DOL Issues Guidance on Apprenticeship Plans Graduation Ceremonies and Program Marketing
On April 2, 2012, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2012-01, which provides guidance on the use of Apprenticeship and Training Plan assets for program graduation ceremonies and marketing. Under the guidance, the DOL will not consider a plan’s payment of expenses associated with a “modest graduation ceremony” attended by graduating apprentices, family, plan officials, and other persons connected with the program, including “light refreshments,” and “token awards/gifts” for non-apprentices an impermissible use of plan assets provided: (a) the amount of the expense is modest in relation to the plan’s assets; (b) the expenses are approved in accordance with internal accounting, recordkeeping, and administrative controls designed to prevent inappropriate, excessive, or abusive expenditures of plan assets; and (c) the expenses are costs for the ceremony. Similarly, the DOL will consider outreach expenses for “marketing or promotion of the apprenticeship program” a permissible use of plan assets so long as the expenses are consistent with the fiduciaries’ obligation to be prudent and economical in the use of the plan assets. For example, the purchase of t-shirts bearing the program’s logo (purchased at a reasonable price from a non-party in interest) would be considered an acceptable plan expense, while the purchase of tickets to sporting events for apprentices, trustees, or plan officials would not.