Legalized 401(k) Fraud

There are a litany of laws protecting participants from fraud that have helped victims recover their money, but these laws only deal with theft. Fraud can still occur in the absence of outright theft in the form of mere misappropriation of assets, which is a form of embezzlement, defined by the Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute as:

“The fraudulent taking of personal property by someone to whom it was entrusted. It is most often associated with the misappropriation of money. Embezzlement can occur regardless of whether the defendant keeps the personal property or transfers it to a third party“.

And it defines misappropriation as follows:

“(1) Obtaining or exercising unlawful possession over the property of another with the purpose to deprive the owner of the property.

(2) Obtaining property or services offered for sale or compensation without making payment or offering to pay.

(3) Obtaining property or services offered for sale or compensation by means of deception or a statement of past, present or future fact that is instrumental in causing the wrongful transfer of property or services, or using stolen, forged, expired, revoked or fraudulently obtained credit cards or paying with negotiable paper on which payment is refused.

(4) Concealing unpurchased merchandise on or about the person without the knowledge or consent of the seller or paying less than purchase price by deception.

(5) Acquiring or possessing the property of another, with knowledge or reason to believe that the property is stolen.”

#3 applies to the obtaining of services for compensation paid by participants that are not commensurate with the level of services provided. For example, I have documented many instances where financial advisors receive significant and increasing annual compensation despite not providing any services at all and where plan sponsors pay record keepers and administrators increasing annual compensation without making an effort to negotiate or thoroughly compare their services to other comparable providers. These actions demonstrate a failure to meet the reasonable person standard:

“The so-called reasonable person in the law of negligence focuses on how a typical person, with ordinary prudence, would act in certain circumstances. The test as to whether an individual has acted as a reasonable person is an objective one, and so it doesn’t take into account the specific abilities of a defendant. Thus, even a person who has low intelligence or is chronically careless is held to the same standard as a more careful person or a person of higher intelligence.”

Unfortunately, this type of financial abuse primarily occurs in smaller plans that the Department of Labor lacks the resources to focus on and litigation firms don’t care about because they don’t have enough money to make pursuing legal action worth their time. So if you are a participant in your company’s retirement plan, it’s up to you to let your employer know about the excessive fees you are being charged. See my previous post if you want to know how you can take action.


How employees can encourage their employers to create a better retirement plan

Understanding how your company’s retirement plan works can be intimidating. Many people know they have a list of investment options, but don’t understand them and all of their associated costs. Unfortunately, the employers have little understanding either, primarily due to not having an incentive to care as I explained in a previous post.

I created a list of questions participants can ask their employers to help with this process, but many employees fear confronting their employers. While employees can’t get around this issue because the employers will always have the decision-making power, they can find out quite a bit of information on their own.

One way they can gather information is to look up their retirement plan tax form known as form 5500. They can either go to the Department of Labor’s website or set up a free account at Some plans will disclose some or all of the service provider fees such as advisory, record keeping, administration, and custodial fees, all of which I have explained in more detail here.

Another way is to contact the record keeper and ask for the 408b-2 or 404a-5 fee disclosure for employers and participants. The record keeper is the party who sends out statements and provides a website such as Fidelity, Principal, or John Hancock. They should be able to quickly provide this information. Even if they won’t provide the employer fee disclosure, you can still figure out what the total fees are by dividing your assets by the total plan assets, which can be found on the 5500 form noted above. For example, if you have a balance of $100,000 and the total plan assets are $1 million, then you can multiply your fees by 10 to get an idea of what the total fees are. However, depending on the record keeper, the fees may not be shown on the 404a-5 participant fee disclosure, and even if they are, this type of calculation will not always be a precise way to measure the total fees, so employers are in a better position to obtain this information.

At the very least, by gathering information about their own fees and letting their employers know about other record keepers and administrators who are often not included in fee benchmarking searches and offer more affordable pricing (shown here) and raising questions about the reasonableness of the advisory fees if they haven’t had any contact with the advisor, employees can help their employers conduct thorough due diligence. This way, employees might be more receptive to employees’ concerns.


What Services Should Financial Advisors Provide for Retirement Plans?

In my nearly 20 years as a financial advisor (12 years solely focused on 401(k) plans), I have rarely come across business owners who know what they are paying their financial advisor for their retirement plan, let alone those who are actually getting anything out of the advisor. The typical arrangement works like this: The advisor gets an “assets under management fee” that the business owner and participants don’t directly pay for or understand in return for doing one or two meetings a year at most while rarely if ever fielding any participant calls.

This “management fee” consists of helping the business owner initially select the funds and then typically doing nothing or occasionally adding a fund or two. And it’s not even really a management fee because unless the advisor is acting as a 3(38) investment fiduciary, which they typically don’t, then they are not taking discretionary control over the selection and monitoring of plan assets. These sentiments have been echoed by, of all people, the founder of the 401(k) who strongly condemned 401(k) plan advisors’ business model, saying they are overpaid.

Here is what I believe a financial advisor should do in order to add value:

Selecting and Monitoring Plan Investments

This is typically the primary way in which financial advisors tout their value, especially when it comes to selecting and monitoring actively managed funds that aim to outperform the market. Because consistently outperforming is such a difficult task, this service doesn’t necessarily have the value many advisors claim. For that reason, it’s important for a plan to at least offer passively managed investments such as the S & P 500, total stock market, and total bond market index funds. Fidelity for example, offer and S & P 500 and total stock market index fund for management fee of only 0.015%. However, it’s also important for a plan to offer investments that are not correlated to stocks or bonds such as commodities because there are times when both stocks and bonds could drop significantly. Examples include Invesco DB Commodity Index Tracking Fund (DBC) and Barclays Bank iPath Bloomberg Commodity Index Total Return (DJP). Correlation refers to the extent to which two securities move in the same direction. A correlation of 1 means they move in the same direction, a correlation of -1 means the opposite, and a correlation of 0 means they have no relationship to each other. Many plan participants may believe they are diversified simply because they have 10 different funds, but in most cases, these funds are highly correlated and therefore can all drop significantly when the market drops.

Some advisors simply offer these funds as separate options while others also create risk-based models that range from conservative to aggressive to give participants an easy way to construct a portfolio that is in line with the goals and risk tolerance. These models are similar to target date funds which are meant to be stand alone investment options whose allocation automatically shifts to a more conservative bond allocation solely based on age. While this approach can be a simple and effective way to get people invested in the market, especially for large plans where an advisor can’t meet with every participant, there are also limited in that they solely take age into account. Two people who are the same age, however, may have very different financial situations, and for that reason, this solution can’t be optimal for both parties, and it may not be optimal for either. Furthermore, not all target date funds are the same. Some more heavily invested in equities than others, so someone who is nearing retirement may not actually be invested as conservatively as expected. So while many advisors simply select funds and rarely make any changes, there is actually a lot more involved.

Evaluating Roth vs. Traditional 401(k)

There is often confusion about this topic.  My focus is not to push one or the other, but to help participants evaluate which one is best for them, which may change over time.  For example, those who are not responsible savers may benefit from the Roth because they would have to pay the taxes now.  Also, those whose income might remain high during retirement may benefit from a Roth because they would be paying the taxes at a potentially lower rate – and tax rates may increase.  On the other hand, the traditional 401(k) may be better for those who want to save for retirement, but would benefit and take advantage of the immediate tax deduction by spending the savings wisely.  And for others, engaging in tax diversification by splitting the contributions between the two may be best.


In order to determine the optimal amount to save for retirement, it’s first best to develop a budget by taking a detailed account of all of your expenses.  Some people might have significant high interest debt that they need to pay off first while others might need to first accumulate three to six months of liquid savings before contributing to the 401(k) plan.  Granted, they can always take a loan, but I always caution people about taking loans because the interest is not tax deductible and it will still be taxed upon withdrawal.  There are several budgeting apps that could be helpful, but sometimes just setting up an Excel spreadsheet detailing all expenses by category because this exercise keeps people more focused.  

Evaluating investment and inflation risk

There are several factors that determine the optimal investment selection including age, risk tolerance, income, debt, and short, intermediate, and long-term spending needs.  I often focus on creating risk-based investment models ranging from conservative to moderate to aggressive so that each participant can have more customized investments than say, a target date fund which is solely based on age.  I also explain about the risk of inflation which is an increase in the supply of money that leads to rising prices.  While many are concerned about market risk (the risk of investments going down in value), it’s also important to be concerned about inflation risk and to make sure you don’t lose purchasing power.  If inflation is 8% for example, and your investments increase by 7%, then you are losing purchasing power.

Taking advantage of the tools on the website

The main tool that participants don’t often utilize is the retirement plan calculator.  Every provider offers this tool.  Since many providers are expensive, then at least participants can try and get the most for their money.  I am willing to meet with every participant and help them use this tool properly.  The way it works is that you enter in all of your assets and their values, all of your income sources, your expected retirement age, your expected rate of return, your contribution rate, an assumed inflation rate, and your life expectancy.  Then the calculator shows you how much money you will have per month to retire on.  As you adjust this information, you will see how much more or less you will have to retire.  So this can help you figure out the effect that your contribution rate will have on your retirement.  

Debt management

Many participants think about debt separately from retirement, but they are definitely related.  If you have high interest credit card debt, for example, you will definitely want to pay that off before other debt, and once you have contributed up to the level to get the maximum match, then you will want to pay off the credit card debt before contributing any more.  The reason is that credit card debt is often 15% or more, which is more than you can expect your rate of return on your investments to be (historically the market returns 8 to 10%).  Granted, the market can return more, but that’s hard to predict.  

Evaluating outside investments and insurance

Some participants may have other investment accounts.  I can provide advice regarding these accounts too, but don’t charge any additional fee in order to do so.  While I have an insurance license, I am not looking to sell life insurance or annuities to plan participants because I want to avoid conflicts of interest.  This way, participants can feel comfortable using me as an objective resource.

Fiduciary oversight

There are significant fiduciary responsibilities that plan sponsors have.  Documenting participant calls and meetings and constructing an investment policy statement (a written description of a plan’s investment related decision-making process) that you follow are a few of ways to meet your fiduciary obligations.  Also keep in mind that as a registered advisor and 3(21) fiduciary, I assist with the selection and monitoring of plan investments, but you still maintain fiduciary responsibility for this area.  

For more information, here is the link to the Department of Labor’s summary of fiduciary responsibilities:

Plan benchmarking and provider evaluation

Benchmarking your plan every three to five years is also part of your fiduciary responsibilities.  Principal likely has a relationship with Fiduciary Benchmarks who will provide you with a free benchmarking report.  I can also help make comparisons in terms of costs and services and created a website that provides more information.

How Guideline is Disrupting the Retirement Plan Industry and Enabling Participants and Employers

For nearly the past decade, I have been speaking, writing, and advising businesses about the lack of transparency, excessive and unnecessary fees, and conflicts of interest in the retirement plan industry.  For a litany of reasons I have explained, the industry does not operate anywhere close to a free and competitive market, and as a result, retirement plan service providers have continually had participants and employers at their mercy.  Finally, however, a new provider has emerged that empowers participants and employers and exposes the industry’s inefficiencies.

This new provider is called Guideline, and it has an interesting story.  The founder Kevin Busque had previously co-founded TaskRabbit, an online and mobile marketplace that matches freelance labor with local demand, allowing consumers to find immediate help with everyday tasks, including cleaning, moving, delivery and handyman work.  Having trouble finding a high quality affordable retirement plan for his employees, he did what any successful entrepreneur would do to solve a problem.  He started his own company.

Guideline provides seamless payroll integration, record keeping, 3(16) administration fiduciary, and 3(38) investment fiduciary services where they streamline the compliance and fund selection process to the point where employers don’t even have to sign the 5500 form, send out participant notices, manage vesting, eligibility, or loan policies, or approve distributions and hardship withdrawals, and participants can simply choose a customized portfolio consisting of low cost index funds based on their answers to a few questions.

Guideline also allows for companies to choose eligibility requirements, performs profit sharing calculations, provides vesting options, and includes robo-advising and participation and savings rate boosting communications.  In addition, Guideline offers full phone, email, and chat support as well as educational drip campaigns to employees who have opted out to encourage participation and provides a full library of articles that cover any 401(k) based question an employee would have that can be accessed at

Guideline uses Benefit Trust Company as a custodian who charges 0.03% of plan assets, which they do not pass on to participants.  Their only ongoing fees are $39 per month plus $8 per month per employee or $99 per month plus $8 per month per employee for their Prime service offering which also includes new comparability profit sharing allowing employers to optimize contributions to certain groups, support for any payroll provider including those outside Guideline’s integrated partners, a dedicated account manager, and priority support allowing employers to receive faster responses.

The following additional non-recurring fees may be charged directly to the plan sponsor:

Service Wind-Down Fee $250
ACH Chargeback/Reversal Fee $50
Extraordinary Services Fee $300/hour

Participant Fees

Guideline does not charge participants a plan administration fee unless the participant ends employment. When participants utilize individual services, a transaction fee will apply, as detailed below.

Individual Participant Fees
The following are services or transactions outside Guideline’s general 401(k) plan administration which will be charged to the participant’s account if the service is requested:

Type of Service Fee
Distribution or Refund (including Hardship) $50
Loan Application $100
Loan Maintenance (annual) $75/year
Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) $500
Check/Stop Payment Fee $50
Overnight Mail Fee (within U.S.) $50

Terminated Participant Maintenance Fee
If a participant ends employment, Guideline will charge the participant a monthly maintenance fee of $4, after a 90-day grace period.

What makes Guideline especially interesting is that they currently require employers to pay both their administration and record keeping fees and the advisory fees if they choose to use an advisor.  Since I have always advocated that employers pay the service provider provider fees, I have no issue with this requirement.  In fact, I have often suggested that service provider fees would decrease drastically if there was ever a rule that required them to write a check instead of passing the fees on to participants.  The reason is simple:  Employers are more sensitive to fees if they have to write a check.

Guideline’s incredibly low fee structure and streamlined process not only enable small employers to afford a retirement plan both in terms of time and money, but they also help give participants a chance to avoid the exorbitant fees (often close to 2%) that they otherwise would have incurred.  The Department of Labor provides an example to quantify the effect of just 1% in additional fees:

“Assume that you are an employee with 35 years until retirement and a current 401(k) account balance of $25,000. If returns on investments in your account over the next 35 years average 7 percent and fees and expenses reduce your average returns by 0.5 percent, your account balance will grow to $227,000 at retirement, even if there are no further contributions to your account. If fees and expenses are 1.5 percent, however, your account balance will grow to only $163,000. The 1 percent difference in fees and expenses would reduce your account balance at retirement by 28 percent.”

To elaborate on just how low Guideline’s fee structure is for small businesses, let’s compare them to Employee Fiduciary, another low cost provider who charges $1,500 for annual record keeping and administration services (up to 30 participants and $30 for each additional participant) and 0.08% of plan assets for custodial services provided by MG Trust Company, not including a $1,000 set-up fee ($500 for start-up plans).  According to Guideline co-founder Kevin Busque in this Fireside Chat on May 31, 2018, Guideline handles 4,000 plans (the website states they currently work with 7,750+), $500 million in assets, and $30 million in monthly payroll contributions and has an average plan size of about 12 participants (and an average plan asset size of $125,000) with plans ranging from 2 to 700 participants, so their average annual fee is about $1,152 ($96 * 12) not plus their monthly fee which ranges from $39 to $99.

Employee Fiduciary, unlike Guideline, does not provide 3(16) administration or 3(38) investment fiduciary services, so the total service fees would be significantly more if employers were to add those services.  Granted, unlike Employee Fiduciary, Guideline does not allow for self-directed brokerage accounts, but the segment that Guideline focuses on typically doesn’t require this feature.  Neither company offers defined benefit plans, which are also not typically relevant for small employers.

Guideline’s services also shine light on the futility of just about every retirement plan financial advisor by demonstrating how little value there is to selecting and monitoring a fund line-up, which is the primary reason why advisors get paid – and they almost always base their fee on the size of the account to ensure that it keeps increasing!  Here is what Ted Benna, who is commonly referred to as the “father of the 401(k)” because he created and gained IRS approval of the first 401(k) savings plan, had to say about 401(k) plan financial advisors:

“The advisors are getting paid each time they go through the process with an employer to help pick funds as if they’re doing an original piece of work. There are more than half a million 401(k) plans, so that’s happened over half a million times. The fund menus aren’t that much different. But advisors are getting paid as if they’re doing an original piece of work. That’s just bizarre, extremely inefficient and much too expensive.

First of all, they need to get away from asset-driven compensation and be paid a fee for service, the same as accountants or attorneys, who don’t get paid a percentage of corporate [client] assets. Their role should shift to helping people focus on how to succeed at retiring successfully, not on investment return. Building a smarter investment mix is pretty much of a commodity now. The focus should be on goals: “I want to retire successful. Help me do that.”

So in effect, Guideline is forcing advisors to actually provide value.  First, advisors have to come up with the kind of value proposition that Benna suggests because Guideline has taken over the process of selecting and monitoring plan assets, which, along with providing misleading benchmarking services, is the foundation for most advisors’ value proposition.  To illustrate, I recently had a conversation with an unusually proactive business owner who decided he no longer wanted to pay for the advisor’s 0.35% fee because he didn’t believe the advisor was providing any value.  I say “unusually” because most employers don’t even think about eliminating the advisory fee, but rather just accept it as part of the cost.  The advisor responded by claiming that his fee was standard throughout the industry – and while he was right, even he couldn’t come up with a single example of value to justify the fee.  Unfortunately, few employers have the time, energy, knowledge, and motivation to not only question the advisory fees, but to actually fire the advisor.  Now thanks to Guideline’s approach, employers have no choice but to carefully evaluate the advisory fees in proportion to the value before engaging their services.

Furthermore, even if employers investigate Guideline’s services and decide that Guideline is not the right fit because of services not offered or because they don’t want to cede control of the investment line-up to a 3(38) fiduciary, they will at least begin to understand the ease with which a service provider can develop and monitor a fund line-up at a tiny fraction of the cost of a typical financial advisor.  For that reason, they might begin to question why they are continuing to unnecessarily use their participants’ retirement savings to drastically overpay their advisor for a commoditized service, especially when the advisor is often taking a more limited level of fiduciary responsibility than a 3(38) fiduciary or none at all.

In summary, Guideline is a great provider for any small business that has basic needs not including self-directed brokerage accounts or defined benefit plans, appreciates the value of technology, and truly cares about providing the best possible retirement plan benefits to its employees.  It acts a disruptor because it shifts the paradigm through which we view retirement plans from an opaque model where retirement plan service providers claim to help participants save for retirement and somehow make money in ways they don’t understand to a more honest, transparent, efficient, and cost-effective model that helps participants use technology to their advantage.  It acts as an enabler because it frees participants from the shackles of an outdated retirement system that aims primarily to enrich providers at their expense.



Why 401(k) Plans are Such a Rip-off in One Chart


This chart illustrates exactly why employers overwhelmingly do not seek to understand service provider fees and what they get in return.  Employers simply lack the incentives to control costs or seek the highest value because of their ability to pass on the costs to participants instead of writing a check.

I created this website and drafted this letter to make this process easier for employers and employees:

Building a Retirement Plan from Scratch

When deciding how to best structure and monitor the retirement plan, employers can benefit by asking themselves:  What if they were building their plan from scratch?  Here are some more specific questions to consider:

  1. How should the fund line-up be designed?  Is there an ideal number of funds to have that will maximize participation and minimize confusion?  Do you believe in offering actively managed funds to give participants the opportunity to “beat the market”?  How likely are they to accomplish this goal?  Should participants have access to a self-directed brokerage account so they can each have the ability to choose any fund they want?
  2. What steps can be taken to make sure that the participants properly utilize the investment options?  For example, if you have target date funds, are participants using the funds correctly as stand-alone options, or are they choosing other funds in addition to the target date funds?  Are participants mistakenly choosing highly correlated funds falsely thinking that more funds will make their portfolio more diversified?
  3. What criteria should you use to choose your service providers such as the custodian, record keeper, administrator, and advisor?  Years of experience?  Number of plans?  Assets under management?  Ability of the representatives to relate and connect with your participants? (this is especially important)  Quality of the website?  Employee and client turnover?  Average employee tenure?  Effective utilization of technology?  Access to a dedicated support specialist instead of an 800 number? (for the record keeper)
  4. How much of an issue is fiduciary liability for your business?  What kinds of fiduciary liability exist, and which are most significant?  What steps can you take to protect yourself against fiduciary liability?
  5. How should the service fees be structured?  Asset-based?  Flat fee per participant?  Flat fee based on service time?
  6. Should the company write a check for the service fees or pass them on to participants?  If the fees are passed on to participants, should they be passed on equally or in proportion to the account balances?
  7. How can you best create a retirement plan to motivate, attract, and retain valuable employees?  Should you offer a profit sharing contribution and a match?  If so, what is the best way to design a match?  Should you offer a non-qualified deferred compensation plan in addition to the defined contribution plan that specific benefits key employees?  If so, how should this plan be funded?  Would it make sense to offer a defined benefit plan as well?
  8. What is the best way to communicate the benefits and costs to the participants?  E-mail?  Webinar?  Face-to-face group meetings?  Face-to-face one on one meetings?  How much do your employees appreciate the benefit of the retirement plan?  What steps can you take to increase their understanding and appreciation of this benefit?
  9. What are the primary factors that affect the ability to retire comfortably?

Retirement Plans Likely Paying Excessive Compensation to Service Providers

I have identified this list of over 500 retirement plans throughout the Chicago area that are likely paying excessive compensation out of plan assets.  I say likely rathenr than definitely because something may have changed since the most recent 5500 form was filed, and I do not know the specific level of services being provided.  However, being an independent registered investment advisor specializing in providing advice with respect to group retirement plans and having reviewed over ten thousand 5500 forms over the past decade, I have become sufficiently familiar with the marketplace to determine what constitutes reasonable provider compensation for a full range of service levels.  Consequently, I can confidently say that many of these plans are still paying excessive compensation even if they are receiving high levels of service because there often still isn’t enough work to do to justify these compensation levels.

Law firms:

Greiman, Rome, & Griesmeyer

Crane & Norcross

Cogan & Power

Codilis & Associates

Adelman & Gettleman, Ltd.

Mitchell, Hoffman, & Wolf

Labarge, Campbell, & Lyon

Marwedel, Minichello, & Reeb

Rusin & Maciorowski, Ltd.

Garofalo, Schreiber, Storm, & Grant

Miner Barnhill & Galland

The Law Offices of Jeffery M. Leving, Ltd.

Coghlan Law

Much Shelist

Goodsmith Gregg & Unruh LLP

Chapman Spingola LLP

Barack Ferrazzano Kirschbaum & Nagelberg LLP

O’Neill, McFadden, & Willett LLP

Miller Shakman & Beem LLP

Power Rogers & Smith LLP

Pedersen & Houpt A Professional Corporation

Donohue, Brown, Mathewson, & Smyth

Levin & Ginsburg

Nyhan Bambrick Kinzie & Lowry PC

Hiskes, Dillner, O’Donnell, Marovich, & Lapp

Olson & Cepuritis, Ltd.

Storino, Ramello, & Durkin

Thomas R Nash, PC

Romanucci & Blandin

Sudekum, Cassidy, & Schulruff

Blatt, Hasenmiller, Leibsker, & Moore LLC

Matushek Nilles LLC

Daspin and Aument, LLP

O’Rourke, Hogan, Fowler, & Dwyer, LLC

Tribler, Orpett, & Meyer

George J Jasinski

Patzik, Frank, & Samotny Ltd.

Mulherin, Rehfeldt, & Varchetto

Schoenberg, Finkel, Newman, & Rosenberg

Lavelle Law

Barker Castro Kuban & Steinback LLC

Mcgann and Matesevic Ltd.

Edward Jaquays Law Office

Johnson & Bell

Applegate & Thorne-thomsen P C

Stowell & Friedman, Ltd.

Ariano Hardy Nyuli Johnson Richmond & Goettel PC

Lillig & Thorness Ltd.

Inman & Fitzgibbons Ltd

Corboy & Demetrio

Masuda Funai Eifert & Mitchell Ltd

Querrey & Harrow Ltd

Anesi Ozmon Rodin Novak & Kohen Ltd

Okeefe Lyons & Hynes Llc

Williams Montgomery & John Ltd

Pattishall, Mcauliffe, Newbury, Hilliard, & Geraldson LLP

Klein Thorpe And Jenkins Ltd

Robbins Salomon & Patt Ltd

Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym Ltd

Drane & Freyer Limited

Eimer Stahl Llp

Fuchs & Roselli Ltd

Berger Schatz

Figliulo & Silverman P C

Hamilton Thies Lorch & Hagnell Llp

Flanagan Bilton

Meltzer Purtill & Stelle

Hoogendoorn & Talbot Llp

Ruff, Freud, Breems & Nelson Ltd.

Speers Reuland & Cibulskis PC

Hodges Loizzi Eisenhammer Rodick And Kohn

Stellato & Schwartz Ltd

Molzahn, Rocco, Reed & Rouse, LLC

Richmond Breslin Llp

Franks Gerkin & Mckenna PC

Cullen Haskins Nicholson & Menchetti PC

Hogan Marren Ltd

Dimonte & Lizak

Glenn Stearns Chapter 13 Trustee

Whitt Law LLC

Scandaglia & Ryan

Scott & Kraus LLC

Heineke & Burke LLC

Grund & Leavitt

Walker Wilcox Matousek Llp

Non-law firms

Magnate Holdings


Karen Zupko & Associates

Harmer Associates

Kepner Products

Alpha Distributors

Euclid Insurance Services

Bluco Corp

Design Toscano

Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council

Belle Aire Fragrances

Affiliated Dental Specialists

Northwest Neurology

Subway Development Corporation of Chicagoland

The Center for Facial Plastic Surgery

Century Ear, Nose, and Throat – Head And Neck Surgery Associates

Consultants in Cardiology and Electrophysiology

Aurora Radiology Consultants

Frank A Cincione DDS

Lumenite Control Technology

G.E. Riddiford Company

Robert J Skopek DDS

Todd S Hewell III MD

Patricia Liston-Gannon DDS

Oak Lawn Toyota

Hartsthorne Plunkard

RF Mau

Primary Health Associates

Fuel Tech

CDI Construction Group

The Carpet Group

Belmont Financial Group

Shilvock Co

Louis P Alonzi DDS Ltd

Israel Levy Diamond Cutters

Synergistic Enterprises

MJ Partners Incorporated

Hallowell & James

Cutters Inc

Palmer Packaging

Lynch Inc

Gopal N Bhahala MD


Hydrox Chemical Company

Mclallen Enterprises

Heim LP

The Service Spring Co., Inc.

Suncraft Technologies

Wabash Power Equipment

Giancola, Kampschroeder & Halkias

National Equity Fund

Loeber Motors

American Agricultural Insurance Co


Continental Envelope

RD Niven & Associates

Exclusively Expo

Sound Inc

Horween Leather Company

Roberts Swiss

Ibbotson Heating Co.

Lawn Medical Center

University Anesthesiologists SC

Audio Visual One

Tip Top Builders

PBG Financial Services

Midwest Optical Systems

Particulate Solid Research

International Test & Balance

Litchfield Advisors

Terrace Supply Co.

Friendly Ford

Cornell Forge

York Corrugated Container

Inlad Truck & Van Equipment Co

United Auto Insurance Agency

Omega & Associates

Ralph Weiner & Associates LLC

American Architectural Manufacturers Association

William J Scown Building Co

Couplings Company Inc

All-Tech Decorating Co

Durrie Sales

R Olson Construction Co

K & C  Trucking Co Inc

Sweetener Supply Corp

Kozol Bros Inc

Devon Bank

Access Search

Hoerr Schaudt

Keating of Chicago

Midwest Truck & Auto Parts inc

American Digital Corp

KSO Metalfab

Conway Farms Golf Club

Paragon Marketing Group

Visual Marketing Inc

Enterprise Oil Co

Roman Decorating Products Inc


Eagle Operating Corp

Dukane IAS

Deutsche Boerse Systems Inc

Cambium Networks Inc

The Elks Grand Lodge

Rex Worldwide Ltd

Ameda Inc

Quinnox Inc

Sheehan Nagle Hartray Architects

Demar Inc

Dough Inc

DKI Services LLC

Enviroplus Inc

Omni Commercial Group

Medac Pharma Inc

Brolite Products, Inc.


Partnership Financial Credit Union

Primary Energy Recycling Holding

CFE Media, LLC

Proyco LLC

Woodrow Development

HBM Engineering Group

Access Credit Union

Elobau Sensor Technology


Babbitting Service

KCE Ltd.

Air Movement & Control Association International

Bostrom Corp.

Preferred Window & Door

Plexus Productions LLC

Hancock International Corp.

Home Run Inn

McArdle Ltd.

Indeck Energy Services

Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants

Automatic Appliance Parts Corp

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Belisle Construction


National Tube Supply

ABS Graphics

Fuji America Corp

Edgar A Weber & Company

Triangle Package Machinery Co

Great Lakes Plumbing

Delta Dental Plans Association

Matrex Exhibits

Banner Plumbing Supply Co.

Illiana Financial Credit Union



Murnane Specialties

Normandy Construction

Bell Litho

M3 Capital Partners

Ciorba Group

Tripar International

Proactive Worldwide

Westside Mechanical

Total Marketing Associates


Walter E Deuchler Associates

Stevens Exhibits & Displays

Kara Co.

National Survey Service

West Side Machine

Suburban Mailing Services

Suburban Surgical Care Specialists

Chicago Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine

Feed Control Corp

Haran & Associates

Herman Seekamp

WM Huber Cabinet Works

Bradish Associates

Intercontinental Parts Inc

American Escrow & Closing Company

Michuda Construction


Engis Corp.

Lakeside Bank

Alpha Phi International Frat

H-O-H Water Technology

Turbojet Partners

Orren Pickell Building Group

Rogan Corp.

Pekron Consulting

Parkside Pediatrics

Fluid Power Engineering

Able Die Casting

DLA Architects, Ltd.

Nels J Johnson Tree Experts

Speedy Metals LLC

The Nurse Source

Ashland Millwork

Leave it to us Events

Impact Advisors LLC


Microlink Devices

IL & P Enterprises

The Structural Shop

North American Sales Associates

Simon & Simon

Brinshore Development LLC

Carefree Comfort Inc

Gold Coast Motors Cars DBA Perillo BMW Inc

Jorson & Carlson Co.

International Housewares Association

Instrument Associates

Raths, Raths, & Johnson

Degiulio Kitchen Design

Traffic Control & Protection, Inc.

Joseph M. Wiedemann & Sons

SMG Security Systems

Prairie Capital Holdings, Inc.

Marquette Partners

Friedman & Huey Associates

Diversified Financial Management Corp.

Arbor Investment Management, LLC

Dgiovine, Hnilo, Jordan, & Johnson

Kamm Insurance Group

Rand-tec Insurance Agency

Glenstar Asset Management, LLC

MSG Marketing

Perlmutter Investment Company

J & J Motor Service

Reliable Building Systems

Leonard M. Kaplan D.D.S.

Rheumatology Specialists

John C. Koechley, DDS

Thomas K. Stewart and Cheryl A. Stewart DDS

First Delta Group

Pain Care Consultants

Baluchi Medical Group

Candy Mae Candy Company

Advantage Coaching and Training

T.J. Properties

Associated Pathology Consultants

Pientka Plumbing Contractors

Rheumatology Specialists

Rick Levin & Associates

Ampere Electric Services

Nelson J Lehrer, MD

Neurosurgical Professionals

Alley Emergency Care Management, Ltd.

Chams Women’s Health Care

Kloss Distributing Company

Midwest Vacuum, Inc.

Kidney & Hypertension Consultants

Edmund D Tobias DDS

RTM & Associates

Deborah L Beaty DDS

North Suburban Periodontics

Lake County Pediatrics

Lake Anesthesia Associates

John Woods & Associates, Inc

Oral Facial and Implant Specialists

Illinois Orthopaedic & Hand Center

Ampere Electric Services

B & L Automotive Repairs

Lanette Disera DDS

Richmond Electric Co., Inc.

Pacific Coast Marketing

University Anesthesiologists

Lake Book Manufacturing

March Manufacturing

Metal Parts & Equipment

West Central Anesthesiology Group

University Pathologists

Elmhurst Emergency Medical Services

Dupage Valley Anesthesiologists

Fox Valley Orthopaedic Associates

Talcott Internal Medicine

Anesthesiologists, Ltd

Suburban Radiologists

Physician Anesthesia Associates

DS & P Insurance Services

Lakeside Equipment Corporation

Vogue Tyre & Rubber Co

Elmhurst Radiologists

Metro Infectious Disease Consultants

Associated Opthamologists

Vonberg Valve

Hedges Clinic

Bachman Enterprises


Fertility Centers of Illinois

Midwest Neoped Associates, Ltd

Dental Health of Wheaton

Elmhurst Anesthesiologists

IPC International Inc

Florida Plastics Intl Inc

Orthopaedic Associates of Chicago, Ltd./DBA  Northwestern Center for

The Mazzetta Company

Halls Complete Rental Service

National Association of Boards of Pharmacy

Elmhurst Medical Associates

Orthopedic & Spine Surgery Associates, Ltd.

Rheumatology Associates

WM. F. Meyer Company

R Lance Robbins DDS

Associated Orthodontists, Ltd

Plibrico Company, LLC

Nadler Golf Car Sales

Fox Valley Family Physicians

Universal Chemical and Coatings

Consumers Direct

W B Olson, Inc.

Dupage Pathology Associates

Lakeside Nephrology, Ltd.

Hand Surgery Associates

Lagrange Women’s Clinic

Suburban Ear Nose & Throat Associates

Kane Anesthesia Associates

Affiliated Steam Equipment Company

Rent Com, Inc

Antarctic Mechanical Services, Inc.Fisher Container Corp

Property Loss Research Bureau

Bingamonn Precision Metal Spinning Corp.

Ad-Park Pediatric Associates

Vegetable Juices Inc.

Drs. Robin & Fretzin

Rosenbaum & Levine MD

University Opthamology Associates, Ltd.

Production Plus

Hochstadter Isaacson Cherny Dumanic & Assoc

South West Industries

Canning Inc.

Wickstrom Auto Group

Arthur J Greene Construction, Co, Inc.

Aurora Air Products

Illinois Retina Associates

Michlin Metals Inc.

Northwest General Surgeons

Associated Laboratory Physicians

West Suburban Neurological Associates

Neumann Co Contractors

Cardiovascular Surgeons

Northwestern Women’s Health Associates

Jay Berwanger

Phoenix Developers LLC

Laboratory & Pathology Diagnostics, LLC

Citation Box and Paper Co

North Arlington Pediatrics

Jon-Don Inc

Willie Washer

Kbkb, Ltd

Wilkens-Anderson Company

Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of U.S.A.


Manjeet Chawla, MD

Frank Burla & Sons Builders

Advanced Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery

Pediatric Specialists of the Northwest

Grayslake Animal Hospital

Avenue Metal Manufacturing Co

David Architectural Metals

Digital Design Corporation

A-L Equipment Co, Inc.

Chorzempa and Ziah DDS

Northwest Womens Consultants

Narain D. Sawlani

Bushnell Inc

Arthur Weiler Inc

Soudan Metals Company

Metropolitan Advanced Radiological Services, Ltd.

Skaja Terrace Funeral Home

West Suburban Family Practice Associates

Evaskus & Herzog

Converting Technology

Leonards Unit Step Company

Sanford L Barr DDS

John Sakash Co., Inc.

Gaby Iron & Metal Co Inc.

Steven J Moravec, DDS

Schaumburg Family Physicians

Suburban Plastic Surgery

Nancy Chao Lichon MD

Em Enterprises

Numark Credit Union

morsen Construction

John M. Damas, DDS

Colonial Dental toup

Janco Supply

Illinois Fibre Specialty Co

Drs Bell, Stromberg, Harris, Nagle, Wiedrich

Midwest Cardiac Consultants

Presence Marketing

Uptown Animal Hospital

Associated Urological

Uptown Animal Hospital

Plum on  Dental Associates

Northwest Dermatology

William E. Woods, MD

Skach Manufacturing Company

Twinplex Manufacturing Co

BK Controls

Northwest Pulmonary Associates

Midwest Fence Corporation

Crawford Material Co

Teamwork Marketing Corp

Adams Machinery Company

Drs. Akers, Stohle, & Borden

Lydon & Associates

Northwest Suburban Medical Associates

Midland Orthopedic Associates

Digi-Trax Corp

Ortigara’s Musicville

House of Cans

Suburban Eye Consultants

Voco Tool & Manufacturing

Kevin Odonoghue MD & Marianne N Odonoghue MD

Associated Radiologists of Joliet

Dundee Animal Hospital

CL Greenslade Sales

Midwest Surgery

Surgery Group

Northwest Eye Clinic Ltd

Randy R Zimmerman MD

Tennenbaum & Anstadt, Ltd. D/B/A Gottlieb Eye Center


Wellington Radiology Group

Dante Gabriel MD

David P Potts, DDS

Solomon Management Group

American Demolition Corp.

Anesthesia Consultants of Morris LLC

Loyola Paper Co.

Eye Specialists of Illinois

Reed Rigging

Nazareth Academy

Rubinos & Mesia Engineers

G & M Distributors

Medical Center Dental Associates, Ltd.

McKernin Exhibits

Phillip L. Cacioppo, MD

Chicago Pawners & Jewelers

Michael Kowalik DDS

Continental Air Transport Co.

Crawford Steel

Kwasigroch Electric

Physicians Laser and Dermatology Institute of Chicago, LLC

Midwest Cardiac Center

Tfaz Group

XL Screw Corporation

Thomas G. Bleck DDS and Eman J. Alsahlani DMD Ltd.

Superior Super Auto Wash, Inc.

Novas, Dohr, & Coll Ob/Gyn Assoc

Emergency Medicine Risk Management/DBA The Sullivan Group

Engineering Enterprises

Women’s Center for Obstetrics Gynecology & Midwifery

G.E. Mathis Company

DC Vast Inc

PMAutomotive Inc.

Mark A Greenberger M.D.

Patio Food Products

Lake Shore Obstetrics & Gynecology LLC

Oak Mill Medical Associates

North Suburban Periodontics Ltd.

Suburban Pediatrics

Fox Valley Ear Nose & Throat Associates

Borter Heating & Air Conditioning Co.

Compact Industries, Inc.

Mid-States Recycling

Aldon Co Inc.

Thomas J Streitz DDS

American Association of Neurosurgeons

R.L. Perlow Corporation

Hinsdale Anesthesia Assoc Ltd

Suburban Plastic Surgery

The Womens Group of Northwestern

Prime Steel Corporation

Duffy & Kwiatt Dental Associates

Oak Park Allergists

Kloberdanz  Oral Surgery and Dental Implants

Retina Services of Illinois LLC

New York Blower Co.

Northern Products Co.

Zirlin Interiors

Aquion, Inc.

Bellman Melcor LLC

Pioneer Wholesale Meat

Chicago Tag & Label Inc.

Lamp Inc.

Lawrence’s Fisheries, Inc.

Paragon Automation

Klein & Slotten Medical Associates, Inc,

Northwest Radiology Associates

Orchard Group

Syr-Tech Perforating, Inc.

Presssence Pressure Sensitive Papers, Inc.

University Associates in Dentistry, Ltd.

Medical Center Anesthesia

Westmoreland Obstetric & Gynecological Associates

Lake Country Surgeons

Meyer Partners LLC

Kayhan International Limited

Lerman Sweeney & Company LLP

Ward Contracting & Building Restoration

Illinois Orthopedic & Hand Center

Technology Services Group

Lake County Head & Neck Specialists Ltd.

Kirschhoffer Truck Service

University Eye Specialists

Maximum Independent Brokerage LLC

Westbrook Internal Medicine

Gavani and Kanuri MD

Randallwood Radiology

Robin B Blakkolb DDS

Internal Medicine Associates, LLC

Orchard Medical Center

Children’s Health Care, Ltd.

Association for Women’s Health Care

Herlihy Mid-Continent Company

Associated Property Counselors

M & R Electronic Systems Inc.

Pinnacle Advertising & Marketing Group

Genesis Clinical Services

Gerald Mackey D.D.S.

New Age Periodontics/Glen Periodontics

Keith P. Rojek, D.D.S.

Mark A Wojciechowski DDS

Fischl Dental Associates

Engineered Packaging Solutions

Tyler Medical Services

Tower Dental Associates

Ofelia B Ayuste, MD

Chicago Prostate Center

Chicago Anesthesia Associates

Blake Horio MD

Behles Family Dental Care LLC

Barbato & Zbiegien, M.D., S.C.

Anthony R Markiewicz DDS

Allied Anesthesia Associates

Allergy & Asthma Consultants

Excel Occupational Health Clinic

Evaskus & Herzog

Fairview Dental Group

Family Practice Specialist

Mark Allan Berk MD

David R Musich, DDS & Matthew J Busch, DDS

Dean Lodding Smiles

Dentistry for Kids

Denise M Lindley & Associates

Jeffrey M Grimley DDS

Jeffrey M Goldberg Law Offices

Deeke Animal Hospital

James D Rohan DDS

Millennium Endodontics

John Querin Cook MD

John J Perna DDS

Opthamology Partners

Paul L Engen DDS

Paul J Willis DDS & Elliot Abt DDS

Orthopedic Associates of Riverside

Lake Shore Obstretics & Gynecology LLC

Stephens Dentistry

Sharon L. Horton MD

Schweitzer Family Dental

Scheer Surgical

Schaumburg Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery

Rubin Veterinary Services

Ravenswood Dental Group

Triad Radiology & Imaging

Comprehensive Pain Care

Drs. McCullom

ABC Dentistry

Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago

Aesthetic & Clinical Dermatology Associates of Hinsdale

Robert C. Malenius D.D.S.

Moria C Ariano MD

Animal Care Clinic Fox Valley

Greg E Sharon MD DBA Allergy & Asthma Center

Asthma & Allergy Center

Plainfield Pediatric Dentistry Ltd.

Pinski Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery

Progressive Medical Center

Richard N Gershenzon DDs & Assoc

Midwest Respiratory

Midwest Minimally Invasive Spine Specialists

Michigan Avenue Internists LLC

Michael E Bond DDS


Mechanical Engineering Products Co.

Meadows Dental Group

Mark J Landau DDS

Pulmonary Consultants

Rita J Tamilu-Shea DDS

Illinois Implant Dentistry

Harold J Krinsky DDS

Harold Jaimes MD

Wheaton Pediatrics

Mary Ha DDS

KSA Lighting LLC

Just Rite Acoustics Inc.

John J Pempek Inc.

Heynssens & Grassman Inc.

Healthcare-ID Inc.

Harrison Street Real Estate

Graham Carreras Holdings LLC

Framarx Corp.


Ad/Solutions Group Inc.

Air Source Products

Americ (The Elks Grand Lodge)

American Overseas Transport

Burns Entertainment & Sports Market

CCM Inc.

Apex Dental Materials

Applied Finance Group

Winters Family Practice

Video Refurbishing Services

Vincor Ltd.

Tsurumi America

Top Hits Inc.

Tool King Inc.

Tidal Construction Services

Thorndale Construction Services

Thermosoft International Corporation

The Women’s Practice LLC

The Stationary Studio LLC

The Sign Place Inc.

The Rubicon Group Limited

Worldbridge Partners Chicago

The Engineering Studio Inc.

Telecom Management Inc.

Tele-Fonika Cable Americas Corp

Synergistic Enterprises Inc.

Travis Inc.

Tovar Snow Professionals Inc.

Sky Road LLC

Skokie Valley Air Control

Skokie Meadows Nursing Centers

Single Path LLC

Simplomatic Manufacturing

SSC Installations

Rock Island Capital LLC

RKA Applied Solutions, Inc.

Redi-Strip Co.

Rail Exchange

Radco Industries, Inc.

Practical Environmental Consultants, Inc.

Porter Lee Corp

Pivot Design

Onshore Networks of Illinois, LLC

Metal Parts & Equipment Co.

Maywood Glass & Mirror

Maller Peterson

Malcolm S Gerald & Associates, Inc.

Machine Solution Providers, Inc.

Quality Restorations

Lindbald Construction Co. of Joliet

Lionheart Critical Power Specialists

Lincoln Way Community Bank

Leeds Auto Sales

Lemko Corporation

Lapmaster International

Kraff Eye Institute

Kleen Air Service Corporation

King Koil Licensing Co Inc.

JLO Metal Products

International Facilities Group

Inrule Technology

Industrial Water Treatment Solutions

Jelmar LLC

Friedrich-Jones Funeral Home

Extent Systems

Elite Wireworks Corp DBA Active Wireworks

Elite Staffing Inc.

Elgin Beverage Co

Elara Energy Services

Designation Inc.

Doering Landscape Co.

Diehl Controls North America

Dere Tire & Auto Inc.

Dan Wolf Motors of Naperville

Cullen-Ehrens Inc DBA CEI Transport

Contemporary Marketing Inc

Consolidated Buying Co LLC

Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute

Arbon Steel and Service Co

Barton Management

Adams Plastics LP

Abelei Inc

A & N Mortgage Services

National Seed

1st Equity Bank

Scurto Cement

Integrated Project Management Co Inc.

Perfection Spring & Stamping

Hayes Mechanical LLC

Telcom Innovations Group LLC

Orland Toyota

Karl Lambrecht Corp.

American Association of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons

ISK Industries

Arpac LP

Institute of Food Technologists

Bar Code Graphics Inc.

First Security & Communications Sales Inc.

Keeley Construction

Edwin Hancock Engineering

Europa Eyewear Corporation

Applications Software Technology

Comet Die & Engraving Co.

Fitz Chem

Rezek, Henry, Meisenheimer, & Gende,

Maron Electric

Fort Dearborn Partners

Hall Technologies

Imperial Crane Services

Mills-Winfield Engineering Sales Inc.

Golan’s Moving & Storage Inc.

The Abrix Group


Creative Die Mold Corp.

Craftsman Tool & Mold Co.

High Ridge Partners (only has information through 2015)

Stephens Plumbing & Heating Inc.

Plitek LLC

Interpro Translation Solutions

Advanced Data Technologies Inc.

Gallagher Corporation

Nagel Trucking & Materials Inc (Axle Equipment)

Cambium Networks

Palos Sports

Welding Industrial Supply

Oak Lawn Toyota

Motivation Excellence

Admiral Heating & Ventilating, Inc.

Great Lakes Medicaid

Global Material Technologies

BST Pro Mark Inc

C Cretors

International Sanitary Supply Assoc Inc.

RPS Engineering

Elenco Electronics

Reebie Storage & Moving Co. Inc.

Chicago Backflow

WM W Meyer & Sons Inc


American Association of Insurance Services

Action Electric Sales

Digital Check Corp.

Hitzeman Funeral Home

Wickland-Zulawski & Associates

Mid-west Neon Supply Co

The Rubicon Group Limited

The Quarasan Group

Mowery & Schoenfeld LLC

Rico Industries

Mackay & Co.

Knight Partners LLC

Salco Products Inc.

The Cary Co

Thoma Bravo

Antarctic Mechanical Services

The Toms-Price Co

Belman Melcor LLC

Progressive Components International Corp.

ACC Industries

Benetech Inc.

Qualitas Manufacturing, Inc.

Urban Innovations

Focal Point LLC

Keystone Aniline Corp.

Automatic Feeder Co Inc.

Krenzien Krenzien & Associates

The Claro Group LLC

Platt Luggage

Metalloy Co

The Stoelting Co

Robert J. Sheehy & Sons Funeral Home

Chief Enterprises

Executive Construction

Northern Builders

Eckenhoff Saunders Architects

Vorne Industries

North American Signal Co.

Tukaiz LLC

Delta Engineering Plan


Ultratech Inc.

Ron Tirapelli Ford Inc.

Hartz Construction

La-Co Industries

Continental Electrical Construction

The Allant Group

La Marche Mfg. Co.

Halsey Drug Co., Inc. (now Acura Pharmaceuticals)

Sign Works Inc

Etymotic Research Inc

United Engravers

Channer Corp

B & K Equipment Co, Inc.

Connelly Electric Co

Inland Fastener

STR Partners

Joliet Avionics

Apollo Colors

Superior Exhibits & Design Inc

Evans Food Products Co

Evenhouse & Co PC

TT Technologies Inc

JST Corp

Jennings Realty

Weldstar Company

Thelen Sand & Gravel Inc.

Revere Electric Supply

Meccon Industries

Optimus Inc.

Association for Women’s Health Care Ltd.

Mallof Abruzino & Nash Marketing Inc

Exequity LLP

Olsson Roofing

G & O Thermal Supply Co.

Aztech Engineering

Serac, Inc.

Waterstone Management Group

Harbour Contractors, Inc.

The Sidwell Co.

Bowman Barrett & Associates, Inc.

Topel Forman LLC

Iga, Inc.

Mill Specialties Inc

The Pate Co

Food & Paper Supply Co

Schiele Graphics

Kaluzny Bros Inc.

Simpson Technologies Corp.

Star Inc.

Manhard Consulting, Ltd.

FGM Architects Inc

Lipman Hearne Inc

Holabird & Root

Wineberg Solheim Howell & Shain PC

Engis Corp

Casey Products Inc

Comprehensive Marketing, Inc.

Single Source Inc.

Hawk Electronics

J/B Industries

Crane Construction Co Inc

Homewood Disposal Service

Storck USA LP

International Airport Centers LLC

Pasquesi Inc

US Trailer Parts & Supply Inc

Hoffman Transportation

Cougle Commission Co

Voss Belting & Speciality Co., Inc.

Treasury Strategies, Inc.

Christian Communications of Chicagoland

Crestline Denali Capital, LP/Now Resource One

Tallman Equipment Co Inc

Standard Equipment Co

Heritage Wine Cellars Ltd

Chicago Switchboard Co

Cunningham Meyer and Vedrine PC

Lechler Inc & Subsidiaries

National Van Lines

Gregga Jordan Smieszny Inc

Strube Celery & Vegetable Co


Stone Design

Ironwood Industries

Zacks Investment Research

Kempler Industries

Institute of Real Estate Management

Carolina Wholesale Office Machine Co Inc (Also known as Arlington Industries)

Outlook Marketing Services

Garveys Office Products Inc

TA Cummings Jr Co Inc

Jamerson & Bauwens Electrical Contractors Inc

Lake Capital Management LLC

Quinlan & Fabish Music Co


Resource Management Ent Inc

Illinois Wholesale Cash Register

Belvedere Trading LLC

St. Charles Trading

Gemco Roofing and Bldg Supply

II in One Contractors

Mega Circuit


Active Glass Co Inc

Donald Gaddis Co Inc

Forming Concepts

First Environmental Laboratories

Ray Sagan & Sons Inc

Harris Steel

Mcgrath-Colosimo Ltd

K & M Printing Co Inc

Custom Data Processing

Adelphi Enterprises Limited Partnership DBA Bredemann Lexus

First Family, Inc. DBA Bredemann Chevrolet, Inc.

P-K Tool & Manufacturing Co


Welch Bros

Computer Projects of IL

Computer Aided Technology, Inc

Berglund Construction

New Metal Crafts

ME Fields

CTM, Ltd.

Leasing Associates of Barrington

National Roofing Contractors Assoc

Corporate Concepts

Arlington Industries

BE Atlas

Fujikawa Johnson Gobel Architects

Edon Construction

Camelot Paper

Quad Plus, LLC

Raco Industrial Corp

Chicago Scenic Studios


Harting, Inc.

Hart Travers & Associates, Inc


Capsonic Group LLC

Royal Management Corp.

Spectra-Tech, Inc.

Ray Sagan & Sons

Haapanen Bros.

AJ Antunes

Bullock Logan & Associates


GDHWD & Eberle, Inc.

The Visual Pak Companies

Interior Alterations

Directions, Inc.

Central Sod Farms

Poli-film America

Gamma Technologies

Komar Screw

Genesis Group

Calumet Carton

Chicago Cutting Die Co

Suburban Door Check & Lock Service Inc

Discount Media Products, LLC

Neuco Inc

Fox Valley Fire & Safety Co, Inc.

Tranzact Technologies

Maddock Douglas

Tyler Lane Construction

Porter Supply Co Inc

Omnibus Productions

Morton Grove Supply

Mah Machine

DM Merchandising

James J Benes & Associates, Inc.

Reliance Orthodontic Products, Inc.

Conway Import Co. Inc.

Essex Electro Engineers

Gallagher Asphalt Corp.

Metalstamp, Inc.

Brandenburg Industrial Service

Henricksen & Co., Inc.

Why Most 401(k) Plans Should be Abolished

401(k) plans are seen as a competitive benefit to employees that supposedly enhances the compensation package, but the truth is often just the opposite.  As I have explained before, every dollar that employers contribute in the form of matching or profit sharing contributions could have otherwise been paid out as a bonus.  While the tax deferral brought about by forced savings might seem like a good idea, the unnecessarily high fees that most participants incur often outweigh the advantage of the tax deferral.  Furthermore, offering a retirement plan has a litany of compliance requirements, which take time and resources (both financial and non-financial) away from running the business.

But perhaps the most compelling reason has to do with inadequate employer and employee participation (this is the case for most plans I see), as the main advantage of company sponsored plans is the ability to defer significantly more than what could otherwise have been contributed to an IRA, which currently has annual limits of $5,500 plus a $1,000 catch-up contribution for those over 50.  If an employee is only contributing $2,000 annually and the employer puts in another $500, for example, that $2,500 doesn’t even come close to the IRA limit, yet in many cases, the employee could have purchased the same funds available in the company sponsored plan at a lower price because IRAs don’t have record keeping, administration, or custodial fees (low cost index funds are a prime example).  In addition, financial advisors usually get paid from participants’ accounts regardless of whether or not the participant uses the advisors’ services, whereas the only way for an advisor to get paid from an IRA is to come to an agreement with that individual.  If employers are worried that their employees may not make the effort to contribute to an IRA, they can still hire a financial advisor to educate their employees.  In most cases, this solution makes far more sense, but employers rarely take the time to think about why they even have a plan, usually because they are too busy running their business, and the advisors, administrators, and record keepers are too busy extracting money from the participants’ accounts to tell their clients that they aren’t adding enough value to justify keeping the plan.

Granted, in some instances, highly compensated employees will not be able to receive a deduction (or only a partial deduction) for traditional IRA contributions and may not be able to contribute to a Roth IRA due to their income, but they can still save as much as they want in a taxable account.  If they invest in low cost, tax efficient, passively managed funds as they should, then giving up the tax deferral will be far less costly than investing in less tax efficient investments such as actively managed funds.

Some employers may object to terminating the plan because of outstanding loans, but this claim is erroneous due to the fact that employees can simply roll over the outstanding balance into an IRA.  As it states on the IRS website:

“Plan sponsors may require an employee to repay the full outstanding balance of a loan if he or she terminates employment or if the plan is terminated. If the employee is unable to repay the loan, then the employer will treat it as a distribution and report it to the IRS on Form 1099-R. The employee can avoid the immediate income tax consequences by rolling over all or part of the loan’s outstanding balance to an IRA or eligible retirement plan by the due date (including extensions) for filing the Federal income tax return for the year in which the loan is treated as a distribution. This rollover is reported on Form 5498.”



Thoughts on Constructing a Fund Line-up and Why I Don’t Recommend Actively Managed Funds

While this headline seems to suggest where I fall on the Active vs. Passive Debate, I actually I don’t take a side and find the debate woefully incomplete when it comes to thoroughly discussing how to properly construct a fund line-up for group retirement plans.  A more accurate title should be “The Simplicity vs. Complexity Debate” because this dichotomy truly gets at the heart of the question on how employers should set up retirement plans that benefit plan participants rather than solely the service providers.

Let’s start with the ideal number of investment options.  Chris Carosa, author, journalist, investment adviser, and chief contributing editor of Fiduciary News wrote a fantastic three part series to help answer this question.  I can summarize as follows:

  1.  Too many choices confuses participants, causing them to split their dollars evenly among several funds, creating a portfolio similar to a low cost index fund, yet much more expensive.
  2.  Too many choices adversely affects participation rates and leads to sub-optimal decisions.
  3.  Retirement plans ideally should have no more than 10 investment options.
  4.  Limited choices gives participants greater satisfaction.

I would also add that I typically see at least 15 investment options in plans I review, and often more.  And in each case, I have seen that most of these investments have a high degree of correlation, which is defined as:

“a statistic that measures the degree to which two securities move in relation to each other.”

Consequently, because participants tend to spread their money out throughout different funds which are often actively managed, likely because they believe that doing so creates greater diversification, they have a false sense of security.  On the contrary, they could actually achieve an extremely similar portfolio with greater diversification and fewer funds (not to mention far lower costs!), as exemplified by the Schwab Total Stock Market Index Fund (SWTSX) which holds 2,423 securities and costs 0.03% and the Schwab International Market Index Fund (SWISX) which holds 948 securities and costs 0.06%.  If participants knew they could spread their money out throughout over 3,000 companies while incurring minimal costs with only two funds, they would likely make different decisions.

From an employer standpoint, simplicity makes sense from a compliance perspective because it’s easier to construct an investment policy statement (a written description of a plan’s investment-related decision-making process) that employers can consistently follow.  I have explained more in a previous post.

Financial advisors thrive on adding additional and unnecessary complexity as well as keeping employers in the dark about simpler, lower cost options because most if not all of their value proposition hinges upon selecting and monitoring the funds that will continue to outperform the market.  Granted, as Chris Carosa has also pointed out,

There you have it. In short, this one paper (Broker Incentives and Mutual Fund Market Segmentation), perhaps not as well read as it should be, almost accidentally seals the deal for the fiduciary standard, exposes the conflict-of-interest created by 12b-1 fees and, dare we say, touches the forbidden third rail of all investment research: it shows – within the direct-sold fund channel – index funds have no inherent advantage over actively managed funds (and suggests past studies may have reached opposite conclusion by over-weighing the impact of broker-sold funds); thus, adding another nail to the coffin in the all-too-often repeated misconception that passive consistently outperforms active.

So yes, lower costs for the funds don’t matter if you are comparing direct sold funds to index funds, but because this same paper “concludes direct-sold mutual funds (including institutional funds) outperform broker-sold mutual funds by 1%”, it is clear that fund costs DO matter if they are sold their brokers.  And yet, the registered investment advisors who recommend a litany of actively managed funds will charge more for the additional work of selecting and monitoring a more complex line-up which has no  inherent advantage over comparable index funds.

Carosa willingly admits, however, in his book “Hey! What’s My Number” that the primary questions that influence an investor’s wealth include:  when to start saving, how much to save, and when to retire – all of which a good behavioral coach can help effectively answer throughout an investor’s lifetime.

He also cites a study from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College which states:

“Assuming a CRRA (coefficient of relative risk aversion) of 5, the amount required to compensate a household for a retaining a typical portfolio (where 36 percent of assets are invested in equities) rather than switching to an optimal portfolio allocation (where 51 percent of assets are invested in equities), is $5,600, or approximately the additional amount the household would earn if it delayed retirement by one month.  In contrast, when the comparison is between a typical portfolio and an all-stock portfolio, the household is better off by approximately $3,600, or under one month’s salary.  That is, an all-stock portfolio is even more sub-optimal than the typical conservative portfolio.  The key message, however, is that the dollar amounts are small, suggesting that asset allocation is relatively unimportant for the typical risk-averse household.  Even if the household is less risk-averse (CRRA equals 2), the story is similar.  In this case, as shown in Table 10, the optimal portfolio is all in stocks.  The cost of retaining a typical portfolio (57 percent in equities), rather than switching to an optimal portfolio (100 percent in equities), is $25,700, or just over four months’ salary.  As the optimal portfolio is 100 percent in equities, the cost of retaining a typical portfolio relative to an all-stock portfolio is also $25,700.  In short, regardless of the degree of risk aversion, asset allocation is relatively unimportant for the typical household.”

My Value Proposition pages of my website providers a fuller account, but in summary, retirement plans simply need to have a few low cost index funds and no more than 10 funds in total.  Any plan more complicated than what I have stated aims to benefit the service providers at the expense of plan participants.





It’s Easier to Fool People Than to Convince Them They Have Been Fooled

Some attribute this quote to Mark Twain, although no proof exists.  Whoever the source, this person possessed great insight into the human condition.  The retirement plan industry serves as an ideal example.  To explain, I have had thousands of conversations with business owners, chief financial officers, controllers, and human resources directors who oversee their organization’s retirement plans.  In almost all cases, when I raise concerns about the fact that participant service fees have continued to increase without these participants receiving any additional services in return and are completely divorced from the services provided, the responses generally go like this:

  1.  We have reviewed everything and we’re fine.
  2.  We have reviewed everything and we’re in line with everyone else.
  3.  Our advisor takes care of all that.

In spite of me pointing out that I can see years worth of exorbitant service fees shown on their publicly available tax forms, these plan sponsors don’t seem to care.  Even when I make it clear that I am not looking to sell my services to them, but rather simply explain to them how they can put a stop to these unfair service and fee arrangements, they reply that they are not interested in my services.

Here are some observations about human behavior I can now make as a result of these conversations.  People:

  1.  Generally do not want to admit they don’t know about information vital to fulfilling their job responsibilities.
  2. Assume that if they never heard this information, it must not be true.  Otherwise, they would have already known about it.
  3.  Would rather see plan participants lose enormous amounts of money (including their own!) and ignore their fiduciary duties than admit to their co-workers they don’t know something and/or do any extra work.
  4.  Value longstanding relationships more than money and are less likely to scrutinize the value of relationships the longer they have been in place and the closer they are (i.e. friends and family members).

The recent fee disclosure rules and fiduciary standard purport to help protect the interests of plan participants.  But as usual, bureaucrats have no understanding of the industry they are controlling regulating and give little thought to the consequences of these mandatory solutions.  Plan sponsors already view the retirement plan as a back burner item because it has no effect on revenue, so they are already looking for any excuse to spend as little time as possible monitoring the retirement plan.  Now that brokers will be considered fiduciaries who have a legal obligation to “act in the best interests of the client”, plan sponsors will be even less likely to scrutinize their offering than before.

Our compulsory public school system (private schools aren’t much different in their philosophy) stresses rigid adherence to centrally imposed guidelines and discourages us from delving deeper into a subject beyond what it requires.  Our system has long taught use to move on to the next subject once we have displayed minimum competency as defined by the state.  These standards don’t require delving deeply into a subject or asking any substantive questions that demonstrate an ability and desire to apply these questions to every day life.  So after years of inculcating this mindset into children, what happens to us as adults?  The retirement plan industry represents a frightening example in which we now have people with little or no financial skills who the state has taught not to ask probing questions overseeing 6.8 trillion of people’s money.  We don’t need more mandates or committees to solve this problem that this kind of thinking has helped to promote.