Council Makes Recommendations for Retirement Account Consolidation

The ERISA Advisory Council recognized in a report that there are several potential solutions to promote plan-to-plan transfers and retirement account consolidation.

By Rebecca Moore | January 25, 2017
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The 2016 ERISA Advisory Council followed up on issues identified and recommended for further study by the 2014 and 2015 Council’s work on facilitating lifetime plan participation related to plan-to-plan transfers and account consolidations.

In a report, the Council made several recommendations to the Department of Labor (DOL). It recommended that the DOL issue a Request for Information (RFI) to explore how the Department can encourage and support the adoption of secure electronic data standards for the development of a process, system, platform and/or clearinghouse to facilitate acceptance and expedite processing of eligible rollovers into retirement plans covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). 

This recommendation was based on testimony the Council heard about the confusion and frustration many plan participants experience when attempting to transfer retirement plan assets from a former employer’s plan to a new employer’s plan. In addition, the ability to complete a plan-to-plan transfer is often hindered by a mismatch between the features of the former plan and the new plan, especially when outstanding loans are involved.

The Council also heard testimony from multiple witnesses about the concept of “auto-portability.” Witnesses provided testimony regarding the magnitude and impact of forced cash outs of small accounts (less than $1,000) and forced rollovers into safe harbor IRAs (for accounts greater than $1,000 but less than $5,000) as provided for in the Pension Protection Act (PPA). Tom Johnson of Retirement Clearinghouse (RCH) said RCH would prefer to see safe-harbor IRAs become a “recycling business,” with funds making their way back into qualified plans. RCH’s model estimates that a 50% reduction in forced cash outs would lead to an additional $1.3 trillion in retirement savings in qualified plans after 10 years.

Other witnesses spoke to the concept of “middleware” as a solution that would reside in the middle of all the recordkeeping systems to facilitate, through technology, the process of plan-to-plan transfers.

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