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Conflicts of interest typically exist when someone in a position of trust, such as a pension consultant, has competing professional or personal issues. Such competing interests can make it difficult for pension plan fiduciaries and others, in general, to fulfill their duties impartially and could cause them to breach their duty to act solely in the interest of plan participants and beneficiaries. The proliferation of consulting work and the complexity of business arrangements among investment advisors, plan consultants, and others have increased the likelihood of conflicts of interests for both defined benefit (DB) plans, where investment risk is largely borne by the plan sponsor and defined contribution (DC) plans, where such risk is largely borne by the participant. Given the potential financial harm conflicts of interest may pose to DB and DC plans, GAO was asked to report on (1) the effects undisclosed conflicts of interest may have on the financial performance of DB plans, and (2) the vulnerabilities that conflicts of interest may pose for DC plan participants. GAO interviewed a variety of experts, reviewed the Department of Labor's (Labor) legal and regulatory authority and analyzed government and industry data associated with terminated plans.

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