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DOL Urged to Allow More Electronic Communications

A coalition of 15 trade associations representing the retirement plan community, including employers and retirement services firms, is urging the U.S. Department of Labor to permit broader use of electronic communications to deliver the disclosures to retirement plan participants required by new DOL regulations. In a letter to the DOL's Employee Benefits Security Administration, the coalition urged DOL to pursue a policy that would encourage and facilitate the use of modern electronic forms of communication. "Electronic communication today is no longer the exception, it is the norm," the coalition wrote in its letter.

The coalition letter responds to DOL's recently released interim guidance on the use of electronic media, known as Technical Release 2011-03R.  Members of the coalition include The SPARK Institute (which helps to shape national retirement policy by providing research, education, testimony and comments on pending legislative and regulatory issues to members of Congress and relevant government agency officials), the ICI, and the American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries (ASPPA).  A survey conducted by the SPARK Institute found that the interim guidance does not provide meaningful incentives or make it more feasible for plan sponsors and their service providers to use electronic media instead of paper for the required disclosures.

"We are concerned that the guidance in the Technical Release provides little relief beyond that already available through EBSA's current safe harbor, particularly as it relates to affirmative consent and dependence on paper as the default method of delivery," said Larry H. Goldbrum, general counsel of The SPARK Institute, a coalition member. "Based on responses to the survey and discussions with other coalition members, it is clear that a substantial majority of service providers do not intend to make use of the Technical Release policy and the required disclosures will be delivered in paper form, rather than electronically," Goldbrum said.

The letter can be found here: