What's A Suitable Number of Members for a Retirement Plan Committee?

Young Boy Nerd Yells Through Megaphone

Welcome to Hey Joel! This forum answers plan sponsor questions from all over the country by our in-house former practicing ERISA attorney.

Hey Joel,

What’s the appropriate number of members and positions for a retirement plan committee? 

~ Plannin’ in Pennsylvania  

Dear Plannin’,

There is no specific guidance on the appropriate number of committee members. It’s important to have committee members who can contribute to the topics to be focused on. When there is one committee, as opposed to separate committees (for investments, plan design, employee communications, etc.) perhaps a CEO and/or CFO, an administrative executive and a participant communications representative would be appropriate committee members.

Ideally, these would be people who want to be on the committee to make a contribution to plan success and who are willing to accept fiduciary responsibilities, not the least of which is personal financial liability in event of a fiduciary breach. (Our Fiduciary Fitness Program (FFP) is designed to substantially mitigate this liability if followed appropriately.)

You can also have, as a regular or a non-voting member (guest with no intent as fiduciary), someone who can represent an employee base.

Most importantly, when setting up a committee, is to determine who the “named fiduciary” for the plan is. The named fiduciary will be identified in the plan document and this person or entity is the primary fiduciary for the plan. Note, if the named fiduciary is listed as “the Company” this is interpreted to mean the board of directors (if a C corporation or managing partners, if a partnership). The named fiduciary is expected to be the entity who has the authority to decide to have a retirement plan. The named fiduciary can delegate the majority of their fiduciary duties to co-fiduciaries (e.g., a retirement plan steering committee). Typically they would be anxious to do so as they likely would not want to be responsible for day-to-day management of the plan. The Committee Charter and ancillary paperwork (in our FFP) is designed expressly for this purpose.

Committee Planner Extraordinaire,

Joel Shapiro, JD, LLM

About Joel Shapiro, JD, LLM

As a former practicing ERISA attorney Joel works to ensure that plan sponsors stay fully informed on all legislative and regulatory matters. Joel earned his Bachelor of Arts from Tufts University and his Juris Doctor from Washington College of Law at the American University.

ACR#316345 05/19