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Office of the PBGC Participant and Plan Sponsor AdvocateThe advocate

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The PBGC Participant and Plan Sponsor Advocate (Advocate) acts as a liaison between the PBGC and participants and plan sponsors of defined benefit plans. The Advocate and staff in the Office of the PBGC Participant and Plan Sponsor Advocate (OPPSA) offer free services to participants in defined benefit plans insured by the PBGC and plan sponsors of defined benefit plans to help resolve persistent problems with the PBGC.
About OPPSA

The PBGC Participant and Plan Sponsor Advocate (Advocate) acts as a liaison between the PBGC and participants and plan sponsors of defined benefit plans. The Advocate and staff in the Office of the PBGC Participant and Plan Sponsor Advocate (OPPSA) offer free services to participants in defined benefit plans insured by the PBGC and plan sponsors of defined benefit plans to help resolve persistent problems with the PBGC.

Get Help

Contact OPPSA at: advocate@pbgc.gov
or (202) 326-4448

Comuníquese con la Defensora en Español, al teléfono
(202) 326-4448 y correo electrónico Advocate@pbgc.gov

Annual Reports

Annual Reports

PBGC Participant and Plan Sponsor Advocate Annual Reports

By law, the Advocate must submit a report, no later than December 31 of each calendar year, to certain statutorily designated Congressional committees detailing the fiscal year activities of the OPPSA ending during such calendar year.

The Annual Report summarizes participant and plan sponsor assistance requests, as well as the activities and effectiveness of the Advocate during the preceding year. The report also details significant problems identified by the Advocate and specific legislative and regulatory changes to address the problems.
 

Current Annual Report [PDF]

Previous Annual Reports

Issues at a Glance

Issues at a Glance

Issues at a Glance


 

The Advocate identified the following themes in the challenges participants and plan sponsors encounter with PBGC in the 2016 Annual Report.

  • Interactions with PBGC are adversarial and defensive, rather than collaborative and businesslike, in working toward a mutually agreeable resolution
  • There is a lack of transparency in working with PBGC to understand the corporation’s assumptions, resulting in costly and time-consuming interactions with the agency which can go on for months and even years
  • PBGC is unwilling to exercise judgment and discretion with participant claims and sponsor penalties, relying almost exclusively on automatic and mechanical-like approaches
  • PBGC demands documentation, costly analysis, and historical records that businesses, governmental entities, or participants rarely, if ever, retain

The Advocate also noted positive improvements including PBGC’s release of its proposed Missing Participants Regulation as well as a collaborative effort between PBGC and the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration Chicago Regional Office to reunite participants with their missing participants. The Advocate also highlighted PBGC’s updates to its premium penalty rule which provide extraordinary relief for premium payers by reducing penalty rates for all plans and waiving most of the penalty for plans that meet a standard for good compliance.

For more information, including the Advocate’s comments and recommendations, visit the 2016 Annual Report

 

 
 

Issues at a Glance Archive

Issues at a Glance Archive

2015 - Plan Sponsor Issues at a Glance

The Advocate identified the following issues in the 2015 Annual Report. For more information, including the Advocate's comments and recommendations on these issues, visit the Report.

  • PBGC Must Improve Relations with Plan Sponsor
  • Premiums and Premium Penalties Need a Fresh Look
  • PBGC's Early Warning Program
  • Reportable Events Regulations

2015 - Plan Participant Issues at a Glance

The Advocate identified the following issues in the 2015 Annual Report. For more information, including the Advocate's comments and recommendations on these issues, visit the Report.

  • Complex Benefit Entitlement and Omitted Participant Cases
  • Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014 (MPRA)
  • Consultation with the Participant Advocacy Groups and PBGC
  • Interagency Coordination and Participant Benefit Entitlements

2014 - Plan Sponsor Issues at a Glance

The Advocate identified the following issues in the 2014 Annual Report. For more information, including the Advocate's comments and recommendations on these issues, visit the Report.

  • Improvement of PBGC's working relationships with sponsors: There is a need for PBGC to shift to a less adversarial and more collegial partnership approach in working with the Plan Sponsor community.
  • ERISA section 4062(e): There are unresolved issues related to PBGC enforcement of ERISA section 4062(e).
  • Communicating PBGC's numbers: There is a need for a more substantive response from PBGC regarding certain financial information, such as how PBGC calculates its liabilities and how PBGC manages and invests its assets.
  • Premium penalties: There is a need for more exploration on the issues surrounding premium penalties.

2014 - Plan Participant Issues at a Glance

The Advocate identified the following issues in the 2014 Annual Report. For more information, including the Advocate's comments and recommendations on these issues, visit the Report.

  • Non-routine individual requests to PBGC for assistance: Although PBGC has defined processes for responding to participant calls about trusteed plan benefits, participant requests involving complicated or uncommon issues, including "woodwork" or "omitted" participants, may fall outside PBGC's customer service goals and present special challenges.
  • Frequent and continuing consultation with Participant organizations: Plan sponsor-based organizations meet regularly with PBGC senior officials and offer PBGC the opportunity to attend professional events and provide updates that address relevant issues. Although Participant organizations have contacts with PBGC and are able to arrange occasional meetings, there is a lack of a regularized, continued practice of communication among PBGC and the participant organizations.
  • Improved communication with Participant and Retiree organizations about PBGC's finances and operations: Participant and Retiree organizations are as engaged as sponsor organizations in discussions about PBGC's current financial strength, outlook for the future, premium needs, and more, and would prefer more information-sharing, more of an understanding of current data and trends, and less rapid movement to summary and conclusion.
  • Additional items for exploration: There are outstanding issues raised by participant and retiree organizations such as lump sum distributions from plans trusteed by PBGC, church plans, and guidance addressing issues generated by de-risking transactions.  

Annual Reports

Annual Reports

MAP-21

Section 40232 of H.R. 4348, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act, establishes the PBGC Participant and Plan Sponsor Advocate role. Signed into law on July 6, 2012, MAP-21 amends the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) to include the role of the PBGC Participant and Plan Sponsor Advocate, the Advocate’s duties, and reporting requirements. The role of the Advocate is codified at 29 U.S.C. § 1304 MAP-21

Cooperative and Small Employer Charity Pension Flexibility Act

Section 105 of Pub. Law 113-97, the Cooperative and Small Employer Charity Pension Flexibility Act, enacted April 7, 2014, expands the Advocate’s duties to include assistance to Cooperative and Small Employer Charity (CSEC) plan sponsors and participants. This legislation is codified at 29 U.S.C. § 1304a.

MPRA

The Kline-Miller Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014 (MPRA), enacted on December 16, 2014, provides a consultation role for the Advocate in certain facilitated mergers and partitions. The legislation also permits the Advocate to submit recommendations to the Secretary of the Treasury with respect to certain benefit suspensions and benefit suspension revisions. See PBGC’s MPRA website for more information.

Advocate Frequently Asked Questions

1. Who is the Participant and Plan Sponsor Advocate (Advocate) and how was she selected?

Ms. Constance Donovan is the Participant and Plan Sponsor Advocate and was selected in October of 2013 by the PBGC Board of Directors to serve in this newly created position under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).

2. How was the position of the PBGC Advocate created?

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 section 4004 of ERISA to include the role of the PBGC Advocate, its duties and reporting requirements. Congress had been considering the role of the Advocate at PBGC for many years.

3. What does the PBGC Advocate do?

The Advocate serves as liaison among and between the PBGC, sponsors of defined benefit pension plans, and participants in defined benefit plans. The Advocate addresses areas in which participants and plan sponsors have persistent problems in dealing with the corporation, proposes changes in the administrative practices of the corporation to mitigate problems, recommends legislative changes, and files an annual report to Congress which generally summarizes activities of the Advocate and concerns of the participant and plan sponsor community. The Advocate also works directly with participants in defined benefit plans to ensure that they receive benefits they are entitled to under defined benefit plans insured by PBGC and also works with plan sponsors to help them resolve disputes with the corporation.

4. When is the Advocate Report presented in Congress?

Not later than December 31 of each calendar year, the Advocate must report on the activities of the Office of the Advocate during the fiscal year ending during such calendar year to the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee of the Senate; the Committee on Finance of the Senate; the Committee on Education and the Workforce of the House of Representatives; and the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives.

The Advocate also submits a copy of each report to the Secretary of Labor, the Director of the corporation, and any other appropriate official at the same time such report is submitted to the Committees of Congress.

5. How can I contact the Advocate?

The Advocate can be reached at (202) 326-4448 and at advocate@pbgc.gov.

6. Does the Advocate charge for her services?

There is no charge for the services of the Advocate.

 

Get Help

You can reach the Office of the Participant and Plan Sponsor Advocate by:

Contacting OPPSA at: advocate@pbgc.gov
or (202) 326-4448

For TTY/ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) users, call the federal relay service toll-free at 1-800-877-8339 and ask to be connected to (202) 326-4448

Comuníquese con la Defensora en Español, al teléfono
(202) 326-4448 y correo electrónico Advocate@pbgc.gov