Industry Voices

Industry Leaders Share Thoughts About ERISA

August 29, 2014 ( – Forty years ago on September 2, in response to failing companies resulting in workers losing pensions, sweeping legislation designed to protect workers from losing their earned retirement income was signed into law.

By PS | August 29, 2014
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But, the retirement plan industry looked very different 40 years ago when the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) was implemented, and as the industry has changed, the law and its standards have had to change as well.

In anticipation of the 40th anniversary of ERISA, we asked our readers to share their thoughts about ERISA and what change over the past 40 years has had the biggest impact on plan participants (see “SURVEY SAYS: 40 Years of ERISA”). The change to ERISA during the past 40 years that received the greatest percentage of votes from respondents for being the one that most helped participant outcomes was the establishment of Section 401(k) qualified deferred compensation plans, at 44.7%. This was followed by the sanctioning of automatic enrollment subject to certain requirements in the Pension Protection Act (PPA) of 2006, at 21.3%. 

In comments, many responding readers questioned whether the shift in the retirement landscape to employee retirement savings being mostly in defined contribution (DC) plans still matches ERISA’s intent to protect workers retirement savings.

We wondered how those who have influenced the industry—through their work within the government, as an advocate or as a long-time provider to retirement plans—would answer the same questions. On the pages that follow, several influential industry leaders share their thoughts.