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    Subject Term: Pensions

    14 publications with a total of 49 open recommendations including 3 priority recommendations
    Director: Charles Jeszeck
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    6 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that current vesting policies appropriately balance plans' needs and interests with the needs of workers to have employment mobility while also saving for retirement, Treasury should evaluate the appropriateness of existing maximum vesting policies for account-based plans, considering today's mobile labor force, and seek legislative action to revise vesting schedules, if deemed necessary. The Department of Labor could provide assistance with such an evaluation.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: Treasury did not provide formal comments for this recommendation. The Department of Labor's comments noted that Treasury and IRS will consult with them on subjects of joint interest and Labor will provide assistance as requested. We will monitor the agency's progress.
    Recommendation: To help participants better understand eligibility and vesting policies, the Department of Labor (DOL) should develop guidance for plan sponsors that identifies best practices for communicating information about eligibility and vesting policies in a clear manner in summary plan descriptions. For example, DOL could discourage plans from including in documents information about employer contributions or other provisions that are not actually being used by the plan sponsor.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Labor disagreed with this recommendation stating that it would not be appropriate at this time to reallocate resources from its existing priority projects to a new project to identify "best practices" for communicating information about eligibility and vesting policies in a clear manner in the summary plan descriptions. The agency noted that in FY17, it will review its existing outreach material on plan administration and compliance for opportunities to highlight the issues and recommendations in our report. It will also consider this recommendation in its ongoing development and prioritization of EBSA's agenda for regulations and sub-regulatory guidance.
    Recommendation: To help increase plan participation and individuals' retirement savings, Congress should consider updating ERISA's 401(k) plan eligibility provisions to extend plan eligibility to otherwise eligible workers at an age earlier than 21.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, Congress has not yet taken action on this matter.
    Recommendation: To help increase plan participation and individuals' retirement savings, Congress should consider updating ERISA's 401(k) plan eligibility provisions to amend the definition of "year of service," given the prevalence of part-time workers in today's workforce.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we obtain information on actions taken by the Congress, we will a update.
    Recommendation: Congress should consider whether ERISA's provisions related to the timing of employer matching contributions need to be adjusted to reflect today's mobile workforce and workplace plans, which are predominantly 401(k) plans offering matching employer contributions.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we obtain information on actions taken by the Congress, we will a update.
    Recommendation: Congress should consider whether ERISA's provisions related to last day policies need to be adjusted to reflect today's mobile workforce and workplace plans, which are predominantly 401(k) plans offering matching employer contributions.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we obtain information on actions taken by the Congress, we will a update.
    Director: Jeszeck, Charles A
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    7 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Department of Labor (DOL) should help encourage plan sponsors to offer lifetime income options by clarifying the safe harbor from liability for selecting an annuity provider by providing sufficiently detailed criteria to better enable plan sponsors to comply with the safe harbor requirements related to assessing a provider's long-term solvency.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOL stated that a clarification might erode consumer protections by degrading the oversight of fiduciaries making such selections and suggested that the plan fiduciaries outsource these decisions to a financial institution as an investment manager under Section 3(38) of ERISA. While we recognize the challenging process for plan sponsors prudently offering an in-plan annuity, we believe this strategy relies on a plan having access to something specific: a deferred annuity embedded in a target date fund and very few plans offer deferred annuities. It is not clear whether such a service would be available and affordable to the bulk of 401(k) plan sponsors.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the DOL should help encourage plan sponsors to offer lifetime income options by considering providing legal relief for plan fiduciaries offering an appropriate mix of annuity and withdrawal options, upon adequately informing participants about the options, before participants choose to direct their investments into them.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: DOL stated that it is open to considering alternative regulatory approaches, and will include the recommendations as part of its ongoing development and prioritization of its agenda. DOL commented that the statutory structure explicitly provided by section 404(c) of ERISA pertaining to "investments" may not extend to annuities, although annuities are included as qualified default investment alternatives already. They also expressed concern that it might move the responsibility for the selection of the annuity provider to the participant, although DOL officials told us they believe plan fiduciaries maintain investment selection responsibility currently under 404(c). DOL suggested an alternative outsourcing solution to put the evaluation of the annuity provider in the hands of fiduciaries with financial expertise without the need of a regulation to reduce the obligations fiduciaries have to protect participants' interests. However, we believe this focuses solely on annuities and does not address the need for the same broad array of alternatives and information about them that 404(c) creates in the accumulation phase. We will close this recommendation when DOL either determines internally that it lacks authority to expand 404(c) to the decumulation phase or shows an intent to solicit stakeholder views as to how a prudent mix of options might be incentivized while maintaining sufficient participant protections.
    Recommendation: To guide fiduciaries as they consider how the account balances of their participants will translate into financial security in retirement, DOL should modify its Meeting Your Fiduciary Responsibilities publication or issue new guidance to encourage plan sponsors to use a record keeper that includes annuities from multiple providers on their record keeping platform.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOL stated that it reviewed its publications to explore ways to encourage use of products and arrangements designed to provide participants and beneficiaries a lifetime income stream after retirement, and it is working on ways to build on them to better educate participants and plan sponsors about the need to think of making retirement savings last throughout retirement.
    Recommendation: To guide fiduciaries as they consider how the account balances of their participants will translate into financial security in retirement, DOL should modify its Meeting Your Fiduciary Responsibilities publication or issue new guidance to encourage plan sponsors to offer participants the option to partially annuitize their account balance by allowing them the ability to purchase the amount of guaranteed lifetime income most appropriate for them.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOL stated that it reviewed its publications to explore ways to encourage use of products and arrangements designed to provide participants and beneficiaries a lifetime income stream after retirement, and it is working on ways to build on them to better educate participants and plan sponsors about the need to think of making retirement savings last throughout retirement.
    Recommendation: To guide fiduciaries as they consider how the account balances of their participants will translate into financial security in retirement, DOL should modify its Meeting Your Fiduciary Responsibilities publication or issue new guidance to encourage plan sponsors to consider whether a contract with a service provider ensures future service provider changes do not cause participants to lose the value of their lifetime income guarantees.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOL stated that it reviewed its publications to explore ways to encourage use of products and arrangements designed to provide participants and beneficiaries a lifetime income stream after retirement, and it is working on ways to build on them to better educate participants and plan sponsors about the need to think of making retirement savings last throughout retirement.
    Recommendation: To guide fiduciaries as they consider how the account balances of their participants will translate into financial security in retirement, DOL should modify its Meeting Your Fiduciary Responsibilities publication or issue new guidance to encourage plan sponsors to include participant access to advice on the plan's lifetime income options from an expert in retirement income strategies.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOL stated that it reviewed its publications to explore ways to encourage use of products and arrangements designed to provide participants and beneficiaries a lifetime income stream after retirement, and it is working on ways to build on them to better educate participants and plan sponsors about the need to think of making retirement savings last throughout retirement.
    Recommendation: To guide fiduciaries as they consider how the account balances of their participants will translate into financial security in retirement, DOL should modify its Meeting Your Fiduciary Responsibilities publication or issue new guidance to encourage plan sponsors to consider providing RMD-based default income-plan distributions as a default stream of lifetime income based on the RMD methodology-beginning, unless they opt-out, when retirement-age participants separate from employment, rather than after age 70½.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOL stated that it reviewed its publications to explore ways to encourage use of products and arrangements designed to provide participants and beneficiaries a lifetime income stream after retirement, and it is working on ways to build on them to better educate participants and plan sponsors about the need to think of making retirement savings last throughout retirement.
    Director: Charles A. Jeszeck
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help workers make appropriate adjustments to the replacement rates used in calculating their specific retirement income needs, the Secretary of Labor should modify its retirement planning tools to allow for some user flexibility in adjusting the replacement rate used in calculating retirement income needs.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: Department of Labor (DOL) officials told us that the agency has updated the instructions to add more information on common situations that would impact a worker's replacement rate. DOL officials also said the department is in the process of developing expanded options for the target saving rate worksheet/calculator. They said this would include identifying the data points needed from the user and adjustments to the user interface (to keep it user friendly) as well as the underlying calculations needed to provide alternative replacement rates within a generally acceptable range. Allowing workers to adjust the replacement rates used when calculating their retirement income needs would help workers better estimate what their individual planning needs may be. We will consider closing this recommendation when this effort has been completed.
    Director: Charles Jeszeck
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To encourage plan sponsors to continue efforts to improve plan participation and overall retirement savings through the use of Qualified Default Investment Alternatives, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for the Employee Benefits Security Administration to assess the challenges that plan sponsors and stakeholders reported, including the extent to which these challenges can be addressed, and implement corrective actions through clarifying guidance or regulations, as appropriate.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2015, DOL noted that the agency would assess the challenges that plan sponsors and stakeholders had reported to GAO, decide in FY 2016 whether a broader public comment process (such as a Request for Information) or a research project would aid that assessment, and determine whether other actions, such as issuing clarifying guidance or regulations, would be beneficial to its stakeholders. In July 2016, DOL confirmed that the agency continues to plan to take the above action. In July 207, DOL responded that it had not added a public comment process to EBSA's 2017 regulatory agenda, and had no specific timeline for any next action.
    Director: Charles Jeszeck
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    5 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that federal regulators have better information about lump sum windows and to better ensure that participants have ready access to key information they need to make a decision when presented with a lump sum offer, the Department of Labor should require plan sponsors to notify DOL at the time they implement a lump sum window offer, including the number and category of participants being extended the offer (e.g., separated vested; retiree) as well as examples of the materials provided to them.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Labor (DOL) agreed that this type of information may be helpful in determining the extent to which lump sum window offers are made, as well as the types of disclosures the participants receive. However, DOL reported that it has not identified authority under ERISA for it to impose such a requirement on plan sponsors either before or shortly after the plan offers the lump sum window. The agency states that ERISA expressly provides specific reporting and disclosure requirements. These include various filings, such as annual financial reports, reports upon plan termination, and reports upon making certain transfers of pension plan assets to health benefit accounts. The agency believes ERISA does not require plans to notify them regarding the benefit distribution options they offer or changes in those options, and does not read the broad rulemaking authority in ERISA in Section 505 (general regulations) and Section 110 (pension reporting and disclosure) as authorizing EBSA to establish the notice filing requirement GAO recommended. The agency also commented that ERISA expressly requires that most pension plans file a Form 5500 annual report with the statute specifying the required contents of this annual report in some detail and requiring ?such other financial and actuarial information as the Secretary may find necessary or appropriate.? Although the agency noted it could, by regulation, require reporting on lump sum window offers on the Form 5500, there would be a substantial time lag because ERISA by statute establishes the reporting cycle for the Form 5500 -- the report is not due until 210 days (7 months) after the plan year closes (e.g., for calendar year plans, July 31st of the following year). The agency recognizes that this might not be responsive to the recommendation, which appears to envision a notification system that is relatively contemporaneous with the lump sum window being offered to participants and beneficiaries.
    Recommendation: To ensure that federal regulators have better information about lump sum windows and to better ensure that participants have ready access to key information they need to make a decision when presented with a lump sum offer, the Department of Labor should coordinate with the Internal Revenue Service and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) to clarify the guidance regarding the information sponsors should provide to participants when extending lump sum window offers and place the guidance on the agency's website. Guidance should include clear and understandable presentations of information, such as the relative value of the lump sum, the role and level of protections provided by PBGC, and the positive and negative ramifications of accepting the lump sum. Such guidance could also include promising practices for information materials from plan sponsors which are particularly effective in facilitating informed participant decision-making.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Labor agreed with this recommendation, noting it is important to coordinate with the Treasury Department/IRS and PBGC to clarify the guidance regarding the information sponsors and other plan fiduciaries should provide to participants and beneficiaries when extending lump sum window offers. In 2016, the agency noted that the manner of publishing that guidance would be part of that coordination process. They may consider some formal public request for input (such as publishing a Request for Information in the Federal Register) and focus group or other field testing work. In addition, the agency noted that the 2015 ERISA Advisory Council announced that one of its projects this year concerns how to give participants effective notices and disclosures concerning lump sum window offers, including possible development of model participant notices. The 2015 Council developed recommendations and model notices on lump sum window offers in "pension risk transfer transactions," and suggested that DOL make the Model Notices available on its web site to plan sponsors and participant advocates and that plan sponsors use the Model Notices when engaging in risk transfer transactions. Similar to other model communications developed by the 2015 Council, the agency believes the model notice could be further enhanced if subjected to broader public input from, for example, plan sponsors, participant advocates, communications experts, and academics. Subject to the limits on its authority in this area and resource constraints. They are considering efforts to obtain public input on the Council's recommendations and model notice. They also intend to contact the Treasury Department/IRS and PBGC to discuss the Council's recommendations.
    Recommendation: To provide participants with useful information and to provide for lump sums that are based on up-to-date assumptions, Treasury should review its regulations governing the information contained in relative value statements to ensure these statements provide a meaningful comparison of all benefit options, especially in instances where the loss of certain additional plan benefits may not be disclosed.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: Treasury generally agreed with this recommendation but did not provide specific comments on plans to address it.
    Recommendation: To provide participants with useful information and to provide for lump sums that are based on up-to-date assumptions, Treasury should review the applicability and appropriateness of allowing sponsors to select a "lookback" interest rate for use in calculating lump sums associated with a lump sum window that can serve to advantage the interests of the sponsor.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: Treasury generally agreed with this recommendation but did not provide specific comments on plans to address it.
    Recommendation: To provide participants with useful information and to provide for lump sums that are based on up-to-date assumptions, Treasury should establish a process and a timeline for periodically updating the mortality tables used to determine minimum required lump sums-- including a means for monitoring when experts' views may indicate that mortality tables may have become outdated, and for taking expedited action if warranted.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: Treasury generally agreed with this recommendation but did not provide specific comments on plans to address it.
    Director: Charlie Jeszeck
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    5 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To better protect the retirement savings of individuals who change jobs, while retaining policies that provide 401(k) plans relief from maintaining small, inactive accounts, Congress should consider amending current law to permit the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of the Treasury to identify and designate alternative default destinations for forced transfers greater than $1,000, should they deem them more advantageous for participants.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: There has been no congressional action as of 2017.
    Recommendation: To better protect the retirement savings of individuals who change jobs, while retaining policies that provide 401(k) plans relief from maintaining small, inactive accounts, Congress should consider amending current law to repeal the provision that allows plans to disregard amounts attributable to rollovers when determining if a participant's plan balance is small enough to forcibly transfer it.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: There has been no congressional action as of 2017.
    Recommendation: To ensure that individuals have access to consolidated online information about their multiple 401(k) plan accounts, the Secretary of Labor should convene a taskforce to consider establishing a national pension registry. The taskforce could include industry professionals, plan sponsor representatives, consumer representatives, and relevant federal government stakeholders, such as representatives from Social Security Administration, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, and Internal Revenue Service, who could identify areas to be addressed through the regulatory process, as well as those that may require legislative action.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In April 2017, The Department of Labor (DOL) reported that it has not allocated any resources to this recommendation and, as previously stated, that it continues to believe that the Department should not undertake to convene a taskforce at this time, in light of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation's (PBGC) initiative, the Department's limited authority, and resource constraints. In October 2016, DOL stated that it does not have regulatory authority to establish a pension registry and could not provide sufficient funding to operate a registry. GAO's recommendation is to convene a taskforce to look at what would be needed to create such a registry. Indeed, DOL's stated constraints are exactly the constructive input that would need to be first addressed by such a taskforce for a registry to be created. The agency further noted that the PBGC is in the process of looking at expanding its own registry of accounts left in closed defined benefit plans to include accounts in 401(k) plans. However, PBGC is only looking at expanding its program, as instructed by the Pension Protection Act, to include accounts left in terminated 401(k) plans. However, in June 2016, Congress proposed that a new national, online, lost and found for Americans' retirement accounts be created, in cooperation with the Commissioner of Social Security and the Secretary of the Treasury, using data that employers are already required to report. Until Congress' proposal becomes law, we continue to recommend that DOL facilitate a taskforce to discuss legal and other logistical questions that would need to be worked out to create a pension registry.
    Recommendation: To ensure that 401(k) plan participants have timely and adequate information to keep track of all their workplace retirement accounts, the Social Security Administration's Acting Commissioner should make information on potential vested plan benefits more accessible to individuals before retirement. For example, the agency could consolidate information on potential vested benefits, currently sent in the Potential Private Retirement Benefit Information notice, with the information provided in the Social Security earnings and benefits statement.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA disagreed with this recommendation, but did seek legal guidance to determine if it is permissible to include a general statement encouraging potential beneficiaries to pursue any external pension benefits in its benefit Statement. SSA's Office of the General Counsel determined that it would be permissible as long as it includes information required by law and the information is accurate. However, SSA continues to believe that adding such information would place SSA in a position to respond to issues or questions about ERISA and private pension plans, which SSA considers to be outside its mission and about which the agency has no firsthand legal or operational knowledge. Also, SSA believes that the current benefit Statement adequately covers the fact that people need other savings, pensions, and investments. Also, SSA sends notices to people who it believes quality for other pensions. In FY17, SSA reported no change in status to this recommendation. We continue to agree with SSA's view about providing information or advice about private pension plans generally. However, SSA's Notice of Potential Private Retirement Benefit Information already directs recipients to contact DOL with any questions, and we would expect that any changes made to make information on potential vested plan benefits more accessible to individuals before retirement - such as including the information in Social Security earnings and benefit statements - would continue to direct recipients to contact DOL with questions about ERISA policy. Furthermore, we continue to believe that individuals should receive information on any potential vested plan benefits prior to retirement.
    Recommendation: To prevent forced-transfer IRA balances from decreasing due to the low returns of the investment options currently permitted under the Department of Labor's safe harbor regulation, the Secretary of Labor should expand the investment alternatives available. For example, the forced-transfer IRA safe harbor regulations could be revised to include investment options currently under the qualified default investment alternatives regulation applicable to automatic enrollment, and permit forced-transfer IRA providers to change the investments for IRAs already established.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, DOL declines to adopt this recommendation. DOL noted if GAO?s comments are interpreted to mean that the recommended safe harbor revisions would free plan fiduciaries from an obligation to make a prudent selection among such a broader range of investment alternatives, then it raises significant policy issues regarding the administration of ERISA?s fiduciary duty provisions. DOL also noted that if, on the other hand, GAO's recommendation would have the safe harbor require the responsible plan fiduciary be responsible for prudently deciding whether to use a higher risk investment alternative, employers and other plan sponsors may oppose such a change. Our recommendation does not comment on or suggest changes to the obligations of plan fiduciaries as part of a change to the safe harbor. Further, GAO has made prior recommendations that DOL clarify the definition of fiduciary for purposes of investment, including a requirement that plan service providers, when assisting participants with distribution options, disclose any financial interests they may have in the outcome of those decisions in a clear, consistent, and prominent manner; the conditions under which they are subject to any regulatory standards (such as ERISA fiduciary standards, SEC standards, or others); and what those standards mean for the participant. Our recommendation is to "expand the investment options available" and we have noted that qualified default investment alternatives could be one option. Previously, DOL has stated that the limited investments under the safe harbor are appropriate because Congress' intent for the safe harbor was to preserve principal transferred out of plans. DOL noted that given the small balances and the inability of absent participants to monitor investments, the current conservative investment options are a more appropriate way to preserve principal. However, the current forced-transfer IRA investment options like money market funds can protect principal from investment risk, but not from the risk that fees (no matter how reasonable) and inflation can result in decreased account balances due to returns on these small balance accounts not keeping pace with fees. The reality has been that many forced-transfer IRAs have experienced very large and even complete declines in principal. Our recommendation did not aim to eliminate any investment alternatives covered by the safe harbor, rather it aims to expand the alternatives available so that plans and providers that want to operate under the safe harbor have the opportunity to choose the most suitable investment. We continue to encourage DOL to expand the safe harbor to include investment alternatives more likely to preserve principal and even increase it over time.
    Director: Charles Jeszeck
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    6 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To better protect plan sponsors and participants who use managed account services, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) to review provider practices related to additional managed account services offered to participants in or near retirement, with the aim of determining whether conflicts of interest exist and, if it determines it is necessary, taking the appropriate action to remedy the issue.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2014, DOL agreed to include these practices in its current review of investment advice conflicts of interest, noting that such conflicts continue to be a concern. In April 2015, a proposed regulation was published in the Federal Register on the definition of a "fiduciary" of an employee benefit plan under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) as a result of giving investment advice to a plan or its participants or beneficiaries. The proposal would widen the array of advice relationships under which someone would be considered a fiduciary under ERISA more broadly than existing regulations. This would increase consumer protection for plan sponsors, fiduciaries, participants, beneficiaries and IRA owners. An initial comment period closed on July 21, 2015. DOL held a public hearing on August 10-13, 2015, and reopened the comment period until September 24. GAO will monitor the progress of this proposed rule.
    Recommendation: To better protect plan sponsors and participants who use managed account services, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for the EBSA to consider the fiduciary status of managed account providers when they offer services on an opt-in basis and, if necessary, make regulatory changes or provide guidance to address any issues.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: DOL concurred with this recommendation and agreed to review existing guidance and consider whether additional guidance is needed in light of the various business models we described. As of May 2017, DOL is continuing these efforts. To implement this recommendation, DOL should complete its efforts to consider managed account service provider practices and fiduciary roles and take any necessary action to address potential issues to ensure that sponsors and participants receive unconflicted managed account services from qualified managers.
    Recommendation: To help sponsors who offer managed account services or who are considering doing so better protect their 401(k) plan participants, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for EBSA to require plan sponsors to request from record keepers more than one managed account provider option, and notify the Department of Labor if record keepers fail to do so.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOL agreed to consider this recommendation in connection with its current regulatory project on standards for brokerage windows in participant-directed individual account plans. The project has been moved to the long-term action category of DOL's regulatory agenda. DOL will also consider the extent of its legal authority to effectively require that plans have more than one managed account service provider or to require that record keepers offer more than one managed account provider as part of their service agreements. GAO believes requiring plan sponsors to ask for more than one choice of a provider -- which is slightly different than how DOL has characterized it--may be an effective method of broadening plan sponsors' choices of managed account providers. However, GAO also agrees that DOL should examine the scope of its existing authority in considering how it might implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help sponsors and participants more effectively assess the performance of managed accounts, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for EBSA to amend participant disclosure regulations to require that sponsors furnish standardized performance and benchmarking information to participants. To accomplish this, EBSA could promulgate regulations that would require sponsors who offer managed account services to provide their participants with standardized performance and benchmarking information on managed accounts. For example, sponsors could periodically furnish each managed account participant with the aggregate performance of participants' managed account portfolios and returns for broad-based securities market indexes and applicable customized benchmarks, based on those benchmarks provided for the plan's designated investment alternatives.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOL agreed to consider this recommendation in connection with (1) its regulatory project on standards for brokerage windows in participant directed individual account plans and (2) open proposed rulemaking project involving the qualified default investment alternative and participant-level fee disclosure regulations. These projects have been moved to the long-term action category of DOL's regulatory agenda.
    Recommendation: To help sponsors and participants more effectively assess the performance of managed accounts, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for EBSA to amend service provider disclosure regulations to require that providers furnish standardized performance and benchmarking information to sponsors. To accomplish this, EBSA could promulgate regulations that would require service providers to disclose to sponsors standardized performance and benchmarking information on managed accounts. For example, providers could, prior to selection and periodically thereafter, as applicable, furnish sponsors with aggregated returns for generalized conservative, moderate, and aggressive portfolios, actual managed account portfolio returns for each of the sponsor's participants, and returns for broad-based securities market indexes and applicable customized benchmarks, based on those benchmarks provided for the plan's designated investment alternatives.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOL agreed to consider this recommendation in connection with (1) its regulatory project on standards for brokerage windows in participant directed individual account plans and (2) open proposed rulemaking project involving the qualified default investment alternative and participant-level fee disclosure regulations. These projects have been moved to the long-term action category of DOL's regulatory agenda.
    Recommendation: To help sponsors who offer managed account services or who are considering doing so better protect their 401(k) plan participants, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for EBSA to provide guidance to plan sponsors for selecting and overseeing managed account providers that addresses: (1) the importance of considering multiple providers when choosing a managed account provider, (2) factors to consider when offering managed accounts as a Qualified Default Investment Alternative or on an opt-in basis, and (3) approaches for evaluating the services of managed account providers.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOL agreed to consider this recommendation in connection with its current regulatory project on standards for brokerage windows in participant-directed individual account plans. DOL intends for this project to address whether potential regulatory or other guidance for such arrangements may be appropriate. The project has been moved to the long-term action category of DOL's regulatory agenda.
    Director: Charlie Jeszeck
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve IRS's enforcement and compliance efforts, decrease the administrative and financial burden of maintaining both electronic and paper-based form processing systems, and reduce plan reporting costs, Congress should consider providing the Department of the Treasury with the authority to require that the Form 5500 series be filed electronically.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of 5/31/17, Congress has taken no action.
    Recommendation: To improve the usefulness, reliability, and comparability of Form 5500 data for all stakeholders while limiting the burden on the filing community, the Secretaries of DOL and Treasury, and the Director of PBGC should consider implementing the findings from our panel when modifying plan investment and service provider fee information, including: (1) revising Schedule H plan asset categories to better match current investment vehicles and provide more transparency into plan investments; (2) revising the Schedule of Assets attachments to create a standard searchable format; (3) developing a central repository for EIN and PN numbers for filers and service providers to improve the comparability of form data across filings; (4) clarifying Schedule C instructions for direct, eligible indirect, and reportable indirect compensation so plan fees are reported more consistently and, as we recommended in the past, better align with the 408(b)(2) fee disclosures; and (5) simplifying and clarify Schedule C service provider codes to increase reporting consistency.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2016, DOL in coordination with IRS and PBGC has implemented cross-year edit checks into EFAST in an effort to improve the consistency in key identifying information, such as the EIN, Plan Number and Plan Name. These checks aim to verify identifying information submitted on the Form 5500 and to notify the filer and government agencies of inconsistencies, which affords filers the ability to review and modify crucial identifying information prior to submission. Additionally, if the filer chooses to submit data that may contain inconsistent information, the edit test indicators provide government users with the ability to more readily detect filings containing potential errors in the identifying information for further review and correction. DOL has also collaborated with PBGC and IRS in issuing proposed revisions to the Form 5500 Series in a Notice of Proposed Forms Revisions. The deadline for public comment ended December 5, 2016. The proposed revisions in the Notice reflect efforts of DOL, IRS, and PBGC to improve the Form 5500 reporting for filers, the public, and the agencies by among other things, (1) modernizing financial information filed by regarding plans; (2) updating fee and expense information on plan service providers with a focus on harmonizing annual reporting requirement with DOL's 408(b)(2); financial disclosure requirements; (3) enhancing the ability to mine data files on annual returns/reports; and (4) improving compliance with ERISA and the Code through selected new questions regarding plan operation, service provider relationships, and financial management of plans. Specifically, in the Notice the agencies propose that Schedule H report assets held and assets disposed of during the plan year to provide more transparency and a more complete report of plan's annual investments and that that the Schedule of Assets be revised to require reporting of assets held through direct filing entities. Additionally, the agencies are proposing revisions to the Schedule H, Schedule of Assets that require filers to complete standardized Schedules in a format enabling data to captured electronically. This requirement would enable importation of information from the Schedules of Assets into structured databases that DOL would make available to the public from each year's Form 5500 Series filing. The agencies are also proposing to add clarifying definitions and instructions to improve the consistency of Form 5000 responses. This includes clarification of conventions to identify filers by name and identifying numbers to help mitigate confusion about legal identities with which plans transact and improve comparability of form data across filings. In addition, the agencies also propose revisions to Schedule C to require reporting of indirect compensation for service provider subject to 408(b)(2) requirements and for all compensation that is required to be disclosed. Further, the Schedule C instructions would be clarified to track more closely with the language of the 408(b)(2) regulations. The agencies are also proposing to limit the codes for Schedule C and requiring the filer to more simply indicate all types of services for each provider identified. Additionally, they propose a requirement to indicate all the types of fees/compensation separately when reporting sources of compensation from parties other than plan and plan sponsor. The agencies are reviewing the public comments and expect the process to continue through 2017. While the Agencies have made considerable efforts to address our recommendation in the proposed revisions to the Form 5500, they have not made any decisions on whether to make changes to the forms or DOL regulations, and have not decided on a timeline for implementation of any changes to the form or DOL regulations that the Agencies ultimately may decide to adopt. We will close this recommendation once the revision is final.
    Recommendation: To improve the usefulness, reliability, and comparability of Form 5500 data for all stakeholders while limiting the burden on the filing community, the Secretaries of DOL and Treasury, and the Director of PBGC should consider implementing the findings from our panel when modifying plan investment and service provider fee information, including: (1) revising Schedule H plan asset categories to better match current investment vehicles and provide more transparency into plan investments; (2) revising the Schedule of Assets attachments to create a standard searchable format; (3) developing a central repository for EIN and PN numbers for filers and service providers to improve the comparability of form data across filings; (4) clarifying Schedule C instructions for direct, eligible indirect, and reportable indirect compensation so plan fees are reported more consistently and, as we recommended in the past, better align with the 408(b)(2) fee disclosures; and (5) simplifying and clarify Schedule C service provider codes to increase reporting consistency.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2016, DOL in coordination with IRS and PBGC has implemented cross-year edit checks into EFAST in an effort to improve the consistency in key identifying information, such as the EIN, Plan Number and Plan Name. These checks aim to verify identifying information submitted on the Form 5500 and to notify the filer and government agencies of inconsistencies, which affords filers the ability to review and modify crucial identifying information prior to submission. Additionally, if the filer chooses to submit data that may contain inconsistent information, the edit test indicators provide government users with the ability to more readily detect filings containing potential errors in the identifying information for further review and correction. IRS has also collaborated with DOL and PBGC in issuing proposed revisions to the Form 5500 Series in a Notice of Proposed Forms Revisions. The deadline for public comment ended December 5, 2016. The proposed revisions in the Notice reflect efforts of DOL, IRS, and PBGC to improve the Form 5500 reporting for filers, the public, and the agencies by among other things, (1) modernizing financial information filed by regarding plans; (2) updating fee and expense information on plan service providers with a focus on harmonizing annual reporting requirement with DOL's 408(b)(2); financial disclosure requirements; (3) enhancing the ability to mine data files on annual returns/reports; and (4) improving compliance with ERISA and the Code through selected new questions regarding plan operation, service provider relationships, and financial management of plans. Specifically, in the Notice the agencies propose that Schedule H report assets held and assets disposed of during the plan year to provide more transparency and a more complete report of plan's annual investments and that that the Schedule of Assets be revised to require reporting of assets held through direct filing entities. Additionally, the agencies are proposing revisions to the Schedule H, Schedule of Assets that require filers to complete standardized Schedules in a format enabling data to captured electronically. This requirement would enable importation of information from the Schedules of Assets into structured databases that DOL would make available to the public from each year's Form 5500 Series filing. The agencies are also proposing to add clarifying definitions and instructions to improve the consistency of Form 5000 responses. This includes clarification of conventions to identify filers by name and identifying numbers to help mitigate confusion about legal identities with which plans transact and improve comparability of form data across filings. In addition, the agencies also propose revisions to Schedule C to require reporting of indirect compensation for service provider subject to 408(b)(2) requirements and for all compensation that is required to be disclosed. Further, the Schedule C instructions would be clarified to track more closely with the language of the 408(b)(2) regulations. The agencies are also proposing to limit the codes for Schedule C and requiring the filer to more simply indicate all types of services for each provider identified. Additionally, they propose a requirement to indicate all the types of fees/compensation separately when reporting sources of compensation from parties other than plan and plan sponsor. The agencies are reviewing the public comments and expect the process to continue through 2017. While the Agencies have made considerable efforts to address our recommendation in the proposed revisions to the Form 5500, they have not made any decisions on whether to make changes to the forms or DOL regulations, and have not decided on a timeline for implementation of any changes to the form or DOL regulations that the Agencies ultimately may decide to adopt. We will close this recommendation once the revision is final.
    Recommendation: To improve the usefulness, reliability, and comparability of Form 5500 data for all stakeholders while limiting the burden on the filing community, the Secretaries of DOL and Treasury, and the Director of PBGC should consider implementing the findings from our panel when modifying plan investment and service provider fee information, including: (1) revising Schedule H plan asset categories to better match current investment vehicles and provide more transparency into plan investments; (2) revising the Schedule of Assets attachments to create a standard searchable format; (3) developing a central repository for EIN and PN numbers for filers and service providers to improve the comparability of form data across filings; (4) clarifying Schedule C instructions for direct, eligible indirect, and reportable indirect compensation so plan fees are reported more consistently and, as we recommended in the past, better align with the 408(b)(2) fee disclosures; and (5) simplifying and clarify Schedule C service provider codes to increase reporting consistency.

    Agency: Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2016, DOL in coordination with IRS and PBGC has implemented cross-year edit checks into EFAST in an effort to improve the consistency in key identifying information, such as the EIN, Plan Number and Plan Name. These checks aim to verify identifying information submitted on the Form 5500 and to notify the filer and government agencies of inconsistencies, which affords filers the ability to review and modify crucial identifying information prior to submission. Additionally, if the filer chooses to submit data that may contain inconsistent information, the edit test indicators provide government users with the ability to more readily detect filings containing potential errors in the identifying information for further review and correction. PBDC has also collaborated with DOL and IRS in issuing proposed revisions to the Form 5500 Series in a Notice of Proposed Forms Revisions. The deadline for public comment ended December 5, 2016. The proposed revisions in the Notice reflect efforts of DOL, IRS, and PBGC to improve the Form 5500 reporting for filers, the public, and the agencies by among other things, (1) modernizing financial information filed by regarding plans; (2) updating fee and expense information on plan service providers with a focus on harmonizing annual reporting requirement with DOL's 408(b)(2); financial disclosure requirements; (3) enhancing the ability to mine data files on annual returns/reports; and (4) improving compliance with ERISA and the Code through selected new questions regarding plan operation, service provider relationships, and financial management of plans. Specifically, in the Notice the agencies propose that Schedule H report assets held and assets disposed of during the plan year to provide more transparency and a more complete report of plan's annual investments and that that the Schedule of Assets be revised to require reporting of assets held through direct filing entities. Additionally, the agencies are proposing revisions to the Schedule H, Schedule of Assets that require filers to complete standardized Schedules in a format enabling data to captured electronically. This requirement would enable importation of information from the Schedules of Assets into structured databases that DOL would make available to the public from each year's Form 5500 Series filing. The agencies are also proposing to add clarifying definitions and instructions to improve the consistency of Form 5000 responses. This includes clarification of conventions to identify filers by name and identifying numbers to help mitigate confusion about legal identities with which plans transact and improve comparability of form data across filings. In addition, the agencies also propose revisions to Schedule C to require reporting of indirect compensation for service provider subject to 408(b)(2) requirements and for all compensation that is required to be disclosed. Further, the Schedule C instructions would be clarified to track more closely with the language of the 408(b)(2) regulations. The agencies are also proposing to limit the codes for Schedule C and requiring the filer to more simply indicate all types of services for each provider identified. Additionally, they propose a requirement to indicate all the types of fees/compensation separately when reporting sources of compensation from parties other than plan and plan sponsor. The agencies are reviewing the public comments and expect the process to continue through 2017. While the Agencies have made considerable efforts to address our recommendation in the proposed revisions to the Form 5500, they have not made any decisions on whether to make changes to the forms or DOL regulations, and have not decided on a timeline for implementation of any changes to the form or DOL regulations that the Agencies ultimately may decide to adopt. We will close this recommendation once any revision are made final.
    Director: Moran, Revae E
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the consistency and completeness of national data on participants in the WIA Adult and Dislocated Worker Programs, the Secretary of Labor should take additional steps to improve the uniformity of participant data reported by states. The Secretary of Labor should promote a formal, continuous process for improving the quality of data on participants in the WIA Adult and Dislocated Worker Programs through such measures as the following: (a) consistently sharing the results of all oversight activities with states and local areas, including findings from validation of participant data; (b) reviewing the methods used for data validation, such as its scope and error rate threshold, to identify opportunities to increase efficiencies and accountability in the process. This could include implementing, if appropriate, recommendations from the Regions' review of data validation procedures; (c) evaluating data validation efforts to determine their effects on data quality, particularly on systemic errors, and providing targeted guidance and assistance to states and local areas to address such errors; (d) regularly monitoring Social Policy Research Associates' corrections and analyses of state WIA participant data, sharing this information with states, and coordinating with states to ensure that any corrections are appropriate and accurate; and (e) collecting and disseminating promising practices to states and local areas on data collection and reporting on a regular basis.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: States began using a Participant Individual Record Layout (PIRL)--which includes common reporting definitions across WIOA core programs--as of July 1, 2016, and DOL anticipates receiving the first State Annual Performance Reports based on these data by October 16, 2017. As part of this effort, DOL has held in-person training sessions with state and local officials and also provided them with technical assistance, including guidance related to implementing required data collection and reporting efforts under WIOA. In addition, DOL outlined several ongoing data validation efforts, such as adding additional edit checks and identifying and addressing technical issues as they occur. We will close this recommendation when DOL receives and processes the first state performance reports under the PIRL and furnishes documentation of its data validation efforts.
    Director: Jeszeck, Charles A
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    6 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To increase the accuracy of "potential private pension benefit information" notices that SSA sends to Social Security claimants, Congress should consider legislation shifting responsibility and necessary resources to Labor for (a) electronically collecting form 8955-SSA information on participants' deferred vested benefits, (b) maintaining an accurate federal database of those benefits, and (c) periodically sending SSA accurate information about such benefits for recent Social Security claimants identified by SSA, so that SSA may provide notices to retirees.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of September 2017, no congressional action has been taken in response to this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To ease the burden on plan sponsors, enhance compliance, and help ensure that disclosures to participants are written in a manner that can be understood by the average participant, Labor, IRS, and PBGC should work together to create and regularly update a comprehensive online tool for plan sponsors to search for the reports and disclosures they are required to provide based on plan type, design, and circumstances.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: In November 2013, Labor officials said that they would consult with their colleagues at the Treasury Department/IRS and PBGC regarding creation of one unified online tool for plan adminstrators to search for the reports and disclosures they are required to submit based on a plan's type, design, and circumstances. However, in FY 2014, officials indicated that, although they will continue to consult with their other agency colleagues regarding creation of such a tool, they now tentativley disagree with the recommendation and believe that such a tool could be confusing, especially for small employers. In 2015, Labor raised concerns about this recommendation, continuing to question whether a unified tri-agency online tool would be valuable for sponsors of large pension plans and may be confusing to some plan sponsors, especially small employers. They further noted that they do not believe it would be appropriate for EBSA to adjust its regulatory or guidance priorities at this time or reallocate resources currently dedicated to other priority projects in order to further explore any possible merit of such an online tool. GAO continues to believe just the opposite, that a well-designed comprehensive online tool could be very helpful, especially for small employers. In FY 17, Labor reiterated its opinions from previous years.
    Recommendation: To ease the burden on plan sponsors, enhance compliance, and help ensure that disclosures to participants are written in a manner that can be understood by the average participant, Labor, IRS, and PBGC should work together to create and regularly update a comprehensive online tool for plan sponsors to search for the reports and disclosures they are required to provide based on plan type, design, and circumstances.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: IRS officials initially noted that they are continuing their efforts to ensure that plan sponsors have access to comprehensive and up-to-date online resources. They said they had met with Labor and PBGC officials to discuss the value and feasibility of developing and maintaining a comprehensive online tool. However, with decreased resources, they believe it is unlikely for the agency to create and regularly update such a tool. However, they would continue to confer with Labor and PBGC colleagues to determine if it is possible to cross-reference existing agency resources online. As of September 2017, IRS has not provided an update on its efforts. GAO continues to believe that such a tool would be beneficial to plan sponsors of all sizes.
    Recommendation: To ease the burden on plan sponsors, enhance compliance, and help ensure that disclosures to participants are written in a manner that can be understood by the average participant, Labor, IRS, and PBGC should work together to define criteria for complying with the readability provisions in ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), and apply the criteria to agency-generated model notices as well as those developed by plan sponsors. As part of these criteria, consider requiring clear, simple, brief highlights at the beginning of disclosures, reflecting federal plain language guidelines.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: Labor officials stated that, while sensitive to plan sponsor concerns regarding liabilities that may result from ambiguities that arise when complex information is summarized using plain English criteria, they will, nevertheless, explore the application of readability standards in this context. Officials indicated they may decide it would be helpful to engage a contractor and undertake a survey or other data collection in order to evaluate this recommendation, but do not have resources budgeted in FY 2014 for such an exercise. In the meantime, they plan to continue to use modern communication techniques (such as focus group testing) to improve the effectiveness of their model notices and other standardized disclosures. In 2015, Labor reported that they need to explore the application of readability standards in light of concerns about liabilities that may result from ambiguities when complex information is summarized or presented using "plain English" criteria. Contracting for data collection would help them make an informed evaluation of this recommendation but they do not have the budgeted resources and believe it would not be appropriate to adjust priorities or reallocate resources. They will use techniques such as focus group testing to improve the effectiveness model notices and other standardized disclosures. GAO continues to believe it is important to implement a requirement to have clear, simple, brief highlights. In FY 17, Labor noted that the agency had not yet made a decision regarding future rulemaking and had suggested that the ERISA advisory counsel look at the effectiveness of disclosures.
    Recommendation: To ease the burden on plan sponsors, enhance compliance, and help ensure that disclosures to participants are written in a manner that can be understood by the average participant, Labor, IRS, and PBGC should work together to define criteria for complying with the readability provisions in ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), and apply the criteria to agency-generated model notices as well as those developed by plan sponsors. As part of these criteria, consider requiring clear, simple, brief highlights at the beginning of disclosures, reflecting federal plain language guidelines.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: IRS officials said that they are committed to using the Federal Plain Language Guidelines as a resource in preparing model disclosures and that they will consider including brief highlights at the beginning of model disclosures. They said that it is unclear that imposing defined readability criteria on employer and plan communications is in the best interests of plan participants, administrators, sponsors, and the retirement system as a whole. However, they do see merit in directing employers and plan sponsors to the Guidelines as a resource for developing readable notices and disclosures, and are considering how best to communicate that resource to stakeholders. As of September 2017, IRS has not provided an update on these efforts.
    Recommendation: To better ensure plan participants have access to information about their rights and benefits, as currently in force under their plans, Labor should direct plan sponsors to post to any intranet website maintained by the employer, as soon as determined feasible by Labor, a copy of the most current summary plan description (SPD) and any summary of material modifications issued subsequent to that SPD.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: Labor officials said that they generally support implementing such a requirement, subject to a legal determination of their authority absent legislation to issue such a directive. However, rather than addressing the recommendation as a stand-alone item, they believe it would be better to consider the benefits of such an intranet posting requirement in connection with efforts to expand or modify disclosure standards in response to their 2011 Request for Information (RFI) regarding electronic disclosure. Moreover, officials noted that, during FY 2014, Labor was focusing its regulatory resources on other higher priority projects and did not have a specific timeline for any next action on e-disclosure issues. In their 2015 response, Labor reiterated their agreement from agency comments. Based on comments from their RFI, they understand that many plan sponsors, especially those that have intranet websites, already post plan-related information for employees and that input from consumer advocates that have expressed concern about replacing employees? paper disclosure rights under ERISA with internet access. Labor has not added an e-disclosure project to its regulatory agenda but is still focusing its regulatory resources on other higher priority projects. GAO continues to believe that this is an important pursuit. In FY 17, Labor stated that they do not have any specific timeline for actions on e-disclosures.
    Director: Jeszeck, Charles A
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: As DOL and Treasury continue their efforts to determine the actions needed to enhance the retirement security of 401(k) plan participants, DOL and Treasury should consider the approaches taken by other countries to formalize access to multiple spend-down options for U.S. plan participants that address varying retirement risks and needs. To the extent possible, lessons from other countries should be used to help DOL and Treasury ensure plan sponsors have information about their flexibilities and the ability to facilitate access to a mix of appropriate options for 401(k) plan participants.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: Treasury did not provide comments on this recommendation and has not provided any updates.
    Recommendation: As DOL considers changes to participant benefit statements and other disclosures, the Secretary of DOL should consider strategies other countries have employed to help participants make sound decisions, such as providing timely information at or before retirement about available spend-down options and projections of future retirement income.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOL agreed that participants should have timely information at or before retirement about available spend-down options and projections of future retirement income. DOL had previously published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking soliciting public input on ways to show an projections of lifetime income in retirement plan benefit statements. DOL also consulted with the ERISA Advisory Council on ways it could assist DOL in this area. The Council developed and submitted to DOL tips, principals, and samples for plan sponsors to consider when communicating with participants. However, DOL has not taken additional steps in this area and continues to cite its other regulatory and guidance priorities as taking precedence.
    Recommendation: As DOL continues to review regulatory barriers to lifetime income options for 401(k) plan participants it should consider other countries' approaches to plans offering annuities, such as their reliance on existing solvency requirements and insurance industry standards to provide assurances rather than place responsibility on plan sponsors to make an assessment of an annuity provider's financial stability. As DOL considers the approaches of other countries and continues to work with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which facilitates interactions between insurance companies and state insurance regulators, DOL may wish to consult with the Federal Insurance Office, which coordinates federal efforts on prudential aspects of international insurance matters.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOL worked with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) in 2013 and 2014 to consider possible options for easing plan sponsor concerns about the requirement to assess the financial solvency of annuity providers. DOL reported they will continue to work with NAIC, as well as the National Organization of Life & Health Insurance Guaranty Associations and Treasury's Federal Insurance Office as they consider potential regulatory approaches in this area. DOL also worked with the Federal Insurance Office in developing guidance on the selection and monitoring of annuity providers under the current annuity selection safe harbor regulation. However, DOL has not taken further actions and continues to cite its other regulatory and guidance priorities as taking precedence. We commend DOL's efforts on a more workable safe harbor, but continue to encourage DOL to review alternative approaches taken by other countries, such as their reliance on existing solvency requirements and insurance standards, which can ease the burden on plan sponsors.
    Director: Jeszeck, Charles A
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of the Treasury should consider requiring pension plan sponsors to provide participants with an opportunity to opt out of all forms of electronic delivery, including (but not limited to) disclosures sent by default electronic delivery and disclosures posted on a secure continuous access website.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2013, DOL stated that it was appropriate to consider the merits of broader rights to opt out of electronic delivery and would want to consult with the Treasury Department/IRS on the agencies' different opt-out standards. In FY14, the agency reiterated that dfferent opt-out standards may be appropriate for general plan information versus individual account or other personal information and would consult with Treasury/IRS. They will consider this matter as part of any future rulemaking that modifies or amends the current regulatory safe harbor. In FY15, Labor stated that different opt-out standards may be appropriate for general plan information versus individual account or other personal information, but that was an issue for Labor to consider in consultation with the Treasury Department/IRS should Labor pursue future rulemaking that modifies or amends the current regulatory safe harbor. In July 2016, DOL confirmed that the agency continues to plan to take the above action. As of July 2017, DOL indicated that no decisions had been made concerning future rulemaking in this area.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of the Treasury should consider requiring pension plan sponsors to send a periodic paper notice to participants reminding them of their right to change their preferred delivery method at any time and the steps they must take to make these changes.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: In FY13, DOL stated that it was appropriate to obtain further input on requiring some periodic paper reminder notice. In FY14, the agency reported that the sort of periodic notice described by GAO could be a safeguard against malfunctions in the electronic communication system and act as a reminder that important plan information is being provided through electronic media. DOL will consider and obtain further input on requiring a periodic paper reminder of as part of any future rulemaking that modifies or amends the current regulatory safe harbor. In FY15, Labor stated that the agency intends to consider and obtain further input on requiring a periodic paper reminder should we pursue future rulemaking that modifies or amends the current regulatory safe harbor. In July 2016, DOL confirmed that the agency continues to plan to take the above action. As of July 2017, DOL indicated that no decisions had been made concerning future rulemaking in this area.
    Director: Brown, Kay E
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To provide the basis for greater consistency across states in assessing elder justice service delivery, the Secretary of HHS, as chairman of the Elder Justice Coordinating Council, should direct the Council to make it a priority to identify common objectives for the federal elder justice effort and define common outcomes.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS agreed with this recommendation and noted the formation of the Elder Justice Coordinating Council (EJCC) as an effort to develop common objectives and plans for action to address elder justice issues. As of June 2014, the EJCC had developed eight recommendations for increased federal leadership in combating elder abuse based on input from elder justice experts in financial exploitation, public policy and awareness, enhancing response, and advancing research. Staff compiled information on best and promising practices for primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention; empirical evidence from peer-reviewed research; approaches used in related disciplines; and information about where gaps exist in the collective knowledge about elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. Staff then turned the suggestions into proposals with accompanying steps for federal action. Those proposals were subsequently presented at two public EJCC meetings (May and September 2013) and were made available for public review and comment. The Secretary of HHS formally accepted the recommendations in May 2014, and they were posted to the EJCC page of the Administration on Aging's website. In May 2015, HHS reported that the EJCC had published these recommendations in a document entitled "Eight (8)Recommendations for Increased Federal Involvement in Addressing Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation" and stated that the recommendations addressed the issues identified in GAO's recommendation. While we recognized that these 8 recommendations corresponded to the common objectives included in our recommendation, we also sought from HHS information on the status of common outcomes for the objectives. HHS reported that outcomes for the eight common objectives that the EJCC has approved were being discussed, but have not yet been approved. In March 2016,HHS reported that the EJCC's Elder Justice Working Group continued to gather and discuss action steps and outcomes for the eight recommendations. We will monitor the EJCC's progress in agreeing upon outcomes and close the recommendation when agreement on outcomes is reported.
    Director: Gootnick, David B
    Phone: (202) 512-3149

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Disparities in tax rates on smoking tobacco products have negative revenue implications because they create incentives for manufacturers and consumers to substitute higher-taxed products with lower-taxed products. In light of that fact, as Congress continues its oversight of CHIPRA and Tobacco Control Act implementation, it may wish to consider modifying tobacco tax rates to eliminate significant tax differentials between similar products. Specifically, Congress may wish to consider equalizing tax rates on roll-your-own and pipe tobacco and, in consultation with Treasury, also consider options for reducing tax avoidance due to tax differentials between small and large cigars.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of April 2017, Congress had not passed legislation to equalize taxes on roll-your-own and pipe tobacco and small and large cigars. In the 114th Congress, two bills were introduced to equalize taxes on roll-your-own and pipe tobacco, as GAO suggested in its April 2012 report. Additionally, in January 2017, House Bill 729, which would create tax parity for these products, was introduced in the 115th Congress. However, these bills have not been enacted. GAO's April 2012 report noted that prior federal and state legislation has aimed to discourage tobacco use and raise revenues by increasing excise taxes on tobacco products. Modifying tax rates to eliminate the tax differentials between similar tobacco products could address potential future revenue losses stemming from the substitution of higher-taxed products with lower-taxed products.