Protect your pension

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Know how to spot signs of misuse or mismanagement of your
401(k) plan. Use this work sheet to learn your basic rights as a
401(k) plan participant and to guide you to the appropriate agency for help.

Your rights as a
401(k) plan participant

You have a right to ask the plan administrator for a copy of the following information:

The plan’s latest Form 5500 or Form 5500-C/R (for plans with fewer than 100 participants).
The plan’s Summary Plan Description, or SPD.
The plan’s Summary Annual Report.
The trust agreement setting up the plan, if separate from the plan.
Any collective bargaining agreements, if applicable.
Any other document under which the plan was established or operates.
— Source: Department of Labor

The Department of Labor, or DOL, recommends that you make all requests in writing. You may have to pay reasonable copying costs for some documents.

The plan is obligated to provide you the information within 30 days of your written request. You may have the right to bring a lawsuit against the plan administrator if delays are unreasonable and within the plan administrator’s control.

A court can order the plan administrator to pay you a fine of up to $100 a day for every day your requested plan documents are delayed over the 30-day deadline. If you have trouble getting the documents, contact the Department of Labor or the
Employee Benefits Security Administration field office nearest you.

U.S. Department of Labor

Employee Benefits Security Administration

Division of Technical Assistance and Inquiries

200 Constitution Avenue NW, Suite N-5619

Washington, DC 20210

Where to go if you discover a problem
Nature of violation or misuse Agency to contact
Individuals providing services to your plan have gotten loans or other favorable treatment. Individuals engaged in unlawful or unscrupulous transactions may be subject to tax penalties. IRS
Consider filing a written claim for an Informants’ Reward with the Intelligence Division of the IRS. If the agency collects a penalty tax as the result of your information, you could receive up to 10 percent of the amount collected.
Plan trustees or other plan fiduciaries have been investing your
401(k) money in violation of pension rules.
Department of Labor/

EBSA field office

If an EBSA investigation discovers a violation, courts may impose monetary and other penalties.
Cases of embezzlement, kickbacks, extortion or other criminal activity. U.S. Department of Justice

FBI field office

It’s unlawful for employers to fire or retaliate against employees who provide the government with information about their
401(k) plan’s investment practices. Criminal penalties can include prison, fines or both.
–Source: DOL/EBSA

Read all about it
Learn about federal pension enforcement initiatives from actual cases.

Former executive of Airtrans trucking company receives a
15-month prison sentence for theft of
401(k) funds.

Two AMS Healthcare Services executives are charged with embezzling money from a
401(k) plan.

U.S. Labor Department
sues a former South Carolina executive for failing to remit employee contributions to the company’s Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees Individual Retirement Account, or SIMPLE IRA.

Educational resources
Pension Rights Center in Washington, DC.

Pension Action Center at University of Massachusetts in Boston.

Federal government resources
Print out and study an actual
Form 5500.

View work sheet archive