House Republicans “conducting oversight” of DOL audit process

On September 19, 2023, the Committee on Education and the Workforce sent a letter to the Department of Labor, informing them that they are “conducting oversight” of the Employee Benefits Security Administration’s (EBSA) enforcement/audit activities. The explicit focus of the committee is “[d]isturbing reports from stakeholders … that EBSA is failing to conduct its enforcement in a timely manner, creating unacceptable burdens for retirement plan sponsors and negatively impacting retirement savers, retirees, and their families.”

On November 2, 2023, the Committee followed up with a letter:

  • Challenging EBSA’s “dismissive attitude toward the Committee’s oversight responsibilities.”

  • Calling attention to the relatively high percentage of audits still open after four years, with “investigators … often replaced several times,” and reports by plan sponsors that “there often appears to be no direction or purpose to investigations.”

The Committee requested that DOL provide it with:

  • A list of all open investigations by the initial date the investigation opened (grouped by calendar quarter), the duration of the investigation, and the specific purpose of the investigation.

  • An explanation of any timeframes or internal guidance imposed on the timeliness of conducting and closing out investigations.

  • A sample copy of personnel appraisal criteria for ensuring investigations are timely and efficiently carried out and closed.

  • An explanation of the specific steps taken to close all persisting investigations and the consequences to investigators, their supervisors, and EBSA management if investigations are allowed to languish beyond efficient timeframes.

The Committee also stated that it intended to call in members of senior EBSA staff for “transcribed interviews.”

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A number of sponsors have raised questions about/issues with DOL audits and audit policy. To state the obvious: the House Committee on Education and the Workforce is led by Republicans, and it is unclear how much progress on this issue the Committee will be able to make with a Democrat led DOL. But it is significant that the Committee is giving this issue attention.

We will continue to follow this issue.