How to Easily Find Lost Benefit Plan Participants

by Thomas C. Lawson, CFE, CII

It is common knowledge that in-house and third-party benefit plan administrators regularly run across lost benefit plan participants for reasons such as an expired forwarding address file, death,etc.

Since 1988 the need to locate missing people who terminate employment and have benefits due from a qualified p an has increased significantly. These past employees leave without a forwarding address, an address expires because they move often, or perhaps they die.

Other contributing factors to this problem include shortened post office forwarding order times, both the IRS and SSN abandoning their letter-forwarding programs, and in many cases mismanagement by administrators.

For years ERISA, as the guiding statutory body, was loathe to provide enough incentive for administrators to do more than simply be aware that they had unresolved matters with their missing participants.

Title 29, Part 4050.4 became recognized as the savior to those hard-to-find folks who had to wait for an administrator to get them an updated statement, a distribution, or their plan termination papers.

Title 29, or what has become known as the diligent effort requirement, has dramatically stimulated the need for administrators to increase their efforts to identify and locate missing participants.

Plan terminations cannot be effected; distributions cannot be made until administrators clearly demonstrate a diligent effort in locating missing plan participants.

In the event the companies are unable to locate the missing people internally, the law is very clear. To meet the more stringent ERISA requirements, companies are required to perform actual third-party due diligence in an attempt to locate a lost plan participant. This endeavor demonstrates to both the IRS and the PBGC that every reasonable effort has been made to locate the missing participant before surrendering the plan.

Neither the PBGC or the IRS publishes specific guidelines as to what constitutes a diligent effort; but with the advent of, and its systematic, proven results in locating missing plan participants, an industry standard has been created by which these governing boards can more easily determine if a diligent effort has been made.

However, if you have the time and resources to conduct these searches on your own, you can use credit reporting agencies, internet search tools including social media, or do yourself a favor and use our commercial locator service.

America has more work-related crime including employee theft than other countries

Employee Theft

Employee Theft

Checkpoint Systems, a company that provides software and hardware solutions for the retail industry, released a report on Nov. 8, 2014 that finds American employees steal at a higher rate from their employers than workers in other countries except Argentina, according to

In fact, this report estimates theft caused a 27% increase in the cost of retail crime from 2013. A contributing factor is that other countries spend more on loss prevention while the US spent just 0.42% or about half of the global average of 0.80%.

Shrinkage is a term used by retailers that represents the difference between the revenue businesses should receive and the actual revenue they do receive. The losses come from shoplifting, employee theft as well as vendor fraud.

In the U.S. 43% of shrinkage is due to work-related crime. MarketWatch also reports that most of this theft happens during checkout or point of sale “when an associate purposely manipulates a transaction for the benefit of themselves or someone else.”

Workers have been known to issue refunds, discounts or voids at the register that they shouldn’t or cancel a transaction, modify prices, or say someone used a coupon when they actually didn’t. The cost of this kind of theft for US retailers ran $18 billion in 2013, according to the Checkpoint Systems theft barometer.

What’s interesting to note is that that report also states that a

None of this news surprises Tom Lawson, CEO APSCREEN and Negligent Hiring Expert Witness,  “This fact is thoroughly evidenced in recent years by multiple FTC actions against several of the large pre-employment screening industry players whose business models are continually challenged in courts of law mainly because they choose cost over quality and end up selling an incomplete background check that fails to unearth the kinds of criminal behavior that leads to these types of crimes.”