Patricia B. Limbacher - Patricia B. Limbacher
The Labor Department recovered nearly $5 million in delinquent contributions to 401(k) plans through its voluntary pension payback program.
The program, which started in March and ended in September, was part of the department's campaign against 401(k) fraud; employers that restored participant contributions avoided civil and criminal penalties.
"Not only did this voluntary compliance effort recoup money for American workers, it freed up federal investigators to work on more serious pension violations," said Labor Secretary Robert Reich, in a statement.
Overall, 170 employers from 38 states restored $4.8 million in delinquent contributions for 16,800 workers. Contributions ranged from $43 to $200,000.
Employers from a variety of businesses - technology companies, law firms, credit union and industrial plants - participated. Reasons for delinquencies ranged from computer errors to admitted diversions.
Since the department announced its enforcement blitz on 401(k) fraud in November 1995, 1,178 investigations have been opened; of those, 434 were closed. To date, $9.8 million has been returned to plans. In addition, 59 criminal cases were opened with six resulting in guilty pleas, Labor Department records showed.