Wild Wild West.....of 403b's
Despite all of the talk about 401K plan fees over the last decade, their cousins, the 403b, still lack clarity in terms of their investments, fee structures, and conflicts of interest. Recent high profile court cases against large education institutions have shined an uncomfortable spotlight on these plans. Although the nations 403b plans have over 1.3 trillion in assets, "little is known about these plans' investment option and fee structures - features that can effect how much participants' retirement savings will grow," says Tranchau "Kris" T. Nguyen, GAO Director of education, workforce and income security.
TIAA-Cref Individual & Institutional Services agreed to pay $97 million last year to settle regulatory cases alleging it failed to disclose conflicts of interest in its rollover recommendations. Unfortunately there is no comprehensive data about 403b plans and fees, especially for non-ERISA plans that don't file annual reports with the Labor Department. While these recent court cases have lit a fire under large 403b sponsors to get their plans in order, smaller non-ERISA 403b plans are still largely in the dark when it comes to best practices that have been common place in the ERISA 403B and 401K world for a long time.