State Department has made little progress in renewing passports online over the past decade

Written by Dave Nyczepir

The State Department has made “virtually no progress” on two passport system projects, one of which would allow people to renew their passports online, in the past decade, according to a report from the Office of the State Department. inspector general published Tuesday.

The OIG found that within the Office of Consular Affairs, the Passport Services Directorate (CA / PPT) relies too heavily on the Office of Consular Systems and Technologies (CA / CST) to manage its IT modernization initiatives. .

This over-reliance has delayed both online passport renewal and next-generation passport systems, which are part of the ConsularOne program launched in 2009 and which spent $ 59 million on passport projects in December 2020.

“If the online passport renewal system had been available, CA / PPT could have switched to remote working and retained a greater portion of incoming passport applications throughout the maximum telecommuting orders related to the COVID pandemic. -19 in 2020 ”, we read in the report. “However, as the system was not available, CA / PPT staff had to return to the office earlier than other department employees to clear the backlog of passport applications that had built up over the first few years. month of the pandemic. “

Only 13,002 passports were issued in May 2020, up from 1.8 million in May 2019, and revenues have increased from $ 852 million to $ 646 million.

The system targets for both systems in the passport services strategic plan for fiscal year 2020-2022 were “essentially unchanged” from plans dating back to fiscal 2010, according to the report.

The OIG found that CA / CST had not yet established a “sufficient” test environment that supported multiple scenarios for the online passport renewal system. The office started with an agile development approach before moving back to a sequential, step-by-step process.

Regarding the next-generation passport system, CA / CST struggled to develop software that could interface with new passport printers to print more secure passports. – delay a pilot until March 2021.

Although CA / CST was not part of the OIG investigation, an investigation into the ConsularOne program was subsequently launched in the spring.

For its part, CA / PPT lacked a project management process such as a collaborative performance evaluation plan, a communication plan and a risk management strategy. Senior staff were also not familiar with the project’s communication plans and did not document the contact points for each project, according to the report.

CA / PPT and CA / CST also failed to coordinate on interrelated project tasks, communication and planning. CA / CST was unable to provide CA / PPT with project timelines.

Accordingly, the OIG recommended that CA implement the department’s project management processes.

CA / PPT’s SharePoint site had broken hyperlinks and performance rewards information that hadn’t been updated since 2015. And its FAQ forum, PPT Answers, hadn’t been running since 2018, that’s why the OIG recommended CA to ensure that the content was regularly updated.

Finally, the OIG recommended that CA implement a process for storing archived advisory opinions on citizenship and passport adjudication matters so that they are searchable and easily retrievable.

CA agreed with all three recommendations in its July 29 response.


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PH Passport Renewal Center in Los Angeles Coming Soon – Manila Newsletter

Filipinos living in the United States can renew their passports at an off-site center accredited by the Philippine government that will soon be opening in Los Angeles.

Philippine passport (file photo / Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced that the Los Angeles Offsite Passport Renewal Center (PaRC) will be operated by VFS Global, a private outsourcing company, under a 2019 agreement with the government .

The Passport Renewal Center aims to meet the growing demand for electronic passport renewal applications in the United States. The opening date of the passport center has not yet been announced.

The opening of a VFS Global Philippine Passport Renewal Center (PaRC) in Los Angeles is a continuation of the global agreement between the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the VFS that began in 2019 “Consul General Edgar B. Badajos said in a statement.

Badajos explained that the Foreign Ministry made a pact with VFS Global following President Duterte’s order to government agencies “to streamline procedures and make e-passport renewal services faster and more convenient,” especially for overseas Filipinos ”.

The official also said that renewing the passport through the VFS Global PARC would not be mandatory.

VFS Global, which has established other passport service centers to serve Filipinos in other countries, will charge additional fees for its services.

“It is up to the applicant to decide whether they wish to apply through VFS Global or through the DFA-Global Online Nomination System (GOAS),” said the Consul General.

The Alternative Passport Renewal Center is looking to increase the work of the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles given its limited staff.

The Los Angeles Consulate General, which has jurisdiction over southern California, southern Nevada, and the state of Arizona, serves approximately 1.3 million Filipinos overseas.

“As of May 2021, the Consulate General has been processing the maximum number of applications for passports, dual nationality and other consular services that its limited premises and staff can accommodate and process on a daily basis,” the press release said.

“With the demand for passport renewal services far beyond the operational capacity of the consulate, it was felt that opening a VFS Global PaRC in Los Angeles would help resolve the problem,” he added.



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Passport renewal deadlines are getting worse: check status, speed up

If you are planning to leave the country this year, be aware that time is running out to renew your passport. The passport branch of the State Department is is experiencing serious delays:

  • Expedited service, which typically takes 2-3 weeks, now takes up to 12 weeks (plus an additional $ 60).
  • Current services can take 16-18 weeks.

Note that these 12 to 18 week deadlines start on the day your application is has received, not the day you mailed it, and the U.S. Postal Service is also experiencing significant mail delays. Amusing! You can pay an additional $ 17.56 for one to two days mail delivery of the completed passport.

If you want to know how much it will cost to renew your passport: here is a expense calculator. An adult passport card and book, shipped with express courier delivery, costs $ 217.56.

If you are in a hurry: You can try to make an appointment at a local passport agency (not to be confused with a passport acceptance center), which may require driving or flying to another city. New meeting times open at midnight online and disappear at 12:01 am. You can also call your local Congress representative for assistance in securing appointments, although they are overwhelmed too.

If you have a life-threatening emergency: Try to get an appointment at a passport agency and bring proof of urgency and proof that you are traveling within 72 hours. Also call your congressional representative for assistance.

If you have children: State Department operates in August and September passport fairs for first-time contestants and kids in Valley Center, Calif .; Punta Gorda, Florida; Middlefield, Ohio; Van Buren, Arkansas; and Weatherford, Texas. It’s a wonderful time for a vacation in Van Buren.

If you want to know where your passport is: You can sign up to receive email notifications that track your passport application as it floats through this clusterjam at passport status portal, but be aware that it takes up to six weeks for your request to appear in the system.


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Los Angeles offsite passport renewal center soon to open: DFA

(photo PPD)

MANILA – Another off-site passport renewal center will soon open in Los Angeles, California to meet the huge demand for e-passport renewal applications in areas under the jurisdiction of the Philippine Consulate General, the Philippine Consulate General said on Friday. Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Philippine Consul General Edgar Badajos said the opening of a VFS Global Philippine Passport Renewal Center (PaRC) in Los Angeles is a continuation of the global DFA-VFS deal that began. in 2019.

“The DFA has entered into an agreement with VFS Global in accordance with President (Rodrigo) Duterte’s directive for Philippine agencies to streamline procedures and make electronic passport renewal services faster and more convenient, especially for Filipinos at abroad, ”Badajos said.

Having consular jurisdiction over Southern California, Southern Nevada, and Arizona, the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles serves approximately 1.3 million Filipinos overseas.

As of May 2021, the Consulate General has been processing the maximum number of applications for passports, dual nationality and other consular services that its limited premises and staff can accommodate and process on a daily basis.

With the demand for passport renewal services well beyond the operational capacity of the consulate, the DFA said “it was felt that opening a VFS Global PaRC in Los Angeles would help solve the problem.”

In addition to its regular weekday services, the consulate has been providing consular services on Saturdays since March 2021. It also resumed its post-pandemic consular outreach missions in May 2021 and has so far visited Las Vegas, Nevada. ; Phoenix, Arizona; and San Diego, California.

Despite these additional services, DFA said the huge demand for passport renewal applications still cannot be fully met.

The new PaRC, also present in Riyadh, Jeddah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, will be operated by private outsourcing company VFS Global.

VFS Global will be responsible for handling passport renewal services, particularly those with non-complex, non-sensitive and non-discretionary elements.

But as a third party service provider, VFS Global will charge additional fees for its services.

“The renewal of the passport via the VFS Global PARC is not compulsory. It is up to the candidate to decide whether to apply through VFS Global or through the DFA-Global Online Nomination System (GOAS), ”said Badajos.

The appointment slots to be deployed by VFS Global for passport renewals will be announced separately on its website, with a link to be provided on the Consulate General’s website.

The DFA has advised the public to visit the Consulate General’s website and Facebook page for future announcements on the location of the VFS Global Passport Renewal Center in Los Angeles and when it becomes operational. (ANP)


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DFA appointment for passport, requirements

(SPOT.ph) Obtaining valid government ID is always a fairly complicated process, especially when it comes to passports. Getting an appointment at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is a must for virtually anything passport-related. However, with the quarantine still stretching, dates have become even more difficult to secure. Confused by the process? We explain it to you below.

Read also : Can’t get a DFA appointment? Five new sites are now open

How to get a DFA appointment and get your passport:

appointment dfa

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) has summed up the process of obtaining passports well, whether it is getting your very first passport, renewing or replacing a lost passport, in this graphic. We unpack the many layers needed at each step.

Scheduling an appointment

Appointments must be booked online at www.passport.gov.ph only. Thanks to this site, you can make an appointment for an individual or for a group of up to five people. You can choose the date, location and specific time slot depending on availability. Spoiler alert: Metro Manila sites are often full months in advance.

appointment dfa
Where it all begins.

PHOTO Screenshot / Passport.Gov

appointment dfa

PHOTO Screenshot / Passport.Gov

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If you manage to get the time slot you want, then you will have to fill out several forms. This includes the type of appointment you need (for a new passport, renewal or lost passport); personal, family, contact details, etc., depending on your appointment needs. Once you have entered all the data, you will be asked to pay the fee before your appointment is confirmed. More on payment after a few notes!

The first step is always the most difficult, as they say. In this case though, it’s really just a matter of timing. Online appointment booking has been even trickier lately, as the DFA reports that the number of available slots across the country has been almost halved during the pandemic. Five new passport meeting sites have been opened, but these only work until September.

Pro tips:

  • DFA sites can be booked up to three months in advance. This means that you can check every day if new slots have opened. The DFA specifies on the site that “As far as possible, additional slots are made regularly” so do not lose hope!
  • Make sure you are using a Google or Yahoo email account for the DFA to contact you correctly.
  • Allow at least 20 minutes to complete the appointment forms. If you have an old passport, it is best to have it on hand in case you need the information.
  • The DFA cautioned against people advertising DFA nominations via social media. Online booking and payment has been implemented to avoid fixer-uppers and scammers.

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Pay for the appointment

Once you have confirmed, you will be taken to the payment processing page. Typical fees are P 1,200 for expedited processing (six business days for Metro Manila and seven for those outside) and P 950 for regular processing (approximately 12 business days). From there, you can choose to pay online or at the counter in the various authorized payment centers. Note that payment centers charge an additional convenience fee of 50 P. If you go over-the-counter, DFA will send you an email with a reference number to use during your payment.

Once you’ve paid, be on the lookout for a confirmation email from DFA. This super important email is called the “Confirmed Appointment Package”. All the necessary instructions are here, so be sure to read them twice!

Pro tips:

  • The DFA does not make refunds! If you suddenly can’t make it to your scheduled time slot, the confirmation email they’ll send after you’ve paid will contain the link needed to reschedule. You can also send an e-mail to the site of your reservation. Note that the request for a new appointment date must be made no later than three days before the original appointment date and the postponement date must not exceed 30 days from the original appointment.

Set your requirements

Partial screenshot of a confirmation email from the DFA.

PHOTO screenshot E-mail DFA

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After reading the confirmation email twice, we suggest you read it again to be completely sure. The email will contain a list of the documents you need to bring for your face-to-face appointment, as well as a link to the appropriate forms (yes, there are more!) Depending on what you’re trying. to complete with your passport. The DFA site also has a list of requirements by specific type of online application.

We suggest that you print out everything you can, including the email, to bring to your appointment. And don’t forget your payment receipts either!

The most basic requirements for an adult applicant are generally:

  • The confirmed online appointment (aka a printout of the email)
  • Completed application form
  • Current passport with photocopy of the data page
  • A valid ID with a photocopy
  • For a name change: An original document authenticated by the Philippine Statistics Authority (such as a marriage contract)

Pro tips:

  • This is a government transaction, so be sure to use A4 paper for printing.
  • Take note of the contact information in the email in case you have any further questions.
  • Take your checklist very seriously! Heck, why don’t you reread the email?

What to do on the day of the appointment

The DFA would prefer that you do not bring an accompanying person, except in case of absolute necessity, on the site. Remember, the pandemic is still very real! Bring your face shields, masks, alcohol, and all other basic items. Also be there 30 minutes early. The process within the DFA will depend on your type of date, so at this point all we can say is that patience is a virtue.

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If you get a passport, you can choose to either return to the site on their appointed date (this requires a personal re-appearance or a long and slightly inconvenient authorization process) or you can have it delivered to you. DFA sites also have an affiliate messaging service inside the office. Typical rates are at P150. Note that the five new temporary sites do not have this messaging service!

Pro tips:

  • Read the email for the umpteenth time and verify that you meet all the requirements.
  • If you come by car, make sure beforehand of the parking situation on the chosen location.
  • Don’t forget the basics of any adult online experience: water, ballpoint pens, a fan, a tissue, and whatever else you usually have in your #Adulting arsenal.

Courtesy aisle notes

There is only one “Courtesy Lane” for the DFA and it is located at the ASEANA office in Parañaque. You can also make an appointment on the usual site for this. Just make sure you fall into the qualified categories (read: seniors, pregnant women).

Walk-ins are technically prohibited at all sites except Courtesy Lane at DFA Aseana. For this, “Only exceptional and urgent cases”, can try their luck with a walk-in visit, except that they will also need the approval of the Secretary of Foreign Affairs; the Under-Secretary for Civil Security and Consular Affairs; or the Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs.

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Union County Clerk Notifies Residents of Passport Expiration Dates for Travel This Year – Union County, New Jersey

Union County, NJ – Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi advises residents to check their passport expiration date before planning international travel this summer, fall and early winter. Some countries will not allow entry for travelers whose passports have expired in the following months.

“Depending on the country, travelers may be banned if their passport expires within three to six months of the date of their travel,” Ms. Rajoppi said. “Additionally, travelers with expiring passports should consider the time it takes for the US State Department to process passport renewal applications.”

The State Department currently estimates that it will take 18 weeks to renew an existing passport. For residents who agree to pay accelerated fees, the wait time is 12 weeks.

“While my office can provide assistance with the initial filing of an application, unfortunately we have no control over the processing time as this is a State Department function,” Ms. Rajoppi said. . “This is the longest delay that I have seen in years, and it appears to be related to the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their operations. “

For the latest updates on wait times and for details on renewing or obtaining a U.S. passport, visit the Department of State online at travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports.

The Union County Clerk is authorized to accept passport applications and forward them to the State Department for processing. This service is available in person and by appointment only.

To make an appointment at the County Clerk’s Main Office at the Union County Courthouse at 2 Broad Street in Elizabeth, call 908-527-4966.

To make an appointment at the adjoining office in the Colleen Frasier Building, Union County Complex at 300 North Avenue East in Westfield, call 908-654-9859.

Passport photos are also available at both offices for a nominal fee of $ 10.00 each.

For more information on the County Clerk’s Passport Service, visit online at ucnj.org/county-clerk/passport-services or call 908-527-4966.

For more information on all of the County Clerk’s programs and services, visit online at ucnj.org/county-clerk or call 908-527-4787.

For information and updates on all Union County services during the COVID-19 outbreak, including the Union County COVID-19 Testing Center at Kean University, the mobile test unit, information on immunization, emergency food distribution and other support services, visit ucnj.org/ covid19. General information on COVID-19 is available from the New Jersey Department of Health at nj.gov/health.

# #

Connect with Union County on social media.


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Missouri Governor Immunizes Citizens Against City and County Vaccine Passport Requirements | Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, PC

On June 15, 2021, Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed Bill 271 prohibiting any county, city, town, or village government receiving public funds from requiring citizens to have COVID-vaccination documents. 19 (commonly referred to as “vaccine passports”). Additionally, under the new law, citizens of Missouri must be allowed to access any building, transportation system, or service without showing proof that they have received the vaccine. While Missouri is following in the footsteps of other states such as Texas, Florida, and Montana, this new law is more focused and does not apply to private businesses and employers.

Currently, Missouri employers are still able to require workplace vaccinations, per recently released EEOC guidelines stating that vaccination requirements are valid in the workplace, subject to medical accommodations. or reasonable religious. A federal judge recently relied on advice from the EEOC to dismiss a lawsuit filed by more than 100 nurses and other healthcare workers who opposed their employer’s mandatory vaccination policy.

The guidance of the EEOC is consistent with the needs of a country still in the midst of immunization deployments and the desire for increased participation. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have emphasized that immunization status is important and relevant in determining whether masks and social distancing are still needed while businesses and organizations are opening up to pre-pandemic levels. Employers who choose to use vaccine requirements may want to ensure that their processes for requesting reasonable accommodation for disability and religious belief comply with the law and are supported by clear communication and documentation.


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Debt Settlement vs. Bankruptcy: What’s Worse For Your Credit Score?


Dear let’s talk credit,

What is the difference (impact on credit rating) between debt settlement and bankruptcy? My wife and I have $ 90,000 in credit card debt with five companies and are unable to handle the monthly payments.

– Eric

Dear Eric,

Bankruptcy will usually cause the most damage to your credit report. Chapter 7 and 11 bankruptcies stay on your credit report for 10 years from the date of filing. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy will remain on your report for seven years from the date of filing. Accounts associated with bankruptcy or debt settlement are deleted from your credit report seven years after the first date of default.

Start by consulting a nonprofit credit counseling agency that is a member of the Association of independent consumer credit counseling agencies or the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. You may be eligible for a debt management plan, which could allow you to pay off your debt with an affordable monthly payment that won’t damage your credit like debt settlement or bankruptcy.

If you don’t have enough income for a debt management plan, or if you decide you’d rather pursue another option, keep in mind that debt settlement will likely ask you to make a lump sum payment to settle the account. For most people, that would require stopping all payments to accounts and saving money until you have enough to make a settlement offer. In the meantime, your credit will be damaged and you could be sued by your creditors.

Bankruptcy can be costly. Chapter 7 bankruptcies are limited by strict income requirements. A Chapter 13 Bankruptcy would require you to repay at least part of the $ 90,000 you owe your creditors over a five-year period. The judge will decide how much of your income will be needed to pay off your creditors based on the bankruptcy laws that apply in your state.

If you want to explore debt settlement or bankruptcy options, I recommend that you consult an experienced lawyer.

The key to getting out of this large debt and the consequences it entails is to avoid accumulating so much debt in the future. Make sure you have a plan to avoid accumulating debt and set aside your savings for urgent and unforeseen expenses.

Let’s keep talking!

See linked: 8 myths about credit card debt settlement



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AT&T History: Timeline and Facts


AT & T’s story goes hand in hand with the rise of mass communication in the United States. From its origins in the invention of the telephone, to its monopoly practices for much of the 20th century, to its place today among the most prominent telecommunications players in the world, the company has evolved in conjunction with the evolution of modern America.

How was AT&T founded?

AT&T (T) – Get the AT&T Inc. report began as the “Bell Telephone Company” after Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876. A year later, Bell formed the Bell Telephone Co. with its partners. In the following years the company was the National Bell Telephone Co, before changing its name again to American Bell Telephone Co. By 1882, American Bell had grown enough to acquire a controlling stake in Western Electric, an asset of Western Union. . (WU) – Get Western Union Company Report at the time.

Chronology

In 1885, the American Telephone and Telegraph Co. was incorporated by American Bell. This is where we first see the name “AT&T” come into play. The subsidiary was used to build the telephone network that started in New York.

The company grew enormously before encountering its first antitrust attack in 1913. Known as Kingsbury’s Commitment, the company struck a deal with the Justice Department by ceding Western Union, while also granting other telephone companies the ability to access AT&T’s network. The deal also implied that AT&T would require government approval before buying out its competitors. Due to its size and control of the telephone network, one could argue that this agreement helped strengthen AT&T as a monopoly.

The company was sued again by the government in 1949 because it had the only provider of phones that could work with their network. The company was called Western Electric and leased phones to customers. Once again, an agreement was reached in which AT&T relinquished control of Western Electric.

In the 1980s, the telephone company could no longer hold back the government. A lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice which actually began in 1974 ended in 1982 with the dissolution of the company’s activities. Ultimately AT&T would become seven different companies. The company managed to maintain its long-distance business and the monopoly collapsed in 1984.

Continuing controversy

AT & T’s ultimate controversy has always been its structural scale within the market. The company has apparently always made good progress in gaining market share. Fast forward to more recent years, and the irony really trumps the story. After struggling for years, a former monopoly, SBC Communications (you may remember it as Southwestern Bell), acquired AT&T in 2005 to $ 16 billion. Adopting the older name, AT&T was once again on the map as one of the top dogs.

Since then, the direction of the company has been different. The advent of the Internet and cell phones has changed this forever. We’ve seen the new AT&T make several acquisitions over the past fifteen years, including Cingular Wireless, BellSouth, Cricket, and possibly DirecTV. The merit of this latest acquisition has been questioned. Today, with business segments in traditional telephony, wireless and television, AT&T is a powerhouse in the modern age of media.

Recent movements and stock market performance

In many ways, AT&T has apparently returned to the same trend of acquisitions and market control that has earned it such criticism in the past. In 2011, the company was barred from buying T-Mobile (TMUS) – Get the T-Mobile US, Inc.. Much grief has also been aroused by its successful acquisition of Time Warner for $ 85 billion. With the deal, the company took control of a multitude of media assets. These include CNN, HBO, all assets of Warner Bros. and many others. The agreement was fought tooth and nail by the Department of Justice.

A few years later, we saw the acquisition of DirecTV for $ 49 billion. The deal was a bit lackluster as the satellite TV provider struggled to grow its subscriber base in an ever-changing media landscape. It remains to be seen how the company will handle this difficult market.

These deals created many liabilities for AT&T, which now carries $ 173.5 billion in long-term debt on the balance sheet. Regardless of these debts, AT&T maintains an excellent dividend yield of 5.43%. The catch over the past few years has been a stock price that has underperformed the broader market; only gained 12% in the last five years. Still, it’s hard to walk away from a business that has positioned itself for a place in streaming. Future performance will likely be based on how the company reworks DirectTV and whether it can use HBO as a platform to really stand out in the streaming wars.



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What we can learn from the rules of the anthem


The recent Anthem class action settlement (Bell v. ATH Holding Company, LLC) reflects some trends in 401 (k) litigation: focus on share classes, arguments for including investments in funds other than mutual funds in defined contribution plans and the evolution of oversight of service providers.

The lawsuit against Anthem and its fiduciary plan committee alleged that, among other issues, they selected overpriced share classes (given what was available for a multibillion-dollar plan). The matter was recently settled for $ 23,650,000 and for certain non-monetary conditions. In this article, we review and comment on non-monetary conditions.

The complaint

The complaint contains allegations regarding investments and record keeping costs, but the most striking allegations relate to investments:

  • All but two of the plan’s investment alternatives were Vanguard mutual funds. Although Vanguard funds were often cited by complainants as examples of low-cost investments, in this case, the complainants alleged that the committee should have selected even cheaper share classes. Two examples: the plan used a Vanguard Institutional Index Fund with a commission of 4 basis points, but a share class of 2 basis points was allegedly available; and the plan offered the Vanguard Extended Market Index Fund, which charged 24 basis points, while there was a 6 basis point share class allegedly available.

  • The complainants did not stop there. They alleged that there were collective trusts and separately managed accounts that were even cheaper … and that these cheaper but virtually identical investments should have been used.

In other words, as in other similar cases, the plaintiffs have argued here that the plan committee should seek the cheapest share classes available to the plan, regardless of other relevant factors. They also argued that the committee needed to determine whether the plan had access to reasonably similar group trusts or separately managed accounts that would have been even cheaper. The message that applicants send to plan committees and their advisers is that, in the view of applicants, these are the cheapest rules and, in this light, the investment search requirement has evolved over time. – beyond mutual funds.

The rule

While monetary settlement was quite important, there were also several “non-monetary conditions”:

  • The committee should engage an independent investment advisor who has experience with investment options in defined contribution plans. The consultant should review and make recommendations on the plan’s range of investments, including whether to include a stable value option.

  • The committee should meet and consider the recommendations of the investment adviser and decide whether and to what extent to implement them.

  • The Committee should consider, with the assistance of the Investment Advisor, among other things, (1) the least expensive equity class mutual funds available to the Plan; (2) the availability of revenue sharing discounts; and (3) the availability of collective trusts and / or separately managed accounts which present similar risks and characteristics to those of a mutual fund.

  • After consideration of the recommendations by the committee, he must provide the plaintiff class action lawyers with a written summary of the committee’s recommendations and decisions. (This means that plaintiffs’ attorneys will oversee the implementation of the settlement agreement for a period of three years, which is unusual in a 401 (k) plan litigation.)

  • The committee should also issue a request for proposals for record keeping services for the plan. Responses from archivists must include a fee proposal “on the basis of a total fixed amount and on a per participant basis. “Again, the committee’s decision must be communicated to the plaintiffs’ lawyers, but only for a period of 18 months.

Break the rule

So what do the regulations show us? Here are our main observations:

  • Complainants continue to emphasize low-cost share classes, disregarding other factors that a committee is entitled to consider, such as the availability of revenue sharing that could produce a lower net cost to participants. In addition, there is a new push towards the use of even cheaper group trusts and separately managed accounts, despite the fact that low cost is not the only factor committees should consider. While institutional mutual funds, group trusts, and separately managed accounts may be readily available to large plans, small plans may not have access to all of these investments at low cost. That said, we are starting to see a movement away from mutual funds towards group trusts for midsize and even smaller plans. (In fact, this is how stable value funds are often offered to small plans.)

  • We see a preference among plaintiffs (or at least plaintiffs’ lawyers) for setting the record keeping fee on a per-participant basis rather than on a pro-rata basis. Their argument seems to be that this results in fees that more closely reflect the costs of the services and that the fees do not automatically increase with increasing asset values ​​or with new contributions. (Their argument about how a registrar’s fees are determined, such as a fixed dollar amount per participant, does not necessarily extend to how the costs should be allocated among participants’ accounts. Fee allocation can be pro-rated.) This position has gained ground among complainants despite the fact that there are no legal or regulatory guidelines requiring per participant fees.

  • It is also clear that the plaintiffs’ lawyers prefer that the plans avoid investments with revenue sharing or that, if there is revenue sharing, it should be paid into the accounts of participants whose accounts generated the revenue sharing. . In all cases, their positions remain focused on the transparency of providers and the control of the regime committees.

Conclusion

Diet committees and their advisers should resist the temptation to dismiss the anthem’s claims and regulations as only applying to large regimes. Instead, they must view the case as illustrating possible trends the Complainants Bar says about the fiduciary processes that plan committees must follow … or proceed at their peril. They must be aware of the costs of services and investments and weigh the impact on the participants. Since planning committees may not be aware of all the alternatives and may not have the resources to gather relevant information and make decisions, they should consider obtaining professional advice from advisers who have worked with plans similar to theirs. And these advisors should consider the benefit to themselves and their clients of assuming a fiduciary role.

© 2021 Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. All rights reserved.Revue nationale de droit, volume IX, number 162



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