While President Obama prepares to unveil his proposed changes to financial industry regulation, House members are focusing on two bills that will enforce federal protection for workers participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans.
The Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee of the House Education and Labor Committee will vote Wednesday on both the 401(k) Fair Disclosure for Retirement Security Act and the Conflicted Investment Advice Prohibition Act of 2009.
The 401(k) legislation, if enacted, will require complete fee disclosure from providers in quarterly statements, along with full fee disclosure to employers. The ruling will also require providers explain financial relationships and whether potential conflicts of interest exist. Provisions also include full disclosure of investment risk and objective before enrollment, and the inclusion of at least one index fund in the 401(k) investment line-up.
The latter measure will decide whether to restore federal protections from conflicted investment advice on employer-sponsored retirement plans. The bill would ensure safeguards that advice be independent and free from conflicts of interest.
“Unfortunately, these protections were watered down with the approval of the Pension Protection Act of 2006 and former Bush administration Department of Labor midnight proposed regulations,” said a statement from the House subcommittee, discussing previously enacted measures on conflicted investment advice. “These actions opened the door for financial services companies to provide advice to employees where they had a direct or indirect financial interest.”
The bill, according to the subcommittee, aims at keeping investment advice on retirement planning based on the account holders’ needs, not “Wall Street’s pockets.”