The Pension Protection Act amended ERISA to require single employer defined benefit plans to provide an annual funding notice to participants and the PBGC for plan years beginning after December 31, 2007 (multiemployer plans were already required to provide a notice). The purpose of the notice requirement is to enhance retirement security and increase pension plan transparency. The Department of Labor ("DOL") issued interim guidance in Field Assistance Bulleting 2009-01, which included model notices. On November 18, 2010, the DOL released more detailed proposed regulations, which include different model notices.
A notice must include the plan's funding percentage, information regarding the plan's assets, and liabilities including a description of how the plan's assets are invested as of the last day of the plan year, and a statement of the plan's funding policy, a general description of the benefits under the plan that are eligible to be guaranteed by the PBGC, as well as an explanation of the limits on the guarantee and the circumstances under which such limits apply. The notice must be provided no later than 120 days after the close of the plan year, except that a small plan with 100 or fewer participants may provide the notice no later than the due date for filing the plan's Form 5500, including filing extensions.
Pending the release of a final rule, for example, for the notice due in April 2011 for a calendar year plan, plan administrators may use either the model notices provided in FAB 2009-01 or those provided in the proposed regulations to satisfy the notice requirement under ERISA. The new model notice for single-employer plans may be found here. The new model notice for multiemployer plans may be found here.