According to the US Department of Labor, The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) is a federal law that sets minimum standards for retirement and health benefit plans in the private industry. ERISA requires that those who establish plans must meet certain minimum standards. ERISA requirements provide that those individuals who manage plans must meet certain standards of conduct. The law also contains detailed provisions for reporting to the government and disclosure to participants. There also are provisions aimed at assuring plan funds are protected and that participants who qualify receive their benefits.
ERISA confers substantial law enforcement responsibilities on the Department of Labor. Part five of Title I of ERISA gives the Department authority to bring a civil action to correct violations of the law, provides investigative authority to determine whether any person has violated Title I, and imposes criminal penalties on any person who willfully violates any provision of Part 1 of Title I.
When voluntary compliance is not achieved, the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) may refer a case to Labor Department attorneys for litigation. EBSA has authority under ERISA Section 502(c)(2) to assess civil penalties for reporting violations.
A penalty of up to $1,000 per day may be assessed against plan administrators who fail or refuse to comply with annual reporting requirements. Section 502(i) gives the agency authority to assess civil penalties against parties in interest who engage in prohibited transactions with welfare and nonqualified pension plans. The penalty can range from five percent to 100 percent of the amount involved in a transaction.