expert — or to hire help that is.
You’re not only directed to act for the exclusive purpose of providing benefits, but to do so at the level of an expert. The DOL has stated that, “Unless they possess the necessary expertise to evaluate such factors, fiduciaries would need to obtain the advice of a qualified, independent expert.”
As an ERISA fiduciary, your liability is personal.
ERISA holds plan fiduciaries to a high legal standard. Indeed, at least one federal court has described it as “the highest known to the law.”
Through audits, governance reviews and policy assessment & development, Benefit Strategies can help you fulfill your ERISA fiduciary role.
Benefit Strategies, Inc.
McVitty Executive Park
2766 Electric Road, Suite B
Roanoke, VA 24018
T: (540) 989-2020
F: (540) 989-1212