Magazine article Workforce Management

401(k) HEARINGS MAY SET TONE FOR DEMS' OVERSIGHT

Magazine article Workforce Management

401(k) HEARINGS MAY SET TONE FOR DEMS' OVERSIGHT

Article excerpt

REGULATION

With their takeover of Congress, Democrats have vowed to scrutinize the Bush administration much more carefully than they claim that Republicans did when they were in charge.

Congressional review won't just apply to government agencies. It also will hit the private sector, and the retirement finance industry will be one of the first under the microscope, according to James Delaplane, a partner at Washington law firm Davis & Harman.

Sometime in March, the House Education and Labor Committee likely will launch hearings on 401(k) fees. The impetus is a November report by the Government Accountability Office that called for greater transparency in fees and demonstrated how small cost increases can dramatically curb fund returns.

The report was requested by Rep. George Miller, D-California and chairman of the committee, who worries that hidden fees are eroding the savings of many Americans. Miller's stewardship of the labor panel will be characterized by a focus on what he says are the economic hardships facing the middle class even in the midst of high corporate profits.

For 401 (k) plan sponsors, this could translate into some uncomfortable grilling on Capitol Hill.

"They're going to be a rough set of hearings," Delaplane told an audience this month at the Pensions & Investments East Coast Defined Contribution Conference in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. "Hold on to your hats."

Miller has indicated that he will be a tenacious watchdog. "The core part of this committee is effective oversight," he says.

The California lawmaker's reach will extend beyond the Bush administration. …

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