When Enron and WorldCom imploded under the weight of accounting scandals in 2001, Congress responded with tough new rules designed to reassure investors that their money is safe in corporate America. But thousands of employees lost their retirement funds in those collapses too, and it's high time that Congress updated the rules that govern modern retirement plans so that workers can have similar peace of mind.
Just a generation ago most Americans relied on conventional pension plans for much of their retirement income, and they could usually assume that professional pension managers followed federal rules governing prudent diversification and risk.
But today 401(k)s and other risk-bearing accounts in which you manage your own money have surpassed pension plans as the single biggest source of retirement assets. Federal regulations have not kept up. ...
This doesn't mean that the government should mandate a worker's investment choices. But current regulations leave many Americans with little information about prudent diversification principles, and they let employers encourage, or even coerce, their employees into buying company stock for their retirement portfolios. ...
Capitalism has made millions of Americans rich in the last two decades, but it has also exposed millions to substantial new retirement risks. The government plays an important role in regulating that risk, and Congress should acknowledge that role before another Enron scandal provides an unpleasant reminder.
Star Tribune, Minneapolis - Jan. 5
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