GAO report illuminates DOL enforcement of ERISA

In a report released on May 27, 2021, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) published the results of a 15-month inquiry into the enforcement of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (ERISA) by the Department of Labor (DOL). GAO last conducted such an inquiry in 2007. The stated purpose of the inquiry was to examine DOL’s management of and strategies to improve the ERISA enforcement process, and the immediate and long-term challenges presented by COVID-19. In the process of doing so, the report elaborates or confirms a number of instructive details about the ERISA enforcement process.

By way of background, DOL’s ERISA enforcement activity is primarily conducted out of its 10 Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) regional offices, with support from the EBSA National Office (Office of Enforcement, Office of the Chief Accountant, Deputy Assistant Secretary for National Operations, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Office Operations) and the DOL Office of the Solicitor and Office of Inspector General. Individual investigators in regional offices have substantial responsibility for identifying and undertaking investigations, subject to priorities established by the National Office and the respective regional office.

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