2013’s Top 5 FiduciaryNews.com Stories
Happy New Year’s Eve! As we teeter on the cusp of the new year, what better time than now to reflect on the stories that moved the industry in 2013. Bear in mind, the articles that drove the news last year may very well provide a hint as to what will drive the news in 2014. We previous featured both the Honorable Mentions (“Most Widely Read FiduciaryNews.com Stories in 2013 – Honorable Mention,” FiduciaryNews.com, December 24, 2014), and the bottom half of the top ten (“Most Popular FiduciaryNews.com Stories in 2013 – #10 to #6,” FiduciaryNews.com, December 26, 2014). Here are the top five most widely read stories of last year:
#5 “Exclusive Interview with Fred Reish: 401k Plan Sponsors Who Fail to Properly Evaluate Fees ‘at Risk’,” (August 20, 2013) There’s no question Fred is the pre-eminent guru when it comes to ERISA law. Although there are several other more-than-worthy ERISA attorneys, a recent survey of plan service providers overwhelmingly chose Fred Reish as the industry “thought-leader.” Though measured in his approach, Reish pulls no punches in this interview and offers some blunt advice.
#4 “Is the Fiduciary Liability of Self-Directed Brokerage Options Too Great for 401k Plan Sponsors?” (June 11, 2013) This ended up being quite the controversial article, with both sides firmly trenched in. At odds are the industry push to increase flexibility (i.e., extract higher) fees (which is easier to do with self-directed option) vs. the DOL’s push to hold plan sponsors more fully responsible for understanding and disclosing fees. Caught in the middle is the whole question of free will and how much control an employee can have over their personal investments.
#3 “Exclusive Interview: Frontline Producer Explains Controversial 401k Documentary – The Good,” (April , 30, 2013) This four part series generated the most pageviews in the history of FiduciaryNews.com. Following PBS’s airing of the infamous Frontline show “The Retirement Gamble,” the industry exploded. In some cases, it was definitely a “lady doth protest too much” complaint, but most of the criticism was more than justified. Our editor, Chris Carosa, explains the origins of the story this way: “I was in New Haven for an annual board meeting and it was the evening the show aired. With almost all my time booked, I stared at the massive industry chatter on the internet that night asking myself, ‘How could the producer have missed so many obvious things?’ Then it struck me, ‘Why should I struggle to answer that question? Why not ask the producer directly?” As so, without any contact information save for the general PBS email, I sent off a missive. The next business day I got the go-ahead to set up the interview and the next business day after that I was on my cell phone parked somewhere in downtown Buffalo conducting the interview.” The rest, as they say, is history.
#2 “What is an Appropriate Fee that a 401k Plan Should Pay?” (August 6, 2013) If you’ve got an incredible feeling of déjà vu, don’t worry, it’s not you. We saw a similar article appearing in an earlier installment of this this (at #10), although in a more limited version pertaining only to fiduciary services. Clearly, everyone wants to know the answer to the question posed in the title of the article. Just as clear, though, is the subjectivity of the answer. Rather than one precise answer, there is really a range of appropriate answers. As the DOL likes to point out, it’s not just the fee, but the value of the services rendered.
#1 “5 Fiduciary Facts the DOL Wants Every 401k Plan Sponsor to Know,” (April 2, 2013) In the end, though, when it’s all said and done, when the dust has settled and when all things come into account (that’s enough cliché’s for now), 401k plan sponsors want to know only one thing. They want to know what they need to do to stay out of trouble. And, by staying out of trouble we mean doing what the DOL wants them to do. What better source for this answer, then, but the DOL itself. That’s what this article offers.
The year 2013 represented a fantastic year for FiduciaryNews.com and its readers. Readers benefited from our new feature of monthly exclusive interviews as well as articles written to stand the test of time (or at least until the DOL changes the rules again). If 2014 can offer only half of the excitement of 2013, we’d be more than satisfied.
Happy New Year to all our readers! May 2014 find your hearts filled with joy and your retirement portfolios filled with prosperity.