ETF Trends
ETF Trends

Note: This article is courtesy of Iris.xyz

By Brad Sherman

A new study in the Journal of Finance has found that conflicts of interest in 401(k) plans can lead to serious losses for individual investors.

More specifically, the 2,500 funds surveyed were less likely to eliminate underperforming funds that were their own rather than another provider’s fund. This can be very costly to retirement savers. Clemens Sialm, a professor of finance at the University of Texas at Austin and one of the study’s authors, explained that the bottom 10% of funds continued to underperform by about 4% if kept on the menu of funds available to investors.

More specifically, the 2,500 funds surveyed were less likely to eliminate underperforming funds that were their own rather than another provider’s fund. This can be very costly to retirement savers. Clemens Sialm, a professor of finance at the University of Texas at Austin and one of the study’s authors, explained that the bottom 10% of funds continued to underperform by about 4% if kept on the menu of funds available to investors.

With all of the attention lately focused on reducing these conflicts of interest where financial managers invest your money in their own funds (among individual financial advisors rather than institutional), it is surprising to see the bias getting coverage on an institutional level. As of June 2015, $4.7 trillion were invested in 401(k) accounts, plus another $2.1 trillion in non-401(k) defined-contribution plans. As John Oliver recently detailed, these conflicts of interest can cost millions over the course of a single retirement plan’s life.

Why the Conflicts Exist

The reason for the existence of these conflicts of interest is simple. Managers are prioritizing the profits of their institution over the success of the retirement plans they oversee. And there is no question that it is a raw deal for the investor. We’ve previously covered how many actively managed funds don’t even beat the market in the first place, and this study confirms that failing funds aren’t even taken off the menu of options.

Click here to read the full story on Iris.xyz.