Series of Computer Problems Wreak Havoc for TIAA-CREF

January 11, 2006 ( - Compounded computer glitches have caused weeks of problems for the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF) and thousands of its clients.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports that the havoc started when a problem with new software for IRA products, introduced Thanksgiving week, went undetected for a week, resulting in a sizable backlog of orders and regularly scheduled withdrawals, according to the company.   At the same time, an unrelated breakdown took place in one of the company’s older computer systems, and, in addition, problems with the firm’s Web site resulted in clients’ receiving incorrect information about account balances.

In addition to some clients not receiving regularly scheduled payments, some clients were unable to transfer funds from one account to another, according to the WSJ.   TIAA-CREF said nearly 4,000 of its IRA customers were affected.   The company does not know how many were affected by the Web site problem.

Compounding the problems further, the firm’s call center was unable to keep up with customer inquiries about the problems since it was already dealing with the high call volume typical after year end.   Some individuals experienced delays of several hours for answers.

TIAA-CREF continues to work on the problems, and has promised to backdate trades to make up for market changes.   Company spokeswoman, Stephanie Cohen Glass, says no clients have lost money as a result of the glitches.

TIAA-CREF manages $360 billion in assets.