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News & Policy

PBGC Proposes Expanded Missing Participants Program to Include Terminated 401(k) and Other Plans

September 19, 2016

WASHINGTON -  The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation is proposing to expand its existing Missing Participants Program to cover terminated 401(k) and most other defined contribution plans and certain defined benefit plans that aren't currently covered by the program.

For over 20 years, PBGC's Missing Participants Program has connected people - missing when their pension plans terminated - to their retirement benefits. Currently, the program is open only to PBGC-insured single-employer plans.

"Many people associate PBGC with paying benefits for people in failed plans, but our mission is broader than that," said PBGC Director Tom Reeder. "We are also responsible for enhancing retirement security for American workers and retirees. One of the ways to do that is to connect them with their retirement savings."

Under a proposed rule, slated for publication in the Federal Register on September 20, 2016, the program would be expanded to cover missing participants in most terminated defined contribution plans (such as 401(k) and profit sharing plans). Instead of establishing an IRA at a financial institution for each missing participant account, plans would have the option of transferring benefits to PBGC. PBGC would then hold the money, add the missing participant to its online searchable database, and periodically search for the participant. Participant accounts would not be diminished by ongoing maintenance fees or distribution charges and would be paid out with interest. PBGC anticipates the expanded program will be implemented in 2018, after receiving public comments and publication of a final regulation.  

At present, a central database of defined contribution participants missing when the plan terminated does not exist, making it difficult for people to find their accounts. When implemented, PBGC's expanded program will make it easier for people to locate their retirement benefits after their plan is terminated.

PBGC is also proposing modest changes to the way the program works for PBGC-insured single-employer plans.  The changes relate primarily to how plans determine the amount of money to transfer to PBGC, better protection of key features of a participant's benefit (e.g., early retirement subsidies), and reducing the burden of transferring benefits to PBGC. The expanded program would cover PBGC-insured multiemployer plans that close out and certain defined benefit plans that aren't insured by PBGC (i.e., small plans sponsored by professional service organizations). PBGC expects limited usage by these plans.

PBGC looks forward to public comments on the proposal so that we can make the program as useful as possible.

For more information, visit the Overview of the Proposed Expanded Missing Participant Program web page.

About PBGC

PBGC protects the pension benefits of more than 40 million Americans in private-sector pension plans. The agency is directly responsible for paying the benefits of about 1.5 million people in failed pension plans. PBGC receives no taxpayer dollars and never has. Its operations are financed by insurance premiums, investment income, and with assets and recoveries from failed single-employer plans. For more information, visit

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PBGC No. 16-13