Helping Benefit Plan Sponsors Fulfill Fiduciary Duties
Scrutiny of employee benefit plans by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the governing body of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) has intensified in recent years. The primary focus of these agencies is to ensure plan sponsors are meeting their fiduciary responsibilities to the plan’s participants. If the plan sponsor fails to meet those responsibilities, the sponsor may be personally liable for restoring losses and/or paying steep penalties and fines.
While complying with ERISA and related regulations often requires hiring third party service providers with specific expertise, the plan sponsor is still ultimately responsible for the operations of the plan. Although fiduciary responsibilities can be shared, they cannot be entirely delegated to outside service providers.
What is a Plan Sponsor Liable For?
Whether you are a CFO, your plan’s named trustee or other executive who has control over the plan’s administration, you can be held personally liable for any failure to:
- Operate the plan in the best interests of its participants
- Follow the terms of the plan documents
- Diversify plan investments
- Pay reasonable plan expenses
- Act prudently in carrying out duties
To meet these fiduciary duties, management must remain involved with all aspects of plan operations, and review the control activities of all service providers on a regular basis to be assured plan assets are protected.
For benefit plans with 100 or more participants, one of the most important fiduciary duties is selection of an independent public accountant. Auditors who lack experience may not know the finer nuances of employee benefit plan operations and regulations, leading to audit deficiencies that can negatively impact plan participants and the plan sponsor.
Experienced Benefit Plan Auditing Services
As a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Employee Benefit Audit Quality Center, Bennett Thrasher provides full-scope and limited-scope audits of employee benefit plans ranging in size from 100 participants to more than 16,000 participants and assets in excess of $800 million. Specifically, we assist with the following types of benefit plans:
- Defined benefit plans
- Defined contribution plans
- 401(k), 403(b), and 401(a) retirement plans
- Employee Stock Option Plans (ESOP)
- Profit sharing plans
- Health and welfare benefit plans
Because we know that the employee benefit plan audit is just one item on your ever-expanding list of responsibilities, we strive to provide more than a quality audit. We also provide:
- Continuity of staffing year to year
- Timely response to questions, issue resolution and audit completion
- Review and evaluation of plan processes, procedures and overall control environment
- Stress-free discussion and explanation of new and emerging employee benefit plan regulations and the impact those regulations have on your plan
- Introduction to investment advisors, custodians, third party administrators, Form 5500 tax preparers and other consultants who will provide the right level of service for your organization.
Why Choose Bennett Thrasher?
Employee benefit plan audits are a core service line of Bennett Thrasher’s Auditing & Assurance (A&A) department. Our team members have years of experience auditing employee benefit plans and evaluating plan compliance, and they regularly attend AICPA, Georgia Society of Certified Public Accountants (GSCPAs) and in-house trainings that focus on new and emerging regulations and compliance requirements.
If your employee benefit plan has recently exceeded the threshold of 100 participants or if you’re seeking a more responsive and experienced benefit plan audit firm, contact Matt Grosvenor or Alana Mueller by calling 770.396.2200 to schedule a consultation.