GAO urges Form 5500 improvements

Federal pension regulators could do more to improve the reporting of investment and fee information on Form 5500, the Government Accountability Office said in a report issued Monday.

GAO officials conducted a two-phase online survey of stakeholders, including plan executives, participants, service providers and regulators. People surveyed identified three key challenges to using the annual reporting form required under ERISA: the lack of searchable and detailed investment information; confusing plan asset categories; and inconsistent, hard-to-find data on service provider fees.

GAO officials recommended the three primary agencies involved — the Department of Labor, Treasury Department and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. — address those criticisms, conduct advance testing of possible revisions, and consider having the Treasury Department require electronic filing.

In a letter to GAO investigators, Phyllis Borzi, assistant secretary of labor and head of the Employee Benefits Security Administration, said the three agencies are in the midst of their own review, but “will consider” the GAO recommendations.