Finding Missing Participants


Missing plan participants is one of the major issues when people leave employment and the plan sponsor has lost touch with them. After their last day of service, some plan participants fall off the face of the earth. The problem is that as a plan sponsor, they are a fiduciary to the plan and are responsible for the assets belonging to those folks who fall off the face of the earth. It becomes a bigger issue when you factor in the required notices and disclosures that all plan participants are supposed to receive.

In the old days, plan sponsors would have guidance from the Department of Labor (DOL) that said that when it came time to locating missing participants, the plan sponsor could use the Internal Revenue Service letter-forwarding program (since discontinued) that would send mail to these missing participants or use a locating service. Many third party administrators advised clients that they could simply liquidate a missing participant’s account and forward that balance to the Federal government as a100% tax withheld payment.

Guidance 10 years ago eliminated that 100% withholding option especially when the guidance as pushing for the use of Individual Retirement Accounts for these missing participants that a plan sponsor could use to park the missing participants’ money.

Thanks to technology, it’s much easier to find people. Heck, I’ve found so many former classmates on Facebook. So it’s no surprise that the DOL issued more guidance regarding locating participants and one of the suggestions is to Google missing participants.

Some of the suggestions that the DOL had in locating missing participants in Field Assistance Bulletin 2014-01

  1. Use certified mail
  2. Check related plan and employer records
  3. Check with the designated beneficiary that the participant listed on their beneficiary form.
  4. Find them online. The DOL says the plan sponsor should use free Internet search tools, such as Google, public records, obituaries, and social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc).


Written by:

Published In:

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Ary Rosenbaum, The Rosenbaum Law Firm P.C. | Attorney Advertising

Don't miss a thing! Build a custom news brief:

Read fresh new writing on compliance, cybersecurity, Dodd-Frank, whistleblowers, social media, hiring & firing, patent reform, the NLRB, Obamacare, the SEC…

…or whatever matters the most to you. Follow authors, firms, and topics on JD Supra.

Create your news brief now - it's free and easy »


Ary Rosenbaum
The Rosenbaum Law Firm P.C.

Ary Rosenbaum is an ERISA/ retirement plan attorney for his firm, The Rosenbaum Law Firm P.C.. At a... View Profile »

Follow The Rosenbaum Law Firm P.C.:

Reporters on Deadline

All the intelligence you need, in one easy email:

Great! Your first step to building an email digest of JD Supra authors and topics. Log in with LinkedIn so we can start sending your digest...

Sign up for your custom alerts now, using LinkedIn ›

* With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name.