For participants, the PBGC's administrative review process is one of the main concerns, according to the report. One of the report's recommendations is to "establish a mediation or arbitration option for participant disputes as an alternative to litigation in federal district court."
Administrative review "could certainly go more quickly" if the PBGC were to introduce alternative dispute resolution, Donovan said, and would also invite an external party to look at the facts and make a determination.
"That, in and of itself, would provide some transparency," she added, noting that the agency's appeals board is internal, which creates concerns about objectivity.
The report also recommends drafting written policies and procedures for the PBGC's appeals board, making those procedures public on the agency website, requiring monthly reporting on appeals board cases to the PBGC director and Office of the Advocate, and conducting an official review of the PBGC's entire administrative review regulation.
Separately, Donovan said that PBGC premiums are having a "detrimental effect" on companies' abilities to maintain their plans. The report noted that the agency has "an extraordinary $44.6 billion surplus that is far in excess of anything that the agency needs."
While PBGC premiums are set by Congress, policymakers need help from the agency to formulate proposals that increase transparency and efficiency, Donovan added.
Besides the recommendations, the annual report also includes a retirement security initiative to bring together industry groups, government staff, retirees and others in the pension world to address the declining defined benefit system via roundtable discussions.
Donovan said they hope to start those roundtables in March of this year, though the discussions may continue into 2025. The conversations should produce more recommendations, she said, some of which may appear in next year's annual report.