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Industry Groups Respond To DOL On 401(k) Fee Disclosures

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The Department of Labor should act to improve disclosure of key information to 401(k) participants by requiring employers to provide them with fee and other key investment option information only at enrollment, a group of trade groups representing plan sponsors and financial services providers are suggesting.

After that, said a comment letter representing the views of the 12 industry trade groups, participants should be notified annually where they can find or how they can request such information.

The recommendations were prepared in response to a DOL request for comment on how potential revisions to existing guidance governing fee disclosure to plan participants.

The 12 associations include the American Council of Life Insurers, the American Bankers Association, American Benefits Council, the Committee on Investment of Employee Benefit Assets, the ERISA Industry Committee, the Financial Services Roundtable, Investment Company Institute, National Association of Manufacturers, Profit Sharing/401(k) Council of America, Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, Society for Human Resource Management, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The comment letter urged the DOL “to avoid the temptation to overload participants with detailed and voluminous information that can impair sound decision-making.”

“Any new disclosure regime must recognize that plan sponsors and plan participants have markedly different disclosure needs,” the letter said.

Underlying all the recommendations is a shared and strongly-held commitment to ensuring that Americans who rely on 401(k) and similar participant-directed plans “receive clear, concise and meaningful information on the investments and key features of their plan, including the fees associated with participating” in defined contribution plans, the group said.

Among other recommendations by the industry groups are that:

–Participants need to know about fees and other costs associated with investing in the plan, but not in isolation.

–Fee information should appear alongside other key facts that participants rely upon to make sound investment decisions.

–These facts include each plan investment option’s historical performance, its relative risks, its investment objectives and the identity of its adviser or manager.

–Disclosure should facilitate comparison among investment options, although employers should retain flexibility as to the appropriate format for workers.