Curtiss-Wright Corp. v. Schoonejongen, 514 U.S. 73, 11 (1995)

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Cite as: 514 U. S. 73 (1995)

Opinion of the Court

Respondents argue that 402(b)(3) was intended not only to ensure that every plan has an amendment procedure, but also to guarantee that the procedure conveys enough detail to enable beneficiaries to learn their rights and obligations under the plan at any time. Respondents are no doubt right that one of ERISA's central goals is to enable plan benefici-aries to learn their rights and obligations at any time. But ERISA already has an elaborate scheme in place for enabling beneficiaries to learn their rights and obligations at any time, a scheme that is built around reliance on the face of written plan documents.

The basis of that scheme is another of ERISA's core functional requirements, that "[e]very employee benefit plan shall be established and maintained pursuant to a written instrument." 29 U. S. C. 1102(a)(1) (emphasis added). In the words of the key congressional report, "[a] written plan is to be required in order that every employee may, on examining the plan documents, determine exactly what his rights and obligations are under the plan." H. R. Rep. No. 93- 1280, p. 297 (1974) (emphasis added). ERISA gives effect to this "written plan documents" scheme through a comprehensive set of "reporting and disclosure" requirements, see 29 U. S. C. 1021-1031, of which 402(b)(3) is not part. One provision, for example, requires that plan administrators periodically furnish beneficiaries with a Summary Plan Description, see 29 U. S. C. 1024(b)(1), the purpose being to communicate to beneficiaries the essential information about the plan. Not surprisingly, the information that every SPD must contain includes the "name and address" of plan administrators and other plan fiduciaries, but not the names and addresses of those individuals with amendment authority. 1022(b). The same provision also requires that plan administrators furnish beneficiaries with summaries of new amendments no later than 210 days after the end of the plan year in which the amendment is adopted. See 1024(b)(1). Under ERISA, both Summary Plan Descriptions and plan


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