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PBGC finalizes annual reporting rules


More large defined benefit plan sponsors might have to do Section 4010 reporting for the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. under a final rule issued Wednesday aimed at reducing some reporting burdens.

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Section 4010 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act requires plan sponsors to report annual financial and actuarial information to the PBGC if a plan is less than 80% funded, or has missed more than $1 million in required contributions.

Until now, plans funded more than 80% or underfunded by less than $15 million could obtain waivers that were intended to help smaller plans. Thanks to higher interest, or “stabilized,” rates allowed by legislation in recent years that increased some plans' funding levels, more plan sponsors qualified for those waivers. The resulting lack of information “significantly undermined” the PBGC's ability to intervene, said the final rule, because 4010 filing information is typically more current and accurate than Form 5500 filings. “PBGC can use 4010 information to quickly evaluate a fast-moving transaction to protect participants,” PBGC said, and it helps the agency value its own potential liabilities that are reported annually to Congress.

The final rule keeps the $15 million underfunded threshold and allows for alternative methods of compliance, but requires the funding shortfall to be determined using non-stabilized rates. That is the biggest impact for larger plan sponsors, said Alan Glickstein, senior retirement consultant at Willis Towers Watson P.L.C., in an email. “As a result, the waiver will be harder to get.”

Having more ways to measure the $15 million threshold “gives plan sponsors a little more flexibility,” said Eric Keener, partner and chief actuary with Aon Hewitt. “In general, we feel like the PBGC really listened to the comments. It allows plan sponsors some options.”

PBGC added a waiver for plans with 500 participants or fewer, plus two new waivers for plans with liens of $1 million or more or with outstanding minimum funding waivers above $1 million.

The agency also will exercise its discretion to issue waivers or extensions “where it finds convincing evidence,” the rule said. That shows PBGC officials are trying to reduce the burden on sponsors, said Will Hansen, senior vice president for retirement policy with the ERISA Industry Committee. How the $15 million threshold waiver works in practice “is the open-ended question,” Mr. Hansen said in an interview.

The final rule applies to filings that are due April 17, 2017.

Hazel Bradford writes for Pensions & Investments, a sister publication of Business Insurance.