WASHINGTON, D.C. | November 23, 2009
Two leading Republicans today called on U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis to give workers immediate access to vital information about the financial status of their pension plans. Reps. John Kline (R-MN) and Tom Price (R-GA) wrote today to Secretary Solis requesting that her agency immediately begin posting to the internet a collection of pension disclosures that would help workers better understand the health and viability of their defined benefit retirement plans. The information, collected on Form 5500, is already available to the Department of Labor but is largely inaccessible to working Americans.
“Filed annually with the Department, Form 5500 provides the most comprehensive accounting of a private pension plan’s status. We understand that Form 5500 is electronically available in the Public Disclosure Room in the Department’s Washington, DC office; but outside of Washington, it is only available via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request,” Kline and Price wrote. “Limiting the public to two options – a trip to Washington, DC, or a cumbersome FOIA request – hardly seems an effective means of ensuring transparency and encouraging access to these important documents.”
Kline and Price argued that information about workers’ pension plans should always be publicly available, but that it is especially vital in a tumultuous economy in which many pension plans remain underfunded. Although the Obama Administration promised an unprecedented level of transparency in government, the Administration has yet to give workers more information about the status of their retirement plans. Moreover, Republicans have criticized recent efforts by the Administration to prevent workers from accessing high-quality investment advice and roll back union members’ access to information about how their dues are being spent. Taken together, the Administration’s actions spell fewer options and less information for workers.
“When it comes to retirement savings and security, virtually everyone agrees that information is power,” said Kline, the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee’s Senior Republican Member. “Unfortunately, congressional Democrats are focused on adding layers of new red tape and federal mandates even as workers are denied access to the most basic information about their retirement plans. It’s time for the Administration to get serious about the transparency it promised.”
“If there is a good reason why workers should be denied access to information on their pension accounts, the administration ought to provide one to the millions of Americans who are currently in the dark,” said Rep. Price, the top Republican on the subcommittee that oversees workers’ pensions. “With the job losses piling up, the stress of meeting retirement goals is reaching a fever pitch all across this country. Hiding the fact that funding for many of these pensions is running dry will do nothing to help Americans bridge the gap from work to a stable retirement. Some sunlight is the least we can provide hard working Americans.”
NOTE: Last week, Rep. Kline introduced the Sensible Transparency for Retirement Plans Act (H.R. 4146), a bill to give workers and employers more information about their retirement plans. The legislation calls for targeted, meaningful disclosure that will give workers and retirement plan sponsors access to useful, understandable information about retirement plan fees and services. Unlike legislation advanced earlier this year by congressional Democrats, H.R. 4146 does not dictate that plans offer a federally approved investment vehicle. Instead, Kline’s proposal focuses on increasing transparency without unnecessarily driving up the cost and complexity of retirement savings plans.
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