The Missing Participant Program, created by the Retirement Protection Act of 1994, locates people owed benefits from fully funded, PBGC-insured defined benefit pension plans that have ended. This builds on PBGC's successful efforts to locate people missing in underfunded pension plans taken over by PBGC after they ended without enough money to pay benefits. [Note: The Pension Protection Act of 2006 expanded the program to include defined contribution plans, such as 401(k) plans, multiemployer defined benefit plans, and small professional service employers. This expansion will be effective when PBGC adopts final regulations.]
Employers choosing to end fully funded pension plans must distribute all plan benefits to workers and retirees before completely ending the plan. If someone cannot be found, the plan administrator either purchases an annuity from a private insurer in that person's name or sends funds to PBGC for distribution when the participant is found. Companies often have had difficulty finding an insurance company or financial institution willing to accept the funds on behalf of a missing person and the people who have been missed often have had no idea where to look for their benefits. Now, companies and their workers can turn to PBGC's Missing Participant Program.
How it Works:
The program to locate people missing from fully funded plans generally applies to people whose pension money is distributed on or after January 1, 1996. Before turning to PBGC, the administrator of a fully funded pension plan must make a diligent effort, including the use of a locator service, to find a former worker due a pension.
The plan will provide PBGC with information on the missing person and the benefit owed, including the starting date and any named beneficiary. Plan administrators determine the pension amount to be sent to PBGC for the missing person based on the terms of their plan and on PBGC regulations. A company may instead choose to purchase an annuity for the person and give PBGC information identifying the missing person and the insurance company. The plan administrator gives information and any payment to PBGC with the post-distribution form that tells PBGC that the plan has satisfied benefit promises to all workers and retirees. Once a missing person or beneficiary is found, PBGC will pay the pension benefit or tell that person which insurance company has the annuity.
Internet Missing Participant List:
Through its own diligent and repeated search efforts, PBGC has found thousands of the missing people owed pensions both from fully funded plans that have ended and from underfunded plans taken over by PBGC. However, some people still cannot be found. To aid its search effort, PBGC developed the Internet Missing Participant List (http://search.pbgc.gov/mp/mp.aspx) that lists names and last-known addresses, companies where missing people earned their pensions, and the dates their pension plans ended. This regularly updated searchable resource allows members of the public to see for themselves whether they or somebody they know is a missing participant. Additional search tips are outlined in PBGC's guidebook, Finding A Lost Pension, available on the Internet and also from PBGC's Communications and Public Affairs Department, 1200 K Street NW, Washington, DC 20005-4026.
What People Should Do:
People who believe that a pension plan owes them a benefit and they may be missing from the plan records should first try to contact the pension plan administrator or the company where they earned their pension. If the company cannot be found, they can contact PBGC by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing to the PBGC Pension Search Program, 1200 K Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20005-4026.
The person should provide name, address, day-time telephone number, Social Security number, date of birth, the name and location of the employer, and, if possible, the dates of employment, the name of the pension plan, the nine-digit Employer Identification Number (EIN) and the three-digit Plan Number (PN).
To Avoid Becoming a Missing Participant:
Workers should inform their companies when they move and they should keep any information given to them about their pension benefits and the pension plan. Especially helpful is the plan's name, nine-digit employer identification number (EIN) and three-digit plan number (PN), and the name and address of the plan administrator or other plan representative.
Single copies of publications and fact sheets are available from: Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, Communications and Public Affairs Department, 1200 K Street NW, Washington, DC 20005-4026.