On February 2, 2012, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued final regulations under Section 408(b)(2) of ERISA.  As a result, there is a new due date of July 1, 2012 by which certain service providers must make compensation disclosures to responsible plan fiduciaries of defined benefit and defined contribution plans (such as pension and 401(k) plans).  This provides an extension of the April 1, 2012 due date issued under prior guidance.  The regulations set forth the types of information that must be disclosed so that the plan fiduciaries can assess the reasonableness of the compensation paid for necessary services and identify potential conflicts of interest in order to avoid a prohibited transaction with respect to the arrangement (and penalties which would result).   Plan fiduciaries should be in contact with their service providers to obtain these disclosures as soon as possible.  Time will be needed to analyze the information received, and to ensure that existing contracts/arrangements are reasonable. Disclosures are also required reasonably in advance of the dates contracts/arrangements are entered into, renewed or extended.  This extension also further extends the due date for the participant-level disclosures that plan fiduciaries of participant-directed individual account plans such as the 401(k) plan are required to make to participants under Section 404(a) of ERISA so that the participants have the information they need to sufficiently manage their individual accounts.  The new due date for these disclosures is no later than August 30, 2012 (which was May 31, 2012 under prior guidance) and the issuance of the first quarterly participant statements to include required information is now November 14, 2012.

On February 9, 2012, the DOL, and the U.S. Departments of Treasury and Health and Human Services issued the final regulations regarding the Summary of Benefits Coverage and the uniform glossary for group health plans under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The requirements to provide a Summary of Benefits Coverage, notice of modification, and uniform glossary apply for disclosures to participants and beneficiaries who enroll or re-enroll in group health coverage through an open enrollment period (including re-enrollees and late enrollees) beginning on the first day of the first open enrollment period that begins on or after September 23, 2012.  For disclosures to participants and beneficiaries who enroll in group health plan coverage other than through an open enrollment period (including individuals who are newly eligible for coverage and special enrollees), the requirements apply beginning on the first day of the first plan year that begins on or after September 23, 2012.   The requirements under these rules are also applicable to health insurance issuers beginning on September 23, 2012. These regulations set forth numerous guidelines concerning the contents, format, language, and other parameters of the Summary of Benefits Coverage, the uniform glossary, and notices of modifications.  Failure to comply with these rules can include penalties and excise taxes under ERISA and the Code.

Plan sponsors and fiduciaries should ensure that they have a process in place to review and prepare for the respective disclosures and related tasks.