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Rules for Administrative Review of Agency Decisions

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

ACTION:

Final rule.

SUMMARY:

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (“PBGC”) is amending its regulation on Administrative Review of Agency Decisions to expedite the appeals process by authorizing a single member of the PBGC's Appeals Board to decide routine appeals.

EFFECTIVE DATE:

July 22, 2002.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Harold J. Ashner, Assistant General Counsel, or Thomas H. Gabriel, Attorney, Office of the General Counsel, PBGC, 1200 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005-4026; 202-326-4024. (TTY/TDD users may call the Federal relay service toll-free at 1-800-877-8339 and ask to be connected to 202-326-4024.)

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

On March 27, 2002 (at 67 FR 14663), the PBGC published a proposed rule that would authorize a single member of PBGC's Appeals Board to decide routine appeals. The PBGC received no comments in response to the proposed rule and is issuing the final regulation without change.

Under the PBGC's regulation on Administrative Review of Agency Decisions (29 CFR part 4003), persons aggrieved by certain PBGC determinations may appeal to the PBGC Appeals Board, defined as “a board consisting of three PBGC officials.”

The PBGC has been studying its administrative appeals process to see how it can accelerate appeals processing while continuing to protect the rights of appellants. Experience has shown that many appeals involve simple factual issues or call for application of well-settled legal principles. The PBGC believes that cases that do not raise a significant issue of law or a precedent-setting issue can be properly decided by a single Appeals Board member, thereby expediting the appeals process. Accordingly, this final rule authorizes any one member of the Appeals Board to act for the Board in routine cases as described in the rule. The PBGC will continue to use 3-member panels for cases that involve a significant issue of law or a precedent-setting issue. This would include, for example, a benefit determination appeal in which the decision is expected to affect the benefits of other persons.

Compliance With Rulemaking Requirements

As a rule of agency organization, procedure, or practice, this rule is exempt from notice and public comment requirements. Because no general notice of proposed rulemaking is required, the Regulatory Flexibility Act does not apply to this rule. See 5 U.S.C. 601(2), 603, 604.

The PBGC has determined that good cause exists to dispense with the delayed effective date provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act as unnecessary. These amendments affect only the PBGC's processing of appeals and do not require any person other than the PBGC to take any action. Accordingly, the PBGC has decided to make these amendments effective immediately.

This rule is not a “significant regulatory action” under the criteria set forth in Executive Order 12866.

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List of Subjects in 29 CFR Part 4003

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For the reasons set forth above, the PBGC is amending

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PART 4003—RULES FOR ADMINISTRATIVE REVIEW OF AGENCY DECISIONS

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1. The authority citation for part 4003 continues to read as follows:

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Authority: 29 U.S.C. 1302(b)(3).

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2. Add new § 4003.61 to read as follows:

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Action by a single Appeals Board member.

(a) Authority to act. Notwithstanding any other provision of this part, any member of the Appeals Board has the authority to take any action that the Appeals Board could take with respect to a routine appeal as defined in paragraph (b) of this section.

(b) Routine appeal defined. For purposes of this section, a routine appeal is any appeal that does not raise a significant issue of law or a precedent-setting issue. This would generally include any appeal that—

(1) Is outside the jurisdiction of the Appeals Board (for example, an appeal challenging the plan's termination date);

(2) Is filed by a person other than an aggrieved person or an aggrieved person's authorized representative;

(3) Is untimely and presents no grounds for waiver or extension of the time limit for filing the appeal, or only grounds that are clearly without merit;

(4) Presents grounds that clearly warrant or clearly do not warrant the relief requested;

(5) Presents only factual issues that are not reasonably expected to affect other appeals (for example, the participant's date of birth or date of hire); or

(6) Presents only issues that are controlled by settled principles of existing law, including Appeals Board precedent (for example, an issue of plan interpretation that has been resolved by the Appeals Board in a decision on an appeal by another participant in the same plan).

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Issued in Washington, DC, this 16th day of July, 2002.

Elaine L. Chao,

Chairman, Board of Directors, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

Issued on the date set forth above pursuant to a resolution of the Board of Directors authorizing its Chairman to issue this final rule.

James J. Keightley,

Secretary, Board of Directors, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

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[FR Doc. 02-18373 Filed 7-19-02; 8:45 am]

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