Human Capital & Careers

ERISA Plan Audits Under Review

After 30 years, the Department of Labor is seeking comment on auditor independence issues related to ERISA benefit plans.
Stephen TaubSeptember 8, 2006

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) is soliciting help to update its guidance on the independence of accountants who audit employee benefit plans. The request for information (RFI) will be published September 11 in The Federal Register.

The DoL is seeking guidance regarding Interpretative Bulletin 75-9 in light of “the significant changes” that have taken place in the accounting industry in the 30 years since the bulletin was issued. The changes include modifications in the way audits are conducted, industry consolidations, and revisions in the auditor independence standards of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, employee benefit plans must retain an independent accountant to examine the financial statements of the plan. In addition, the auditor is required to render an opinion as to whether the financial statements and schedules submitted with a plan’s annual report — also called Form 5500 — are presented fairly and conform to generally accepted accounting principles. Plans subject to the annual audit requirement must include the accountant’s report and opinion as part of the Form 5500 filed with the DoL.

The RFI solicits information to assist the DoL in determining whether the interpretive bulletin provides adequate guidance or whether the guidelines should be updated to better meet the needs of plans, plan fiduciaries, accountants, participants and beneficiaries, and other affected parties, the department explained in its press release.

Written comments should be addressed to the Office of Regulations and Interpretation, Employee Benefits Security Administration. Respondents may also E-mail comments to the DoL.