Depending on the purpose, several answers can be given to the question of how long to retain ERISA records. For defense purposes, one might wish to have records that exceed what is legally required. Several resources are available to assist the plan administrator in making the assessment of the minimum retention periods.
For starters, take a look at the recent post by Attorney Rush Nigot, Document Retention and Electronic Discovery, on his blog, Rush on Business. These observations were augmented by Jerry Kalish in his post “ERISA plan record retention: how long is long enough?” on The Retirement Plan Blog.
For a tabular approach, take a look at this concise outline published by Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLC. Constangy, Brooks has a large national labor and employment law practice, so this publication is definitely one for review. The outline is recent and comprehensive.
Note also this item on the Google Book series: Guide to Record Retention Requirements: In the Code of Federal Regulations as of January 2006 and see also this summary from the ASPPA Journal.
In view of the interest in this subject, I will be adding a RECORD RETENTION PAGE for the convenience of our group here at HPL. Please send suggested additions to this resource to firstname.lastname@example.org.