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Notice

Proposed Extension of Information Collection Requests Submitted for Public Comment

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AGENCY:

Employee Benefits Security Administration, Department of Labor.

ACTION:

Notice.

SUMMARY:

The Department of Labor (the Department), in accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA 95) (44 U.S.C. 3506(c)(2)(A)), provides the general public and Federal agencies with an opportunity to comment on proposed and continuing collections of information. This helps the Department assess the impact of its information collection requirements and minimize the public's reporting burden. It also helps the public understand the Department's information collection requirements and provide the requested data in the desired format. The Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) is soliciting comments on the proposed extension of the information collection requests (ICRs) contained in the documents described below. A copy of the ICRs may be obtained by contacting the office listed in the ADDRESSES section of this notice. ICRs also are available at reginfo.gov (http://www.reginfo.gov/​public/​do/​PRAMain).

DATES:

Written comments must be submitted to the office shown in the ADDRESSES section on or before July 21, 2014.

ADDRESSES:

G. Christopher Cosby, Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration, 200 Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20210, (202) 693-8410, FAX (202) 693-4745 (these are not toll-free numbers).

I. Supplementary Information

This notice requests public comment on the Department's request for extension of the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) approval of ICRs contained in the rules and prohibited transactions described below. The Department is not proposing any changes to the existing ICRs at this time. An agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, an information collection unless it displays a valid OMB control number. A summary of the ICRs and the current burden estimates follows:

Agency: Employee Benefits Security Administration, Department of Labor.

Title: Request for Assistance from Department of Labor, EBSA.

Type of Review: Extension of a currently approved collection of information.

OMB Number: 1210-0146.

Affected Public: Individuals or households.

Respondents: 30,000.

Responses: 30,000.

Estimated Total Burden Hours: 15,000.

Estimated Total Burden Cost (Operating and Maintenance): $3,100.

Description: The Department of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) maintains a program designed to provide education and technical assistance to participants and beneficiaries as well as to employers, plan sponsors, and service providers related to their health and retirement benefit plans. EBSA assists participants in understanding their rights, responsibilities, and benefits under employee benefit law and intervenes informally on their behalf with the plan sponsor in order to assist them in obtaining the health and retirement benefits to which they may have been inappropriately denied, Start Printed Page 29209which can avert the necessity for a formal investigation or a civil action. EBSA maintains a toll-free telephone number through which inquirers can reach Benefits Advisors in ten Regional Offices.

EBSA also makes a request for assistance form available on its Web site for those wishing to contact EBSA online. Contact with EBSA is entirely voluntary. The Web form includes basic identifying information which is necessary for EBSA to contact the inquirer—first name, last name, street address, city, zip code, and telephone number—as well as information to improve customer service and enhance its capacity to handle greater inquiry volume, such as the plan type, broad categories of problem type, contact information for responsible parties, and a mechanism for the inquirer to attach relevant documents.

This information is used by EBSA to make informed and efficient decisions when contacting inquirers who have requested EBSA's informal assistance with understanding their rights and obtaining benefits they may have been denied inappropriately. EBSA uses the information to evaluate its service to inquirers, support the development of a broader understanding of the nature of current issues in employee benefit plans, and to respond to requests for information regarding employee benefit plans from members of Congress and governmental oversight entities in accordance with ERISA section 513. The ICR was approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under OMB Control Number 1210-0146 and is scheduled to expire on September 30, 2014.

Agency: Employee Benefits Security Administration, Department of Labor.

Title: Procedure for Application for Exemption from the Prohibited Transaction Provisions of Section 408(a) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).

Type of Review: Extension of a currently approved information collection.

OMB Number: 1210-0060.

Affected Public: Businesses or other for-profits.

Respondents: 56.

Responses: 22,925.

Estimated Total Burden Hours: 2,564.

Estimated Total Burden Cost (Operating and Maintenance): $1,547,000.

Description: Both ERISA and the Code contain various statutory exemptions from the prohibited transaction rules. In addition, section 408(a) of ERISA authorizes the Secretary of Labor to grant administrative exemptions from the restrictions of ERISA sections 406 and 407(a), while section 4975(c)(2) of the Code authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury or his delegate to grant exemptions from the prohibitions of Code section 4975(c)(1). Sections 408(a) of ERISA and 4975(c)(2) of the Code also direct the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of the Treasury, respectively, to establish procedures to carry out the purposes of these sections.

Under section 3003(b) of ERISA, the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of the Treasury are directed to consult and coordinate with each other with respect to the establishment of rules applicable to the granting of exemptions from the prohibited transaction restrictions of ERISA and the Code. Under section 3004 of ERISA, moreover, the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of the Treasury are authorized to develop jointly rules appropriate for the efficient administration of ERISA.

Under section 102 of Reorganization Plan No. 4 of 1978 (Reorganization Plan No. 4), the foregoing authority of the Secretary of the Treasury to issue exemptions under section 4975 of the Code was transferred, with certain enumerated exceptions not discussed herein, to the Secretary of Labor. Accordingly, the Secretary of Labor now possesses the authority under section 4975(c)(2) of the Code, as well as under section 408(a) of ERISA, to issue individual and class exemptions from the prohibited transaction rules of ERISA and the Code.

On April 28, 1975, the Department published ERISA Procedure 75-1 in the Federal Register (40 FR 18471). This procedure provided necessary information to the affected public regarding the procedure to follow when requesting an exemption. On October 27, 2011, the Department issued its current exemption procedure regulation, which superseded ERISA Procedure 75-1 (and intervening amendments).

The amended rule by the Department expands the ICR contained in sections 2570.34 and 2570.35 of the current exemption procedure regulation in several respects. For instance, the current requirement of specialized statements from qualified independent appraisers, where applicable, includes the appraiser's rationale, credentials, and a statement regarding the appraiser's independence from the parties involved in the transaction. In this connection, the appraisal report prepared by the independent appraiser must be current and not more than one year old as of the date of the transaction. In addition, the content of specialized statements submitted by qualified independent fiduciaries, where applicable, require the disclosure of information concerning the independent fiduciary's qualifications, duties, independence from the parties involved in the transaction, and current compensation. The content of specialized statements from other kinds of experts would also be clarified in the new regulation to require disclosure of information concerning the expert's qualifications and their independence from the parties involved in the transaction.

In addition, a requirement contained in section 2570.43(d) and (e) provides the Department with the discretion to require an applicant to furnish interested persons with a Summary of Proposed Exemption (SPE). Finally, the Department amended § 2570.43 to permit applicants to utilize electronic means (such as email) to deliver notice to interested persons of a pending exemption, provided that the applicant can demonstrate satisfactory proof of electronic delivery to the entire class of interested persons. The ICR was approved by OMB under OMB Control Number 1210-0060 and is scheduled to expire on October 31, 2014.

Agency: Employee Benefits Security Administration, Department of Labor.

Title: Investment Advice Participants and Beneficiaries.

Type of Review: Extension of a currently approved collection of information.

OMB Number: 1210-0134.

Affected Public: Businesses or other for-profits.

Respondents: 16,000.

Responses: 20,716,000.

Estimated Total Burden Hours: 3,623,008.

Estimated Total Burden Cost (Operating and Maintenance): $480,725,024.

Description: On October 25, 2011, the Department issued a final regulation implementing the provisions of the statutory exemption set forth in sections 408(b)(14) and 408(g) of ERISA, and parallel provisions in sections 4975(d)(17) and 4975(f)(8) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (Code), relating to the provision of investment advice described in section 3(21)(A)(ii) of the Act by a fiduciary adviser to participants and beneficiaries in participant-directed individual account plans, such as 401(k) plans, and beneficiaries of individual retirement accounts (and certain similar plans).

Section 408(b)(14) sets forth the investment advice-related transactions that will be exempt from the prohibitions of ERISA section 406 if the requirements of section 408(g) are met. Start Printed Page 29210The transactions described in section 408(b)(14) are: The provision of investment advice to the participant or beneficiary with respect to a security or other property available as an investment under the plan; the acquisition, holding or sale of a security or other property available as an investment under the plan pursuant to the investment advice; and the direct or indirect receipt of compensation by a fiduciary adviser or affiliate in connection with the provision of investment advice or the acquisition, holding or sale of a security or other property available as an investment under the plan pursuant to the investment advice. The requirements in section 408(g) are met only if advice is provided by a fiduciary adviser under an “eligible investment advice arrangement.” Section 408(g) provides for two general types of eligible arrangements: One based on compliance with a “fee-leveling” requirement (imposing limitation on fees and compensation of the fiduciary adviser); the other, based on compliance with a “computer model” requirement (requiring use of a certified computer model).

The regulation contains the following collections of information: (1) A fiduciary adviser must furnish an initial disclosure that provides detailed information to participants about an advice arrangement before initially providing investment advice; (2) a fiduciary adviser must engage, at least annually, an independent auditor to conduct an audit of the investment advice arrangement for compliance with the regulation; (3) if the fiduciary adviser provides the investment advice through the use of a computer model, then before providing the advice, the fiduciary adviser must obtain the written certification of an eligible investment expert as to the computer model's compliance with certain standards (e.g., applies generally accepted investment theories, unbiased operation, objective criteria) set forth in the regulation; and (4) fiduciary advisers must maintain records with respect to the investment advice provided in reliance on the regulation necessary to determine whether the applicable requirements of the regulation have been satisfied.

The ICR was approved by OMB under OMB Control Number 1210-0134 and is scheduled to expire on October 31, 2014.

Agency: Employee Benefits Security Administration, Department of Labor.

Title: Alternative Method of Compliance for Certain Simplified Employee Pensions.

Type of Review: Extension of a currently approved collection of information.

OMB Number: 1210-0034.

Affected Public: Businesses or other for-profits.

Respondents: 36,000.

Responses: 68,000.

Estimated Total Burden Hours: 21,000.

Estimated Total Burden Cost (Operating and Maintenance): $23,000.

Description: Section 110 of ERISA authorizes the Secretary to prescribe alternative methods of compliance with the reporting and disclosure requirements of Title I of ERISA for pension plans. Simplified employee pensions (SEPs) are established in section 408(k) of the Internal Revenue Code (Code). Although SEPs are primarily a development of the Code and subject to its requirements, SEPs are also pension plans subject to the reporting and disclosure requirements of Title I of ERISA.

The Department previously issued a regulation under the authority of section 110 of ERISA (29 CFR 2520.104-49) that intended to relieve sponsors of certain SEPs from ERISA's Title I reporting and disclosure requirements by prescribing an alternative method of compliance. These SEPs are, for purposes of this Notice, referred to as “non-model” SEPs because they exclude (1) those SEPs which are created through use of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 5305-SEP, and (2) those SEPs in which the employer limits or influences the employees' choice to IRAs into which employers' contributions will be made and on which participant withdrawals are prohibited. The disclosure requirements in this regulation were developed in conjunction with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS Notice 81-1). Accordingly, sponsors of “nonmodel” SEPs that satisfy the limited disclosure requirements of the regulation are relieved from otherwise applicable reporting and disclosure requirements under Title I of ERISA, including the requirements to file annual reports (Form 5500 Series) with the Department, and to furnish summary plan descriptions and summary annual reports to participants and beneficiaries.

This ICR includes four separate disclosure requirements. First, at the time an employee becomes eligible to participate in the SEP, the administrator of the SEP must furnish the employee in writing specific and general information concerning the SEP; a statement on rates, transfers and withdrawals; and a statement on tax treatment. Second, the administrator of the SEP must furnish participants with information concerning any amendments. Third, the administrator must notify participants of any employer contributions made to the IRA. Fourth, in the case of a SEP that provides integration with Social Security, the administrator shall provide participants with statement on Social Security taxes and the integration formula used by the employer. The ICR was approved by OMB under OMB Control Number 1210-0034 and is scheduled to expire on December 31, 2014.

II. Focus of Comments

The Department is particularly interested in comments that:

  • Evaluate whether the collections of information are necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information will have practical utility;
  • Evaluate the accuracy of the agency's estimate of the collections of information, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used;
  • Enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and
  • Minimize the burden of the collection of information on those who are to respond, including through the use of appropriate automated, electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology, e.g., by permitting electronic submissions of responses.

Comments submitted in response to this notice will be summarized and/or included in the ICRs for OMB approval of the extension of the information collection; they will also become a matter of public record.

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Dated: April 29, 2014.

Joseph S. Piacentini,

Director, Office of Policy and Research, Employee Benefits Security Administration.

End Signature End Preamble

[FR Doc. 2014-11749 Filed 5-20-14; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4510-29-P