The Department of Labor recently issued proposed regulations (RIN 1210–AB88
) that would expand employer access to multiple employer plans (MEPs). The guidance provides that certain employer groups or associations and professional employer organizations (PEOs) could meet the definition of an employer under ERISA for purposes of establishing or maintaining an individual account employee pension benefit plan, if certain criteria could be met.
Different businesses would be allowed to join a MEP either through a bona fide group or association, or a bona fide PEO if the requirements are satisfied. Certain working owners without employees would also be able to participate in a MEP sponsored by a group or association (but not a PEO). Participating employers in a MEP would generally need to execute a participation agreement or similar instrument establishing the rights and obligations of the MEP sponsor and the participating employer before joining. However, employers would not be viewed as sponsoring their own separate, individual plans for ERISA purposes, and a MEP satisfying the aforementioned conditions would constitute a single-employee benefit plan under ERISA. As the plan administrator, the MEP sponsor would generally be responsible for complying with the requirements of Title I of ERISA, including reporting, disclosure and fiduciary obligations.
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