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Man with briefcase and law books While the regulatory burden in complying is significant, ERISA offers clear remedies and access to information for employees participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans and provides a safeguard against mismanagement.

To understand the scope and importance of ERISA, it is helpful to consider how private pension plans were regulated prior to its passage. Tax-favored status of employer-based retirement plans has deep roots. Early versions of the 1920s-era Revenue Acts permitted employers to deduct pension contributions from income and allowed the funds to grow tax-free.

Over time, the law began to require certain disclosures and minimum employee coverage requirements. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) eventually became an overseer of the plans, with legislation intended to prevent abuse and mismanagement of funds by employers and unions.

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