The GAO on Conflicts of Interest in DC Plans

gao_logo2Last week the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a study on the impact of conflicts of interest on DB and DC plans.

Here is a highlight:

Conflicts of interest can adversely affect both DB and DC plan designs, with the primary difference being in who bears the cost of their potentially adverse effects on their rate of return. The threat posed to participants in account based retirement plans like 401(k)s, now the primary plan design in the United States, is quite direct. Since workers largely bear the risk of investment under this plan design, any factor, any decision that reduces the account’s rate of return can have potentially irreversible consequences for the participant’s retirement income, depending on her age and personal circumstances.

The recent national and worldwide economic turmoil has amplified the enormous complexity risk workers face with respect to their retirement security. In this uncertain environment, fiduciaries of all plan types must utilize a variety of service providers to help themselves and plan participants assess choices. While conflicts of interest are not necessarily inherent in engaging service providers, the likelihood that conflicts of interest exist has significantly increased over the years given the complexity and nature of business arrangements among investment advisers, plan consultants, and others. To the extent that financially harmful conflicts of interest exist, they pose a potential threat to the investment confidence of sponsors and participants and to the retirement security of employees.

I encourage you to go read the full report here.