EBSA's Phyllis C. Borzi. Photo: AP

The Employee Benefits Security Administration raised more than a few questions last week when it released 2014 recovery figures far lower than those seen in 2013.

As it turns out, the difference was the result of nothing more than a change in reporting methods, though the EBSA didn’t point that out until it was asked about the discrepency.

As BenefitsPro.com reported Friday, the EBSA said it recovered almost $600 million in plan reimbursements and fines during fiscal 2014 year.

That figure for 2013 was $1.7 billion.

Big difference, right? Well, yes and no.

The $600 million for 2014 represents only those dollars that went back into people’s pockets – both plans and participants. It does not include items such as “prohibited transactions corrected” that were included in the 2013 numbers.

The reason for the change in reporting methods was because the Department of Labor’s EBSA office wanted field offices and the general public to focus more on actual dollars going into people’s pockets. 

EBSA says it is still tracking other categories of monetary recoveries, new reporting methods notwithstanding.

So, the $599.7 million restored to beneficiaries, employee plans and participants in fiscal 2014 is a more accurate reflection of actual dollars going back to plans and participants rather than previous approaches to reporting. And the comparable figure for 2013 would have been $495.7 million.

The EBSA closed 3,928 civil investigations in fiscal 2014, with 2,541 of those cases, or about 65 percent, leading to compensation for plans or other corrective actions.

That was a 9 percent decrease in the rate of infractions found in 2013, the agency said. In other words, even with that decline, the EBSA was able to recover more in 2014.