I was at the enrollment meeting on Tuesday morning for the very first participating employer for my multiple employer plan (MEP) (yes, cheap plug here).
The enrollment meeting was a little refreshing because it was an employer where the human resources staff understood their role in how to manage their responsibilities and it’s not about joining my MEP. The reason why it was refreshing because the HR staff understood that if you take care of the small things in managing your plan, you could avoid the larger harm later.
The enrollment meetings were made with mandatory attendance by the participants. After the last meeting was concluded, as the MEP plan sponsor, I asked for a copy of the attendance sheets as well as the education materials so I would have a record of them. The HR one upped me by saying she was already going to make a copy because she attended one of my previous seminars about fiduciary responsibility (so I’m glad one person is listening to me).
What I’m trying to get across is that if a plan sponsor takes care of the small things, it can avoid a great deal of trouble later. So that means keeping the attendance sheets from the enrollment meetings and keeping copies of the education materials. That means keeping good records of any trustee meetings and any meetings with the plan’s financial advisor. That means making sure having an investment policy statement (IPS) and having the funds checked against the IPS every six months or so.
Taking care of the little things of a plan sponsor is like brushing your teeth and flossing. It’s preventative care to avoid decay later. Good fiduciary practices can be tedious at times, but being deposed during litigation brought by an aggrieved participant or getting heat from the IRS or the Department of Labor is far more work.
Even if the plan sponsor isn’t keen on doing the little things, then they should hire an ERISA §3(38) fiduciary or a §3(16) administrator to handle some of that role. So the difficult part really for a plan fiduciary is not doing the job, it’s actually knowing you have to do the job.