Enron Stirs Up Retirement Fears

February 22, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Although the Enron collapse has made workers more aware of their retirement savings, it has not garnered support for greater regulation, a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press finds.

Asked to list what they had learned from the Enron debacle:

  • Almost 60% of the sample said that they learned that their retirement accounts may be at risk
  • one fifth said CEOs were too focused on profits
  • slightly less said he political influence of business was too great
  • just over 15% said business was underregulated.

Not surprisingly, the people who were most concerned about retirement accounts were those on the verge of retirement, respondents between the ages of 50 and 64. Some 42% of that group said the Enron case gave them cause for concern, compared to 26% of those 65 and older.

The Pew Research Center also found 50% of the poll saying that regulation is necessary to protect the public interest, up from 48% in a 1999 poll, while 41% believe that government regulation does more harm than good, up slightly from the earlier poll.

Worst Nightmare

Respondents were also asked to name the worst things about the Enron mess:

  • that employees lost their retirement savings, made the list of 70% of respondents
  • that executives got rich, was mentioned by 59%
  • over a quarter cited untrustworthy accounting
  • slightly less mentioned the involvement of political leaders.

The survey, conducted in February 2002, comprised responses of 1,199 adults.