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ERISA Advisory Council.

721. What is the ERISA Advisory Council?

The Advisory Council (Council) on Employee Welfare and Pension Benefit Plans is provided for under ERISA Section 512. The Council's members, appointed by the Secretary of Labor, include:

* Three representatives of employee organizations (at least one of whom represents an organization whose members are participants in a multiemployer plan);

* Three representatives of employers (at least one of whom represents employers maintaining or contributing to multiemployer plans);

* One representative from each of the following fields: (1) insurance; (2) corporate trust; (3) actuarial counseling; (4) investment counseling; (5) investment management; (6) accounting; and

* Three representatives of the general public (one of whom represents those receiving benefits from a pension plan).

The 15 members of the Council are appointed for three-year terms, with five terms expiring on November 14 of each year. Additionally, no more than eight members of the Council may be from the same political party.

Members of the Council must be qualified to appraise the programs instituted under ERISA. The duties of the Council are to advise the Secretary and submit recommendations regarding the Secretary's functions under ERISA. The Council customarily holds four meetings each year, which are open to the public. (1)

722. How are members of the ERISA Advisory Council appointed?

Each year, vacancies for the Council are announced in the Federal Register. Any person or organization who desires to recommend one or more individuals for appointment to the Council may submit recommendations on or before a specified time and date.

The recommendations may be in the form of letters, resolutions, or petitions signed by the person making the recommendation, or by an authorized representative of the organization if the recommendation is made by an organization. The recommendations should contain the candidate's name, occupation or position, telephone number and address, as well as a brief description of the candidate's qualifications and the group or field that he or she would represent. The candidate's political party affiliation must be noted because of the requirement that no more than eight Council members may be members of the same political party. Additionally, the recommendation must state whether the candidate is available and would accept appointment to the Council.

The nomination or recommendation letters are evaluated for completeness and qualifications of the candidate. The letters are acknowledged and the nominees are requested to declare their political affiliation. Letters supporting candidates are welcomed and acknowledged. This process continues until the close of business on the termination date previously announced in the Federal Register for receiving nominations.

Upon the completion of the nomination process, the Assistant Secretary of the Employee Benefits Security Administration reviews the nominations and submits his recommendations to the Secretary, who then appoints the five new members. In addition, the Secretary selects the chair and vice-chair of the full Council and working groups, based upon the advice and recommendation of the Assistant Secretary. (1)

723. Who is the Executive Secretary of the ERISA Advisory Council?

ERISA Section 512 establishes the position of the Executive Secretary for the ERISA Advisory Council. It is the responsibility of the Executive Secretary to: (1) provide staff support to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Labor and the Employee Benefits Security Administration regarding Council activities; (2) schedule, coordinate, and provide administrative support to all Council and Working Group meetings; (3) plan and coordinate the selection process for new members of the Council; (4) prepare reports regarding the Council's activities; and (5) establish and maintain the archives of the Council. (2)

724. How does the ERISA Advisory Council work?

After considering and debating various issues that are important to the administration of ERISA, the Council forms a number of working groups to focus on such issues. Additional issues for the Council to examine during the year may be suggested by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Employee Benefits Security Administration. The Council usually forms three or four such working groups per year.

The Council receives the working groups' progress reports, discusses the findings, poses questions, and makes recommendations to the working groups during the Council meetings. However, the Council retains the responsibility for all final decisions made in regard to working group reports, and makes its decisions at scheduled meetings open to the general public.

The working groups: (1) identify and define the various issues; (2) investigate and take testimony from witnesses; and (3) submit final or interim reports of their findings and recommendations to the Council.

The working group usually uses its first meeting to organize itself. Additionally, during this meeting, a wide variety of witnesses are identified with a view to inviting them to testify before the working group. The working group devises the approach and strategy it will use to study the relevant issue, and reports to the Council for advice and consent. The working groups continue to report their progress to the Council during the course of the Council term, and the Council may offer input and guidance. The Council encourages joint consultation among members of the working groups and their chairs.

A typical working group meeting follows the same general schedule. First, the chair or vice chair calls the meeting to order, welcomes the general public, introduces members of the working group, and states the purpose of the meeting. Next, the chair invites any members who have been given a work assignment to provide a report. Then, any witnesses who have been invited to testify are called forward and requested to speak for a maximum of 10 minutes. Also, some witnesses submit written testimony that is distributed to the working group and made part of the official record of the meeting. Members of the working group are invited to pose questions to each witness, and when the working group has no further questions, the chair thanks the witness and excuses him. The process continues with the next witness, until all witnesses scheduled for the meeting have been heard.

Members of the working group are encouraged to discuss the events of the meeting, and to express their views and concerns. After the discussion is completed, the chair invites statements from the general public. When the general public has completed its statements and any subsequent discussion has been completed, the chair asks for a motion to adjourn.

During the Council year, the working group studies testimony received and deliberations that took place on various issues. The working group continues to meet and to report to the Council until early November of each year. Near the end of the Council term, members of the working group may be requested to summarize witness testimonies and deliberations of the group in preparation of a final report of findings and recommendations to the Council.

Members of the working groups continue to consult informally with other members and chairs between formal meetings. During this time, members may be called upon to review materials submitted by witnesses, prepare summaries of witness testimonies, research and prepare documents for an upcoming meeting, or seek additional witnesses for appearance at working group meetings.

The Council term ends on November 14, at which time the working groups present their final or preliminary findings and recommendations to the full Council. The Council then discusses each working group's report, and either accepts or modifies the report. Finally, the Council Chair transmits the working groups' reports as accepted by the Council to the Secretary of Labor.

(1.) ERISA Secs. 512(a), 512(b). See for a list of current ERISA Advisory Council members.

(1.) ERISA Sec. 512(a).

(2.) ERISA Sec. 512(c).
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Publication:ERISA Facts
Date:Jan 1, 2010
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