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Pension Plan Administrators: Finding Missing Participants When Your Plan Terminates

If your company is voluntarily terminating its pension plan, you are required by law to distribute all plan benefits owed to participants and beneficiaries of the plan.  Typically, the distribution is done by purchasing an annuity from a private insurer in a person's name or by making a lump-sum payment to the person.

But what if you don’t know where a person is?

Then, under PBGC’s Missing Participants Program —

  • you must make a diligent search for the person, and
  • if you still can’t locate the person, you must either
    • buy an annuity in that person’s name and send PBGC information about the annuity, or
    • send an equivalent amount of money to PBGC for distribution when the participant is found.

For details about the Missing Participants Program, see PBGC’s Missing Participant forms and instructions at A detailed description of the Program is in PBGC’s regulations (29 CFR Part 4050).
In brief, here are some features of the Missing Participants Program.

  • The Program applies to missing beneficiaries as well as participants.
  • Your diligent search must include use of a commercial locator service.
  • You must send PBGC information about each missing person and the person’s benefit when you file the Post-Distribution Certification form at the end of the standard termination process.
  • For a person you buy an annuity for, you must send us the name of the insurer and other information that will enable the person to claim the annuity when the person is found by PBGC or contacts PBGC for help.
  • For a person you pay us money for, you must send us the benefit starting date, any beneficiary designated by a participant, and other information that will help us find the person and pay the correct benefit.

What PBGC Does

We search for people who are missing, and have found thousands of people owed pensions.  When we find someone, we pay the benefit owed or provide the information needed to claim the annuity you bought for the person.

We also post information about missing participants and beneficiaries in an Unclaimed Pensions List on our website.  People can use this list to see for themselves whether they, or somebody they know, have a pension waiting to be claimed.

Single copies of publications and fact sheets are available from: Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, Communications and Public Affairs Department, 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC 20024-21016.

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