Plan sponsors often ask, “Is an ERISA fidelity bond the same thing as fiduciary liability insurance?” The answer is no, they are not the same. The two insure different people and have different requirements under the terms of ERISA.
An ERISA fidelity bond is required under ERISA Section 412. Its purpose is to protect the plan, and therefore the participants. It does this by ensuring that every fiduciary of an employee benefit plan, and every person who handles funds or other property of the plan, be bonded. This protects the plan from risk of loss due to fraud or dishonesty on the part of the bonded individuals. The amount of the fidelity bond is 10 percent of the plan assets (with a $1,000 minimum) and is capped at $500,000 (or $1,000,000 for plans with company stock).
Fiduciary liability insurance protects the fiduciaries (not the plan or participants) from a breach of their fiduciary responsibilities with respect to the plan. Remember that fiduciaries may be held personally liable for losses incurred by a plan as a result of their fiduciary failures. Unlike a fidelity bond, fiduciary liability insurance is not required under ERISA. The Department of Labor may ask whether the plan fiduciaries have insurance in the event of an investigation. It’s important that fiduciary liability insurance explicitly covers “ERISA” claims. Review of any policy, including E&O policies, should look for language that may void the coverage in the event a plan has ever been out of compliance (something virtually all plans experience at some point in their existence).