The Retirement Protection Act of 1994 requires certain underfunded plans annually to notify participants and beneficiaries of the plan's funding status and the limits of PBGC's guarantee. (See Section 4011 of ERISA and 29 CFR Part 4011.) The regulation includes a model notice that plans can use to meet this requirement.
For the convenience of plan administrators, this Technical Update provides the Model Participant Notice, updated to reflect the 1998 maximum guaranteed benefits. Technical Update 98-1 also reflects the increase from $3,500 to $5,000 in the maximum value of benefits that PBGC may pay in the form of a single, lump-sum payment to participants in pension plans that have been terminated and taken over by the agency. (See 63 Fed. Reg. 38,305, July 16, 1998.) This increase is effective with respect to Participant Notices issued on or after August 17, 1998. However, for a reasonable time period, PBGC will not treat a Participant Notice as failing to satisfy the Participant Notice requirement merely because it refers to the $3,500 threshold.
The following is an example of a Participant Notice that satisfies the requirements of § 4011.10 when the required information is filled in.
The law requires that you receive information on the funding level of your defined benefit pension plan and the benefits guaranteed by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), a federal insurance agency.
YOUR PLAN'S FUNDING
As of [DATE], your plan had [INSERT NOTICE FUNDING PERCENTAGE DETERMINED IN ACCORDANCE WITH § 4011.10(c)] percent of the money needed to pay benefits promised to employees and retirees.
To pay pension benefits, your employer is required to contribute money to the pension plan over a period of years. A plan's funding percentage does not take into consideration the financial strength of the employer. Your employer, by law, must pay for all pension benefits, but your benefits may be at risk if your employer faces a severe financial crisis or is in bankruptcy.
[INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH ONLY IF, FOR ANY OF THE PREVIOUS FIVE PLAN YEARS, THE PLAN HAS BEEN GRANTED AND HAS NOT FULLY REPAID A FUNDING WAIVER.]
Your plan received a funding waiver for [LIST ANY OF THE FIVE PREVIOUS PLAN YEARS FOR WHICH A FUNDING WAIVER WAS GRANTED AND HAS NOT BEEN FULLY REPAID]. If a company is experiencing temporary financial hardship, the Internal Revenue Service may grant a funding waiver that permits the company to delay contributions that fund the pension plan.
[INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING WITH RESPECT TO ANY UNPAID OR LATE PAYMENT THAT MUST BE DISCLOSED UNDER § 4011.10(b)(6):]
Your plan was required to receive a payment from the employer on [LIST APPLICABLE DUE DATE(S)]. That payment [has not been made] [was made on [LIST APPLICABLE PAYMENT DATE(S)]].
When a pension plan ends without enough money to pay all benefits, the PBGC steps in to pay pension benefits. The PBGC pays most people all pension benefits, but some people may lose certain benefits that are not guaranteed.
The PBGC pays pension benefits up to certain maximum limits.
The maximum guaranteed benefit is $2,880.68 per month or $34,568.16 per year for a 65-year-old person in a plan that terminates in 1998.
The maximum benefit may be reduced for an individual who is younger than age 65. For example, it is $1,296.31 per month or $15,555.72 per year for an individual who starts receiving benefits at age 55.
[IN LIEU OF AGE 55, YOU MAY ADD OR SUBSTITUTE ANY AGE(S) RELEVANT UNDER THE PLAN. FOR EXAMPLE, YOU MAY ADD OR SUBSTITUTE THE MAXIMUM BENEFIT FOR AGES 62 OR 60. THE MAXIMUM BENEFIT IS $2,275.74 PER MONTH OR $27,308.88 PER YEAR AT AGE 62; IT IS $1,872.44 PER MONTH OR $22,469.28 PER YEAR AT AGE 60. IF THE PLAN PROVIDES FOR NORMAL RETIREMENT BEFORE AGE 65, YOU MUST INCLUDE THE NORMAL RETIREMENT AGE.]
[IF THE PLAN DOES NOT PROVIDE FOR COMMENCEMENT OF BENEFITS BEFORE AGE 65, YOU MAY OMIT THIS PARAGRAPH.]
The maximum benefit will also be reduced when a benefit is provided for a survivor.
The PBGC does not guarantee certain types of benefits. [INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING GUARANTEE LIMITS THAT APPLY TO THE BENEFITS AVAILABLE UNDER YOUR PLAN.]
The PBGC does not guarantee benefits for which you do not have a vested right when a plan ends, usually because you have not worked enough years for the company.
The PBGC does not guarantee benefits for which you have not met all age, service, or other requirements at the time the plan ends.
Benefit increases and new benefits that have been in place for less than a year are not guaranteed. Those that have been in place for less than 5 years are only partly guaranteed.
Early retirement payments that are greater than payments at normal retirement age may not be guaranteed. For example, a supplemental benefit that stops when you become eligible for Social Security may not be guaranteed.
Benefits other than pension benefits, such as health insurance, life insurance, death benefits, vacation pay, or severance pay, are not guaranteed.
The PBGC does not pay lump sums exceeding $5,000.
WHERE TO GET MORE INFORMATION
Your plan, [EIN-PN], is sponsored by [CONTRIBUTING SPONSOR(S)]. If you would like more information about the funding of your plan, contact [INSERT NAME, TITLE, BUSINESS ADDRESS AND PHONE NUMBER OF INDIVIDUAL OR ENTITY].
For more information about the PBGC and the benefits it guarantees, you may request a free copy of ``Your Guaranteed Pension'' by writing to Consumer Information Center, Dept. YGP, Pueblo, Colorado 81009. [THE FOLLOWING SENTENCE MAY BE INCLUDED:] ``Your Guaranteed Pension'' is also available from the PBGC Homepage on the World Wide Web at http://www.pbgc.gov.