GAO study: Better pension reporting coordination needed

Federal regulators overseeing retirement plan reporting and disclosure rules could do a better job for plan sponsors and participants, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released Tuesday.

The GAO identified more than 130 reports and disclosures required by the Department of Labor, Internal Revenue Service and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. for defined benefit and defined contribution plan participants. “Determining which ones (are required by which sponsor) can be challenging, and the agencies' online resources to aid plan sponsors with this task are neither comprehensive nor up-to-date,” GAO officials said in the report.

Even more confusing is the management of the data, which is fragmented across the three agencies and can result in misleading information to retirees. Congress should consider giving the Labor Department more responsibility and resources for managing that data, the GAO said.

Another recommendation, to give plan sponsors a more organized guide to their reporting and disclosure requirements, would help the agencies and participants, said GAO officials, who also called for clearer and easier-to-read disclosures.

“This new GAO report highlights the need to update and simplify the reporting process,” said Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, one of the legislators who requested the report. “Streamlining communication between employers, government agencies, workers and retirees would be a major step forward,” Mr. Harkin said in a statement.