The House and the Senate are expected to meet soon to reconcile two respective pension bills that would allow advice in 401(k) plans. But even though many expect Congress to update the Employment Retirement Income Security Act because Americans' pension plans continue to be eliminated in favor of 401(k)s, members of Congress are sharply divided over the neutrality of that advice, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The House version, the Pension Protection Act, which Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) sponsored and which passed in December, would allow funds to give advice. The Senate version, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, would ban fund companies from offering advice but encourage plan sponsors to hire neutral third-party advisers to work with participants.
Proponents of the Senate version say it's unreasonable to expect fund companies to advise participants to invest in any other fund except their own. The Senate believes that by making it harder for investors to sue sponsors that offer third-party advice, more will be encouraged to offer this feature.
But Boehner, other representatives and a number of leading mutual fund companies believe banning advice in 401(k) plans isn't practical and that the market would shun fund companies that simply advise investors to select their own funds. Further, according to Boehner's spokesman, the bill would require fund companies offering advice to disclose any fees they would receive as a result of those recommendations.