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Although the pension plan committees can be as diverse as the companies that do sponsor they are often similar in structure and approach.

“While there may not be a perfect number of committees – or committee members – their establishment, supervision, and maintenance through rotation and training are as critical to their effective operation as they are to shaping the scheduling functions they oversee,” she said Sponsor Council of America plan.

The Council recently carried out a survey Sponsors of retirement plans to find out what their committees have in common. Among the findings:

Number of committees. Although the majority of respondents indicated that their company has a committee (64 percent), the structure of these committees varies considerably. Unsurprisingly, many factors are related to size, as larger organizations not only have more committees, but also those that are more formal and structured.

Formalized committees. Almost eight in ten respondents said their organization has a document that their planning committees formally set up. Almost all large organizations (94 percent of plans with 5,000 or more participants) do this, although this is much less common for smaller organizations (53 percent of plans with fewer than 200 participants).

Organizations are less likely to have a formal document stating which bodies are on which committees (38 percent of plans). However, the size correlation also applies here, because twice as many (54 percent) large organizations have one as smaller organizations (26 percent).

Participation of the committee. Although the majority of the committees have between five and ten participants, this is again related to size. Few organizations have more than 10 participants per committee, and only large organizations do this.

About two-thirds of the organizations have legal counsel attending committee meetings. This includes only half of the organizations with fewer than 1,000 plan participants, as opposed to 92 percent of the organizations with more than 5,000 participants

“Regardless of the committee structure chosen, a documented, prudent process remains best practice – and protects against litigation – for retirement trustees,” said Nevin E. Adams, chief content officer of the American Retirement Association, whose council is a member.