Private Pensions: GAO Survey of 401(k) Plan Sponsor Practices (GAO-08-870SP, July 2008), an E-supplement to GAO-08-774

Read the Full Report Private Pensions: Fulfilling Fiduciary Duties Can Present Challenges for 401(k) Plan Sponsors (GAO-08-774)


American workers are increasingly reliant on 401(k) plans for their retirement security, and sponsors of 401(k) plans have critical obligations under the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). To administer these plans, the sponsor—typically the employer offering the 401(k) plan—selects plan features and other characteristics, including the types of investment options offered to participants. To learn more about how sponsors select plan features and oversee plan operations, we conducted a Web-based survey of sponsors in coordination with Plansponsor Magazine (Plansponsor). This e-supplement presents results from our survey and includes a summary of respondent views on proposed legislative changes to 401(k) requirements.

To solicit survey responses, Plansponsor distributed survey notifications through their daily newsletter. Plansponsor also sent a more targeted electronic survey notification to its 2007 Defined Contribution Survey respondents. Using Plansponsor’s distribution estimates, we estimate that the total number of 401(k) sponsors that received notification of our survey to be approximately 22,000. We received 448 usable responses to our survey.

As members of Plansponsor’s subscription list, our survey respondents may have self-selected to be members of a publication that provides information for managers of pensions and 401(k) retirement plans. Consequently, the survey responses presented in this e-supplement are anecdotal in nature and are not necessarily representative of the overall sponsor population.

A more detailed discussion of our scope and methodology is contained in our report: Private Pensions: Fulfilling Fiduciary Obligations Can Present Challenges for 401(k) Plan Sponsors, GAO-08-774 (Washington, D.C.: July 16, 2008). We conducted our review from January 2007 through June 2008 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.

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