Contact Us for More Information

DOL Audits of Employee Benefit Plans

Posted by Jennifer V. Gateb | Nov 18, 2016 | 0 Comments

The Department of Labor (DOL) may audit an employer sponsored benefit plan (generally retirement plans such as 401(k)s or defined benefit plans) at any given time to ensure compliance with applicable provisions of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).

The audit process begins when the plan receives a letter from the regional or district office of the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), a division of the DOL. The letter, known as an “Initial Document Request”, advises the plan sponsor that the plan is under investigation and requests certain plan documents. Depending on the nature and extent of the audit, the documents requested vary from a few pages to volumes of documents detailing the plan's administration over multiple years. Initial Document Requests commonly require the production of plan documents, adoption agreements, trust agreements, summary plan descriptions and all amendments thereto, financial statements, participant data, Form 5500s for at least two plan years and other filings with the IRS.

Plan sponsors should consult legal counsel promptly after receiving an Initial Document Request to help prepare a timely response, provide guidance throughout the audit process and advise on legal issues affecting the plan. The plan sponsor or its legal counsel should also contact the EBSA investigator assigned to the audit to establish a friendly rapport and learn more about the purpose, scope and timing of the audit.

Legal representation is particularly advisable should EBSA decide an additional onsite investigation is necessary to ensure compliance. During the onsite investigation, an EBSA investigator may visit the plan sponsor's location to inspect detailed plan documents, employer/employee records, financial statements, accountings and various other reports substantiating the plan's compliance. The EBSA investigator may also interview individuals to inquire about the plan's administration and validate facts.

If violations are identified during the audit, EBSA will issue a Voluntary Compliance Notice Letter outlining the DOL's findings. It is the plan sponsor's responsibility to investigate the validity of these findings and take immediate action to either dispute or remedy the alleged violations. Again, consult legal counsel for more information regarding your voluntary compliance options and the requisite steps to obtain an EBSA closing letter confirming the audit is complete and your plan is compliant.

If your plan is under audit, contact Butterfield Schechter LLP for more information and assistance in streamlining the process. Our attorneys are experienced in representing a range of plan sponsors and their plan(s) during all stages of an audit. We will help you review and compile the requested documents, analyze the validity of any claims against the plan or plan sponsor, facilitate communication and cooperation with the EBSA investigator, prepare you for and represent you at any onsite investigations, help you understand any possible violations identified during the audit, advise you of your options and help respond accordingly in order to achieve compliance.

About the Author

Jennifer V. Gateb

Jennifer V. Gateb practices in the areas of general tax and estate planning, ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974) and related benefit matters.


There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Retirement Plans

We help establish a customized plan that meets regulatory requirements as a tax qualified plan. Following implementation, our attorneys can assist clients and their plan administrator with regular reviews and updates to help with regulatory compliance for the plan's operation, and continued effectiveness in meeting the client's specific goals.


We are dedicated to employee ownership. When you come to us for ESOP services, you receive influential legal counsel who stand beside you to help you stay informed, in compliance, and abreast of the latest developments-all to help you realize your plan goals as fully and effectively as possible.


A QDRO is a specially designed court order that is required for the division of retirement benefits in a family law case. Many family law attorneys do not possess the expertise necessary to divide retirement benefits or stock options upon divorce. We have extensive experience in dividing qualified plans, government plans, IRAs and stock options between the employee spouse and non-employee spouse.

Butterfield Schechter LLP provides the information in this website as a service to its clients and visitors to the site. This website is for information purposes only and is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. The information in this website is provided "as is," and while the information in this website is updated periodically, additional facts or future developments may affect subjects contained herein, and no guarantee is given that the information provided is correct, complete, or up-to-date. Seek the advice of professional counsel before acting or relying upon any article, form, or information in this web site. To ensure compliance with the requirements imposed by the United States Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service, we inform you that any federal tax advice contained in this communication is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of: (1) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (2) promoting, marketing, or recommending to another person any transaction or matter addressed herein. Butterfield Schechter LLP has endeavored to comply with all known legal and ethical requirements in compiling this website. In the event that this communication does not conform with any laws or regulations of any state or country in which it may be received, Butterfield Schechter LLP will not accept legal representation based on this communication from a person in such a state or country. Electronic mail is provided as a convenience in communicating with the attorneys at Butterfield Schechter LLP. Contact by e-mail does not alone create an attorney-client relationship. Please remember Internet e-mail is not secure and messages sent to the firm or any of its employees or attorneys should not contain sensitive or confidential information. Thank you for visiting our site.