Retirement plan fiduciaries do, indeed, have major control over most accounts they manage for particular employers with respect to employee retirement funds. Employees are often also bound by income tax laws for some accounts, such as a 401(k) retirement savings account that requires the contributor to wait until he or she reaches nearly 60 years of age before he or she can access the money in a tax-free amount. While the contributor is still working toward a retirement goal, fiduciaries, for the most part, have total control over the funds outside of the account holder setting certain percentage parameters on how the money should be divided in investment.
Fiduciary responsibilities under ERISA law
Even though fiduciaries do hold the funds and manage the investment strategy, they do still have specific responsibilities under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The designated fiduciaries are responsible for providing timely notifications when plan specifics may change and submitting timed reports on account fluctuation and total holdings. From a practical standpoint, the ERISA law focuses on keeping the fiduciary company honest when handling the funds with the priority being maintaining diverse investments as a protection device within the system.
Participant rights under ERISA law
ERISA also includes certain aspects of health care plans for employees as well, and all participants have basic rights concerning their retirement accounts that include:
- The disclosure of important plan information
- A timely and fair benefit processing system
- Application of the COBRA law for continuing health care coverage
- The right to legally recover denied benefits
How attorneys can help
It is when these responsibilities are not met that ERISA law attorneys can help the most, particularly when an employee is facing disability retirement. There are often continuing health care plan issues as well as the final determination on how funds can be accessed during what is often a very difficult time for affected employees. Participants often are unaware of the responsibilities of the fiduciary, and legal counsel becomes a real necessity in some instances.