401(k) Plans: Survey of 401(k) Plan Sponsors on Fees (GAO-12-550SP, April 2012), an E-supplement to GAO-12-325

GAO-12-550SP Published: Apr 24, 2012. Publicly Released: May 23, 2012.
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What GAO Found

Supplemental Material


This e-supplement is a companion to our report entitled "401(k) Plans: Increased Educational Outreach and Broader Oversight May Help Reduce Plan Fees," GAO-12-325. The purpose of this e-supplement is to provide information from a survey of 401(k) plan sponsors.

The survey was used to gather information on the fee amounts plan sponsors and participants paid for certain services performed by service providers, the factors they considered in selecting service providers, the investment options offered to plan participants, and the Department of Labor resources sponsors may have used.

We present information from our survey, administered by mail and web from May to September of 2011, to sponsors of 401(k) plans. We selected a stratified random sample of 1,000 plan sponsors from a population of 468,194 unique 401(k) plans from 2009 annual Form 5500 returns/filings. The sample was stratified by number of plan participants to be representative of the population of 401(k) plans and allow for comparisons among plans of various sizes. We achieved a 39 percent final weighted response rate. A nonresponse bias analysis was conducted to see if the characteristics of survey respondents generally reflected plan size (i.e., the total number of participants), total plan assets, geographic distribution, and nature of business. The results of the nonresponse bias analysis enable us to generalize results to the total population of 401(k) plan sponsors. All percentage estimates from the survey have margins of error at the 95 percent confidence level. We also conducted integrity checks of answers across questions and enforced skip patterns, when appropriate. As a result of this review, we recategorized the type of information provided by some sponsors when their responses were inconsistent. For example, if a sponsor did not respond to the question asking whether the plan paid recordkeeping and administrative fees, but in a subsequent question listed amounts paid by the plan sponsor or that were taken out of plan assets for recordkeeping and administrative services, we determined it was reasonable to categorize the plan as having paid these fees. For a full discussion of the survey methodology, see appendix I of the full report, GAO-12-325.

A copy of the final web survey instrument is reproduced in this e-supplement. Survey results are presented in the aggregate form so that no individual respondent or its company can be identified. We did not report open-ended narrative responses or survey results that were not generalizable. We report item nonresponse for questions where it exceeds 20 percent. We conducted our work from October 2010 to April 2012 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives.







Page Name Questionnaire Results
Instructions View View
Background on Company and 401(k) Plan View View
Plan Features, Design, and Service Arrangements View View
Plan Service Providers View View
Plan Investment Vehicles View View
Plan Features - Group Variable Annuities View View
Plan Fees and Services View View
Plan Fees, Cont. View View
Plan Fees - Providers View View
Comparing and Assessing Service Provider Fees and Services View View
Comparing and Assessing Fees - Benchmarks View View
Comparing and Assessing Fees - Resources View View
Plan Fee Disclosures View View
Plan Fee Disclosures - Revenue Sharing View View
Plan Fee Disclosures - Participants View View
Additional Plan Fee Information View View
Survey Checklist View View




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