Looking Up Form 5500’s: Public Information That Can Reveal A Lot About A Retirement Plan

Many people, including plan sponsor/employers, aren’t aware that pension retirement plan information on the Form 5500 is public information and can be downloaded. The information on the Form 5500 can reveal a lot about your retirement plan. The Form 5500 was developed for employee benefit plans to satisfy annual reporting requirements under Title I and Title IV of ERISA and the IRS. As of January 2010, all Form 5500’s are filed electronically using the EFAST2 Electronic Filing System. Because of the requirements for electronic filings and new open government policies, now anyone can search and download Form 5500’s as public information.

How to and tips for looking up a plan’s Form 5500:

  1. To search for a specific plan filing start by going to https://www.efast.dol.gov/portal/app/disseminate.

  2. From there you can search based on plan name, sponsor name, plan administrator, filing ID, acknowledgment ID, EIN (Employer Identification Number), and PN (Plan Number).

  3. Usually, the easiest way to find a plan is to have the exact name of the plan you are searching for. The only issue with that is that plans can have names that are completely different from the name that the company or organization is doing business as (DBA). For example, Nike’s retirement plan name is  “401k Savings and Profit Sharing Plan for the Employees of NIKE, Inc.” Not so obvious… Your next option is if you have the exact EIN of the employer. (Note that this will display results for both Pensions and Health & Welfare Plans with that EIN). Another option is to look on your paystub for your company EIN.

Fiduciary Education Course:

We recommend checking out this free online training course called Essentials for Looking Up and Reviewing Your 5500. It is a mini-course from Fiduciary Education and offers straightforward tips on how to look up your Form 5500, identify red flags and suggested best practices.

Things to watch out for:

  • Plans sometimes change names and EINs.

  • Only plans covered by ERISA will be searchable.

  • Plan audit information isn’t included on the Short Form 5500 (less than 100 participants).

  • Some 5500’s have signatures of a TPA (Third Party Administrator) rather than an actual plan sponsor. TPA’s are often hired to prepare the 5500 for a plan and sometimes sign their signature. If there is a TPA signature at the top, there will be a plan sponsor hand signed signature at the bottom of the Form 5500. This person is the named Plan Sponsor/Admin.