Deborah Vickery, CPA/CGMA
Sponsors of employee benefit plans are considered fiduciaries under ERISA. As such, they are subject to certain responsibilities. These fiduciary responsibilities include but are not limited to:
• Acting solely in the interest of plan participants and their beneficiaries
• Following the plan documents
• Carrying out their duties prudently
• Diversifying plan investments
• Paying only reasonable plan expenses.
Plan sponsors and trustees typically use service organizations — such as bank trust departments, data processing service bureaus, insurance companies or other benefits administrators — in some capacity to assist in plan administration. They may outsource investment processing, recordkeeping and/or benefit payments, or claims processing as a way to reduce costs and increase efficiencies in administering employee benefit plans. The hiring of a service organization to perform any or all of the duties noted above is considered a fiduciary function. In addition, as part of fiduciary responsibilities, there is a requirement to periodically monitor the service organizations to ensure they are properly performing the agreed-upon services. In its publication Meeting Your Fiduciary Responsibilities, the DOL points out that one way fiduciaries can demonstrate they have carried out their responsibilities properly is to document the processes used.