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Issues at a Glance

2022 – Participant and Plan Sponsor Issues at a Glance

The Advocate’s 2022 Annual Report recognizes areas where PBGC has improved and identifies ongoing opportunities for change. It also provides an update on the Office of the Advocate’s Pension Plan Registry Project and includes a special section on retirement security and PBGC’s role in promoting the defined benefit system.

The Advocate’s 2022 Annual Report notes that PBGC’s Office of Benefits Administration (OBA) has made staffing, training, and other process changes to address numerous customer service issues related to the agency’s Customer Contact Center. These changes significantly reduced the number of complaints to the Advocate about basic administrative issues and the Advocate’s report includes recommendations for further improvements in this area. The Report also reflects significant improvement over the past several years by OBA regarding its processing of Potentially Omitted Participant claims, but challenges remain when the agency encounters a complex claim requiring coordination between different PBGC departments. The report also commends the ongoing success of PBGC’s data-sharing agreement with the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration, which has enabled both agencies to connect more individuals with their unclaimed pension benefits while protecting individuals’ privacy, but notes that PBGC could be doing more to locate participants in its missing participants program.

The 2022 Annual Report also highlights longstanding plan sponsor concerns that the Advocate has raised in past reports regarding procedural inefficiencies and outdated internal procedures, such as the agency’s process for reviewing distress termination applications and settling the post-termination liability. The report identifies numerous parts of the distress termination process that could be reformed to reduce uncertainty, time, and expense for all parties.

The Report provides an update on the Office of the Advocate’s Pension Plan Registry Project, an ongoing initiative to build a defined benefit pension plan registry using PBGC-housed data. In 2022, the Advocate partnered with the General Service Administration’s Centers of Excellence to develop a technology roadmap and registry system architecture, and it is currently working with PBGC to test and implement different database options. This initiative helps participants locate information about their defined benefit plans, complementing ongoing efforts to connect individuals with their missing benefits.

The Report concludes with observations and questions about the future of retirement security in America. In particular, it discusses PBGC’s role in a changing retirement landscape as more employers leave the defined benefit pension system to instead sponsor defined contribution plans. The report calls on PBGC to foster a proactive dialogue around the preservation of the defined benefit system.

For more information, including the Advocate’s comments and recommendations, visit the 2022 Advocate Annual Report.

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