A new enforcement push by the Department of Labor's Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration recovered $139 million for wronged or defrauded participants last year and launched more than 100 criminal cases. It expects to top that in 1991 with the addition of 100 new investigators, reports Changing Times, the Kiplinger magazine.

Company misconduct often involves failing to make required pension contributions or discriminating against employees based on pension status. Experts believe that small employers are more likely to violate the law, possibly by accident, than large corporations. However, thousands of ex-employees of Continental Can will collect $415 million in a recently announced settlement of grievances dating to the early 1970s. Workers' lawsuits charged that Continental illegally selected whom it laid off and didn't rehire by matching workers' names with potential pension savings.Individuals and small groups often lack the resources to fight long grievances. So the Department of Labor is asking Congress to authorize bounties of up to 10 percent of the recovered assets for tipsters leading to successful investigations. Winning plaintiffs would also recover all legal and expert-witness fees from the defendant.