Missing Plan Participants

Missing plan participants and/or their beneficiaries represent a long-standing problem for plan fiduciaries and sponsors.


Complex direct beneficiary plans, such as those combining multiple legacy plans, often spanning 30-40+ years are especially challenging and problematic.

Global Shareholder Services® provides plan fiduciaries and sponsors with a successful and unique foreign missing participant location service option through our unique PILLARSprogram. We are the industry leading experts in reuniting foreign missing plan participants and/or their heir(s) worldwide. We help plan fiduciaries not only comply with but often exceed regulatory requirements. We help our clients reduce the liabilities they face from escheat, fraud, audits and/or fines or penalties for non-compliance.

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Plan fiduciaries/sponsors are mandated to make reasonable efforts to maintain contact with current and former participants, locate missing participants, and identify deceased participants and their beneficiaries. Plan fiduciaries face audits, fines and penalties for non-compliance with regulations such as those outlined below:

  • The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) establishes the importance for plan fiduciaries to locate missing participants, as plan fiduciaries have a duty of prudence and loyalty to participants and are mandated to distribute all of the plans assets when they become due.


  • The Department of Labor finally issued long awaited guidance on this matter, which includes the implementation of processes, procedures, and a list of best practices that should be followed.

More on Missing Participants

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Deceased Foreign Participants

A missing participant may be deceased. In the event a participant has died, efforts need to be directed to:


  • Identify and establish their death overseas.
  • Locate their heir(s) in various countries.
  • Legally establish the heir(s) right to claim to mitigate fraud.
  • Obtain foreign documents to establish the death and navigate the various international legal systems to determine heirship.
  • Effectively communicate to ensure the foreign heir(s) understand(s): the benefits they are entitled to, their need to act, consequences of inaction and the claim process and requirements.
  • Provide support to the participants/heirs and holders/companies to ensure claims are legally valid and successful.

Foreign Missing Participants

Locating missing participants in countries outside of the US involves a different expert skill set and knowledge compared to domestic US location work. When locating lost participants within the US, service companies enjoy access to nationwide databases, Freedom of Information Act, one legal system (excluding Louisiana) and one main language.


This is much different than locating lost participants outside of the US. Additional challenges facing foreign reunification and communication efforts include multiple language and cultural differences, a plethora of legal systems, various privacy laws and a lack of centralized foreign database.