D. Prohibited transactions
Certain transactions are prohibited under the law to prevent dealings with parties who may be in a position to exercise improper influence over a retirement plan. Fiduciaries are prohibited from engaging in self-dealing and must avoid conflicts of interest that could harm the plan.


The following are prohibited transactions:

  • A sale, exchange, or lease between the plan and party-in-interest;
  • Lending money or other extension of credit between the plan and party- in-interest; and
  • Furnishing goods, services, or facilities between the plan and party-in-interest.

Other prohibitions relate solely to fiduciaries who use the plan's assets in their own interest or who act on both sides of a transaction involving a plan. Fiduciaries cannot receive money or any other consideration for their personal account from any party doing business with the plan related to that business.

Prohibited parties (known as parties in interests) include:
  • The employer,
  • The union,
  • Service providers,
  • Statutorily defined owners, officers and relatives of parties in interest.

E. Reporting requirements

Disclosure and reporting
ERISA requires extensive reporting and disclosure requirements on employee benefit plans. They require various forms and information to be disclosed to participants and filed with either the Department of Labor or the IRS.

Major reporting and disclosure requirements:
  • Summary Plan Description (SPD) - Primary vehicle for explaining a plan's provisions and how it operates to plan participants. Must be made distributed to participants within 120 days of plan and within 90 days to new participants being covered. Updated SPD must be furnished every five years if changes are made; otherwise, every 10 years.
  • Form 5500 (Annual Report) - Annual reporting form filed with the IRS and the Department of Labor.
  • Summary Annual Report (SAR) - Narrative summary of Form 5500. Must be distributed automatically to participants within 9 months after end of plan year or 2 months after due date for Form 5500.
  • Individual benefit statements - Explanation of total accrued benefits and total nonforfeitable pension benefits, if any, which have accrued, or the earliest date on which benefits become nonforfeitable. Generally, must be furnished within 30 days of a written request from a plan participant, but not more than once a year.
  • Plan documents - Plan administrator must furnish copies of certain documents within 30 days of a written request and must maintain copies available for inspection.
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