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My previous employer (startup in Silicon Valley) was acquired by a foreign company about 2 years ago, and the parent company laid off pretty much everyone about 1 year ago, which I was a part of. I worked part-time this past year, so I kept my money in the old plan, but I recently moved on to a full-time job, and I want to rollover the fund to my current employer's plan.

I called the retirement provider (Empowerment Retirement) and they told me that the plan is terminating, so I can't withdraw my fund until the termination is complete. I asked how long that would take, and they said that it would be complete as soon as they receive the paperwork from the plan administrator. I asked who the plan administrator is, and it turned out to be the CFO of my former employee, whom I know was also let go. So I doubt that he would be doing the paperwork.

This was finally escalated to a manger after calling 3 time, and the manager told me that they actually can't find the plan administrator as well, so there is no timeline on when I can get my money. She told me that the plan has 3 administrators, the first one was the ex-CFO, then second person is a name that I never heard of, and the third is a firm called "Hicks Retirement". She said that if I can get anyone of them to sign off, they would let me withdraw.

I tried reaching out to the ex-CFO via LinkedIn, and still haven't heard from him after a week. I also called Hicks, and they told me that they are just a service provider, and can't do anything without the plan trustee, which is the ex-CFO. In fact they already contacted him multiple times and never got a hold of him. They are also not aware that the company was acquired.

I am wondering if there is anything I can do to get my money. The ex-CFO probably just doesn't care, and if I can get a hold of him, I am not sure if he really has the power. I am also wondering if it really is legal for Empowerment to hold my money like this (they have horrendous review on Yelp and they increase the fees significantly this past year). They told me that I could file a claim with the Department of Labor if the plan administrator can't be found, but they won't give me any additional instructions. Does anyone know how to file this claim. Thanks!!!

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According to this site:

If you think the plan trustees or others responsible for investing your pension money have been violating the rules, you should call or write the nearest field office of the U.S. Department of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA (formerly PWBA)).

Looking at EBSA's FAQ for abandoned plans finds:

EBSA has developed an Abandoned Plan searchable database to help participants and beneficiaries find out if a particular plan is in the process of being, or has been, terminated. The site is searchable by plan name or employer name and will provide the name and contact information for the QTA, if one exists. If you do not have access to a computer to conduct the search, you may contact one of EBSA’s Benefits Advisors to assist you by calling toll-free, 1.866.444.EBSA (3272).

So I would try searching the database for your plan. If that doesn't help, you can call EBSA and ask for more specific assistance. Or use the contact us page to find an alternative contact method.

  • Thank you so much. I don't see my plan in the database. However, I did just file a complaint via the EBSA webpage. I will follow up when I hear back from them – Kent May 30 '16 at 23:21
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I think the best advice you could get would be to find a lawyer. If that foreign company has any presence in the US, they should be the ones signing off as the successor, otherwise you may find yourself in a limbo that would require some legal assistance. Generally, in most States a Corporation cannot be dissolved without resolving issues like this, which is probably why they told you "the plan is terminating". Someone asked them to terminate it. You need to find that someone.

  • A traditional defined-benefit pension plan is a liability of the corporation (with a few exceptions, like some 'multi-employer' plans) but a 401k is a legally separate trust, and among other things is not affected by bankruptcy of the employer. An acquirer who wants to keep the workforce usually will handle the 401k, typically by transferring accounts to their plan (with your consent), but I don't think they have any legal duty -- and here they clearly didn't want the workforce. I think it is the ex-CFO that must be found, or somehow overridden/replaced. – dave_thompson_085 May 29 '16 at 20:13
  • @dave_thompson_085 someone has established the trust and can decide to nominate trustees/substitute trustees, right? That someone is not the CFO in his personal capacity, but the CFO in the capacity of being an officer (the O in the CFO) of the Corporation. So the successor corporation should be able to nominate a new trustee, since the CFO is no longer employed by the Corporation, and should have done that already. If not - some one needs to nudge them. A lawyer would be better suited to do that. – littleadv May 30 '16 at 6:55
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They told you what to do--the Department of Labor. They have ways around this problem. Also, that ex-CFO certainly should care if it's his name on the dotted line.

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