Part 4221 - Arbitration of Disputes in Multiemployer Plans
4221.1 Purpose and scope.
4221.3 Initiation of arbitration.
4221.4 Appointment of the arbitrator.
4221.5 Powers and duties of the arbitrator.
4221.7 Reopening of proceedings.
4221.9 Reconsideration of award.
4221.11 Waiver of rules.
4221.12 Calculation of periods of time.
4221.13 Filing and issuance rules.
4221.14 PBGC-approved arbitration procedures.
Authority: 29 U.S.C. 1302(b)(3), 1401.
§ 4221.1 Purpose and scope.
(a) Purpose. The purpose of this part is to establish procedures for the arbitration, pursuant to section 4221 of ERISA, of withdrawal liability disputes arising under sections 4201 through 4219 and 4225 of ERISA.
(b) Scope. This part applies to arbitration proceedings initiated pursuant to section 4221 of ERISA and this part on or after September 26, 1985. On and after the effective date, any plan rules governing arbitration procedures (other than a plan rule adopting a PBGC-approved arbitration procedure in accordance with § 4221.14) are effective only to the extent that they are consistent with this part and adopted by the arbitrator in a particular proceeding.
§ 4221.2 Definitions.
The following terms are defined in § 4001.2 of this chapter: ERISA, IRS, multiemployer plan, PBGC, plan, and plan sponsor.
In addition, for purposes of this part:
Arbitrator means an individual or panel of individuals selected according to this part to decide a dispute concerning withdrawal liability.
Employer means an individual, partnership, corporation or other entity against which a plan sponsor has made a demand for payment of withdrawal liability pursuant to section 4219(b)(1) of ERISA.
Party or parties means the employer and the plan sponsor involved in a withdrawal liability dispute.
Withdrawal liability dispute means a dispute described in § 4221.1(a) of this chapter.
§ 4221.3 Initiation of arbitration.
(a) Time limits -- in general. Arbitration of a withdrawal liability dispute may be initiated within the time limits described in section 4221(a)(1) of ERISA.
(b) Waiver or extension of time limits. Arbitration shall be initiated in accordance with this section, notwithstanding any inconsistent provision of any agreement entered into by the parties before the date on which the employer received notice of the plan's assessment of withdrawal liability. The parties may, however, agree at any time to waive or extend the time limits for initiating arbitration.
(c) Establishment of timeliness of initiation. A party that unilaterally initiates arbitration is responsible for establishing that the notice of initiation of arbitration was timely received by the other party. If arbitration is initiated by agreement of the parties, the date on which the agreement to arbitrate was executed establishes whether the arbitration was timely initiated.
(d) Contents of agreement or notice. If the employer initiates arbitration, it shall include in the notice of initiation a statement that it disputes the plan sponsor's determination of its withdrawal liability and is initiating arbitration. A copy of the demand for withdrawal liability and any request for reconsideration, and the response thereto, shall be attached to the notice. If a party other than an employer initiates arbitration, it shall include in the notice a statement that it is initiating arbitration and a brief description of the questions on which arbitration is sought. If arbitration is initiated by agreement, the agreement shall include a brief description of the questions submitted to arbitration. In no case is compliance with formal rules of pleading required.
(e) Effect of deficient agreement or notice. If a party fails to object promptly in writing to deficiencies in an initiation agreement or a notice of initiation of arbitration, it waives its right to object.
§ 4221.4 Appointment of the arbitrator.
(a) Appointment of and acceptance by arbitrator. The parties shall select the arbitrator within 45 days after the arbitration is initiated, or within such other period as is mutually agreed after the initiation of arbitration, and shall mail to the designated arbitrator a notice of his or her appointment. The notice of appointment shall include a copy of the notice or agreement initiating arbitration, a statement that the arbitration is to be conducted in accordance with this part, and a request for a written acceptance by the arbitrator. The arbitrator's appointment becomes effective upon his or her written acceptance, stating his or her availability to serve and making any disclosures required by paragraph (b) of this section. If the arbitrator does not accept in writing within 15 days after the notice of appointment is mailed or delivered to him or her, he or she is deemed to have declined to act, and the parties shall select a new arbitrator in accordance with paragraph (d) of this section.
(b) Disclosure by arbitrator and disqualification. Upon accepting the appointment, the arbitrator shall disclose to the parties any circumstances likely to affect his or her impartiality, including any bias or any financial or personal interest in the result of the arbitration and any past or present relationship with the parties or their counsel. If any party determines that the arbitrator should be disqualified because of the information disclosed, that party shall notify all other parties and the arbitrator no later than 10 days after the arbitrator makes the disclosure required by this paragraph (but in no event later than the commencement of the hearing under § 4221.6). The arbitrator shall then withdraw, and the parties shall select another arbitrator in accordance with paragraph (d) of this section.
(c) Challenge and withdrawal. After the arbitrator has been selected, a party may request that he or she withdraw from the proceedings at any point before a final award is rendered on the ground that he or she is unable to render an award impartially. The request for withdrawal shall be served on all other parties and the arbitrator by hand or by certified or registered mail (or by any other method that includes verification or acknowledgment of receipt and meets (if applicable) the requirements of § 4000.14 of this chapter) and shall include a statement of the circumstances that, in the requesting party's view, affect the arbitrator's impartiality and a statement that the requesting party has brought these circumstances to the attention of the arbitrator and the other parties at the earliest practicable point in the proceedings. If the arbitrator determines that the circumstances adduced are likely to affect his or her impartiality and have been presented in a timely fashion, he or she shall withdraw from the proceedings and notify the parties of the reasons for his or her withdrawal. The parties shall then select a new arbitrator in accordance with paragraph (d) of this section.
(d) Filling vacancies. If the designated arbitrator declines his or her appointment or, after accepting his or her appointment, is disqualified, resigns, dies, withdraws, or is unable to perform his or her duties at any time before a final award is rendered, the parties shall select another arbitrator to fill the vacancy. The selection shall be made, in accordance with the procedure used in the initial selection, within 20 days after the parties receive notice of the vacancy. The matter shall then be reheard by the newly chosen arbitrator, who may, in his or her discretion, rely on all or any portion of the record already established.
(e) Failure to select arbitrator. If the parties fail to select an arbitrator within the time prescribed by this section, either party or both may seek the designation and appointment of an arbitrator in a United States districtcourt pursuant to the provisions of title 9 of the United States Code.
§ 4221.5 Powers and duties of the arbitrator.
(a) Arbitration hearing. Except as otherwise provided in this part, the arbitrator shall conduct the arbitration hearing under § 4221.6 in the same manner, and shall possess the same powers, as an arbitrator conducting a proceeding under title 9 of the United States Code.
(1) Application of the law. In reaching his or her decision, the arbitrator shall follow applicable law, as embodied in statutes, regulations, court decisions, interpretations of the agencies charged with the enforcement of ERISA, and other pertinent authorities.
(2) Prehearing discovery. The arbitrator may allow any party to conduct prehearing discovery by interrogatories, depositions, requests for the production of documents, or other means, upon a showing that the discovery sought is likely to lead to the production of relevant evidence and will not be disproportionately burdensome to the other parties. The arbitrator may impose appropriate sanctions if he or she determines that a party has failed to respond to discovery in good faith or has conducted discovery proceedings in bad faith or for the purpose of harassment. The arbitrator may, at the request of any party or on his or her own motion, require parties to give advance notice of expert or other witnesses that they intend to introduce.
(3) Admissibility of evidence. The arbitrator determines the relevance and materiality of the evidence offered during the course of the hearing and is the judge of the admissibility of evidence offered. Conformity to legal rules of evidence is not necessary. To the extent reasonably practicable, all evidence shall be taken in the presence of the arbitrator and the parties. The arbitrator may, however, consider affidavits, transcripts of depositions, and similar documents.
(4) Production of documents or other evidence. The arbitrator may subpoena witnesses or documents upon his or her own initiative or upon request by any party after determining that the evidence is likely to be relevant to the dispute.
(b) Prehearing conference. If it appears that a prehearing conference will expedite the proceedings, the arbitrator may, at any time before the commencement of the arbitration hearing under § 4221.6, direct the parties to appear at a conference to consider settlement of the case, clarification of issues and stipulation of facts not in dispute, admission of documents to avoid unnecessary proof, limitations on the number of expert or other witnesses, and any other matters that could expedite the disposition of the proceedings.
(c) Proceeding without hearing. The arbitrator may render an award without a hearing if the parties agree and file with the arbitrator such evidence as the arbitrator deems necessary to enable him or her to render an award under § 4221.8.
§ 4221.6 Hearing.
(a) Time and place of hearing established. Unless the parties agree to proceed without a hearing as provided in § 4221.5(c), the parties and the arbitrator shall, no later than 15 days after the written acceptance by the arbitrator is mailed to the parties, establish a date and place for the hearing. If agreement is not reached within the 15-day period, the arbitrator shall, within 10 additional days, choose a location and set a hearing date. The date set for the hearing may be no later than 50 days after the mailing date of the arbitrator's written acceptance.
(b) Notice. After the time and place for the hearing have been established, the arbitrator shall serve a written notice of the hearing on the parties by hand, by certified or registered mail, or by any other method that includes verification or acknowledgment of receipt and meets (if applicable) the requirements of § 4000.14 of this chapter.
(c) Appearances. The parties may appear in person or by counsel or other representatives. Any party that, after being duly notified and without good cause shown, fails to appear in person or by representative at a hearing or conference, or fails to file documents in a timely manner, is deemed to have waived all rights with respect thereto and is subject to whatever orders or determinations the arbitrator may make.
(d) Record and transcript of hearing. Upon the request of either party, the arbitrator shall arrange for a record of the arbitration hearing to be made by stenographic means or by tape recording. The cost of making the record and the costs of transcription and copying are costs of the arbitration proceedings payable as provided in § 4221.10(b) except that, if only one party requests that a transcript of the record be made, that party shall pay the cost of the transcript.
(e) Order of hearing. The arbitrator shall conduct the hearing in accordance with the following rules:
(1) Opening. The arbitrator shall open the hearing and place in the record the notice of initiation of arbitration or the initiation agreement. The arbitrator may ask for statements clarifying the issues involved.
(2) Presentation of claim and response. The arbitrator shall establish the procedure for presentation of claim and response in such a manner as to afford full and equal opportunity to all parties for the presentation of their cases.
(3) Witnesses. All witnesses shall testify under oath or affirmation and are subject to cross-examination by opposing parties. If testimony of an expert witness is offered by a party without prior notice to the other party, the arbitrator shall grant the other party a reasonable time to prepare for cross-examination and to produce expert witnesses on its own behalf. The arbitrator may on his or her own initiative call expert witnesses on any issue raised in the arbitration. The cost of any expert called by the arbitrator is a cost of the proceedings payable as provided in § 4221.10(b).
(f) Continuance of hearing. The arbitrator may, for good cause shown, grant a continuance for a reasonable period. When granting a continuance, the arbitrator shall set a date for resumption of the hearing.
(g) Filing of briefs. Each party may file a written statement of facts and argument supporting the party's position. The parties' briefs are due no later than 30 days after the close of the hearing. Within 15 days thereafter, each party may file a reply brief concerning matters contained in the opposing brief. The arbitrator may establish a briefing schedule and may reduce or extend these time limits. Each party shall deliver copies of all of its briefs to the arbitrator and to all opposing parties.
§ 4221.7 Reopening of proceedings.
(a) Grounds for reopening. At any time before a final award is rendered, the proceedings may be reopened, on the motion of the arbitrator or at the request of any party, for the purpose of taking further evidence or rehearing or rearguing any matter, if the arbitrator determines that--
(1) The reopening is likely to result in new information that will have a material effect on the outcome of the arbitration;
(2) Good cause exists for the failure of the party that requested reopening to present such information at the hearing; and
(3) The delay caused by the reopening will not be unfairly injurious to any party.
(b) Comments on and notice of reopening. The arbitrator shall allow all affected parties the opportunity to comment on any motion or request to reopen the proceedings. If he or she determines that the proceedings should be reopened, he or she shall give all parties written notice of the reasons for reopening and of the schedule of the reopened proceedings.
§ 4221.8 Award.
(a) Form. The arbitrator shall render a written award that--
(1) States the basis for the award, including such findings of fact and conclusions of law (which need not be explicitly designated as such) as are necessary to resolve the dispute;
(2) Adjusts (or provides a method for adjusting) the amount or schedule of payments to be made after the award to reflect overpayments or underpayments made before the award was rendered or requires the plan sponsor to refund overpayments in accordance with § 4219.31(d); and
(3) Provides for an allocation of costs in accordance with § 4221.10.
(b) Time of award. Except as provided in paragraphs (c), (d), and (e) of this section, the arbitrator shall render the award no later than 30 days after the proceedings close. The award is rendered when filed or served on the parties as provided in § 4221.13. The award is final when the period for seeking modification or reconsideration in accordance with § 4221.9(a) has expired or the arbitrator has rendered a revised award in accordance with § 4221.9(c).
(c) Reopened proceedings. If the proceedings are reopened in accordance with § 4221.7 after the close of the hearing, the arbitrator shall render the award no later than 30 days after the date on which the reopened proceedings are closed.
(d) Absence of hearing. If the parties have chosen to proceed without a hearing, the arbitrator shall render the award no later than 30 days after the date on which final statements and proofs are filed with him or her.
(e) Agreement for extension of time. Notwithstanding paragraphs (b), (c), and (d), the parties may agree to an extension of time for the arbitrator's award in light of the particular facts and circumstances of their dispute.
(f) Close of proceedings. For purposes of paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section, the proceedings are closed on the date on which the last brief or reply brief is due or, if no briefs are to be filed, on the date on which the hearing or rehearing closes.
(g) Publication of award. After a final award has been rendered, the plan sponsor shall make copies available upon request to the PBGC and to all companies that contribute to the plan. The plan sponsor may impose reasonable charges for copying and postage.
§ 4221.9 Reconsideration of award.
(a) Motion for reconsideration and objections. A party may seek modification or reconsideration of the arbitrator's award by filing a written motion with the arbitrator and all opposing parties within 20 days after the award is rendered. Opposing parties may file objections to modification or reconsideration within 10 days after the motion is filed. The filing of a written motion for modification or reconsideration suspends the 30-day period under section 4221(b)(2) of ERISA for requesting court review of the award. The 30-day statutory period again begins to run when the arbitrator denies the motion pursuant to paragraph (c) of this section or renders a revised award.
(b) Grounds for modification or reconsideration. The arbitrator may grant a motion for modification or reconsideration of the award only if--
(1) There is a numerical error or a mistake in the description of any person, thing, or property referred to in the award; or
(2) The arbitrator has rendered an award upon a matter not submitted to the arbitrator and the matter affects the merits of the decision; or
(3) The award is imperfect in a matter of form not affecting the merits of the dispute.
(c) Decision of arbitrator. The arbitrator shall grant or deny the motion for modification or reconsideration, and may render an opinion to support his or her decision within 20 days after the motion is filed with the arbitrator, or within 30 days after the motion is filed if an objection is also filed.
§ 4221.10 Costs.
The costs of arbitration under this part shall be borne by the parties as follows:
(a) Witnesses. Each party to the dispute shall bear the costs of its own witnesses.
(b) Other costs of arbitration. Except as provided in § 4221.6(d) with respect to a transcript of the hearing, the parties shall bear the other costs of the arbitration proceedings equally unless the arbitrator determines otherwise. The parties may, however, agree to a different allocation of costs if their agreement is entered into after the employer has received notice of the plan's assessment of withdrawal liability.
(c) Attorneys' fees. The arbitrator may require a party that initiates or contests an arbitration in bad faith or engages in dilatory, harassing, or other improper conduct during the course of the arbitration to pay reasonable attorneys' fees of other parties.
§ 4221.11 Waiver of rules.
Any party that fails to object in writing in a timely manner to any deviation from any provision of this part is deemed to have waived the right to interpose that objection thereafter.
§ 4221.12 Calculation of periods of time.
The PBGC applies the rules in subpart D of part 4000 of this chapter to compute any time period under this part.
§ 4221.13 Filing and issuance rules.
(a) Method and date of filing. The PBGC applies the rules in subpart A of part 4000 of this chapter to determine permissible methods of filing with the PBGC under this part. The PBGC applies the rules in subpart C of part 4000 of this chapter to determine the date that a submission under this part was filed with the PBGC.
(b) Where to file. See § 4000.4 of this chapter for information on where to file.
(c) Method and date of issuance. The PBGC applies the rules in subpart B of part 4000 of this chapter to determine permissible methods of issuance under this part. The PBGC applies the rules in subpart C of part 4000 of this chapter to determine the date that an issuance under this part was provided.
§ 4221.14 PBGC-approved arbitration procedures.
(a) Use of PBGC-approved arbitration procedures. In lieu of the procedures prescribed by this part, an arbitration may be conducted in accordance with an alternative arbitration procedure approved by the PBGC in accordance with paragraph (c) of this section. A plan may by plan amendment require the use of a PBGC-approved procedure for all arbitrations of withdrawal liability disputes, or the parties may agree to the use of a PBGC-approved procedure in a particular case.
(b) Scope of alternative procedures. If an arbitration is conducted in accordance with a PBGC-approved arbitration procedure, the alternative procedure shall govern all aspects of the arbitration, with the following exceptions:
(1) The time limits for the initiation of arbitration may not differ from those provided for by § 4221.3.
(2) The arbitrator shall be selected after the initiation of the arbitration.
(3) The arbitrator shall give the parties opportunity for prehearing discovery substantially equivalent to that provided by § 4221.5(a)(2).
(4) The award shall be made available to the public to at least the extent provided by § 4221.8(g).
(5) The costs of arbitration shall be allocated in accordance with § 4221.10.
(c) Procedure for approval of alternative procedures. The PBGC may approve arbitration procedures on its own initiative by publishing an appropriate notice in the Federal Register. The sponsor of an arbitration procedure may request PBGC approval of its procedures by submitting an application to the PBGC. The application shall include:
(1) A copy of the procedures for which approval is sought;
(2) A description of the history, structure and membership of the organization that sponsors the procedures; and
(3) A discussion of the reasons why, in the sponsoring organization's opinion, the procedures satisfy the criteria for approval set forth in this section.
(d) Criteria for approval of alternative procedures. The PBGC shall approve an application if it determines that the proposed procedures will be substantially fair to all parties involved in the arbitration of a withdrawal liability dispute and that the sponsoring organization is neutral and able to carry out its role under the procedures. The PBGC may request comments on the application by publishing an appropriate notice in the Federal Register. Notice of the PBGC's decision on the application shall be published in the Federal Register. Unless the notice of approval specifies otherwise, approval will remain effective until revoked by the PBGC through a Federal Register notice.