Plan Sponsors Continue to Put their Personal Relationships Ahead of their Fiduciary Duties

Margaret Thatcher once said that “The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”  Our retirement plan system isn’t quite socialism, but it does allow plan sponsors to pay their friends and relatives primarily with participants’ money.  When I ask these plan sponsors (and I’ve asked hundreds of them) if they are willing to cut their “close friend or relative” a check instead paying them with other people’s money, they always say “No.”  It’s funny how suddenly these relationships turn out not to be so close when the question of plan sponsors paying with their own money arises.  It’s also funny how there is a direct correlation between the amount of money an “advisor” (often a broker who cannot even legally provide advice or act as a fiduciary despite the fact that brokers refer to themselves as advisors) makes and how close the relationship is – meaning the closer the relationship, the less scrutinizing plan sponsors are and the more they allow the “advisors” to take from participants’ accounts.  So one might ask:  “What can be done about this?”  The answer is nothing if you view solving problems through the lens of central planning as this means of oversight would make it impossible to effectively monitor the extent to which personal relationships influence plan sponsor decisions on a consistent basis.   However, as retirement plan participants, we can ask questions and raise awareness to put a stop to these conflicts of interest that are costing us so much money.

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