Wednesday, October 30, 2013
I have a new article, Retirement Revolution: Unmitigated Risks in the Defined Contribution Society, which describes citizen shareholders--individual investors who enter the stock market through defined contribution plans--and examines the overlapping corporate and ERISA laws that govern their investments.
A revolution in the retirement landscape over the last several decades shifted the predominant savings vehicle from traditional pensions (a defined benefit plan) to self-directed accounts like the 401(k) (a defined contribution plan) and has drastically changed how people invest in the stock market and why. The prevalence of self-directed, defined contribution plans has created our defined contribution society and a new class of investors — the citizen shareholders — who enter private securities market through self-directed retirement plans, invest for long-term savings goals and are predominantly indirect shareholders. With 90 million Americans invested in mutual funds, and nearly 75 million who do so through defined contribution plans, citizen shareholders are the fastest growing group of investors. Yet, citizen shareholders have the least protections despite conventional wisdom that corporate law and ERISA protections safeguard both these investors and their investments. As explained in an earlier paper, citizen shareholders do not fit neatly within the traditional corporate law framework because their investment within a defined contribution plan restricts choice and their indirect ownership status dilutes their information and voting rights, as well as exacerbates their rational apathy as diffuse and disempowered “owners.”