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Office of the Advocate Frequently Asked Questions

Office of the Advocate Overview

The Office of the Advocate helps participants and plan sponsors resolve their disputes with PBGC. The Office of the Advocate works directly with participants in defined benefit plans to ensure that they receive benefits that they are entitled to from PBGC. The Office of the Advocate also assists plan sponsors in resolving disputes and other issues with PBGC.

The Office of the Advocate cannot help in the resolution of disputes between private parties. The Office of the Advocate’s statutory jurisdiction is limited to helping parties resolve disputes with PBGC.

The Office of the Advocate can assist with certain searches for historical information about a lost defined benefit pension plan. For more information about the Office of the Advocate’s pension tracing assistance, contact (202) 229-4448 or advocate@pbgc.gov.

Advocate History and Background

The role of the PBGC Advocate was created on July 6, 2012, when the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), was signed into law. MAP-21 amended the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to add a new section establishing the role of the PBGC Participant and Plan Sponsor Advocate, the Advocate’s duties, and reporting requirements.

Ms. Constance Donovan is the first and current PBGC Participant and Plan Sponsor Advocate. PBGC’s Board of Directors selected Ms. Donovan in October 2013 to serve in this newly created role.

The Office of the Advocate was established in October 2015 to support the Advocate in fulfilling her statutory duties. The Office of the Advocate is independent of PBGC management and reports directly to the PBGC Board of Directors. See Biographies for more information about Office of the Advocate staff.

The Advocate’s enabling statute, ERISA section 4004(b), lists the Advocate’s main duties. The Advocate acts as a liaison between participants, plan sponsors, and PBGC, and helps these parties resolve disputes with the agency. The Advocate also identifies areas where participants and plan sponsors have persistent problems in dealing with PBGC and proposes legislative and administrative practice changes to address such issues. The Advocate also refers instances of fraud, waste, and abuse, and violations of law to PBGC’s Office of the Inspector General.

Under the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014, the Advocate has a consultative role regarding partition and facilitated merger applications. The legislation also allows the Advocate to submit recommendations to the Secretary of the Treasury regarding certain benefit suspension applications. See PBGC’s MPRA Website for more information.

Advocate Annual Report

Section 4004(e) of ERISA requires the Advocate to report annually on the activities of the Office of the Advocate. The Advocate’s Annual Report summarizes assistance requests from participants and plan sponsors, identifies significant problems, and makes administrative, legislative, and regulatory recommendations to address issues raised by the Advocate. The Advocate’s report is submitted concurrently to PBGC’s Congressional Committees of Jurisdiction, the PBGC Board of Directors, and the PBGC Director no later than December 31 of each calendar year.

Copies of the current and past Advocate Annual Reports can be found on the Office of the Advocate’s website.

Contact Information

The Office of the Advocate can be reached at (202) 229-4448 and advocate@pbgc.gov (link sends email).

There is no charge for the Office of the Advocate’s services.

Last Updated: May 4, 2021