Enron's Retirement Fund Trickery is Not Unique

In these weeks leading up to the one-year anniversary of Enron's declaration of bankruptcy, attention is focused once again on what happened and what went wrong at the energy giant. But while last year's Enron collapse grabbed all the headlines, the reality is that thousands of civil cases are reported annually where the issue at hand is alleged retirement and health plan fraud.

Speaking at a conference earlier this month, Ann L. Combs, assistant secretary of labor for the Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration, indicated that, "Last fiscal year, the PWBA achieved record monetary results of $832.4 million for plans and participants through enforcement actions. The agency closed a record 4,925 civil cases, with 1,940 cases resulting in monetary recoveries for plans. The largest proportion of cases closed with monetary results was 401(k) plan investigations."

In the last fiscal year, over 150 criminal cases relating to retirement fund fraud were opened, resulting in the indictment of over 135 individuals.

To help protect the 46 million Americans who are building their own retirement nest egg, the Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration offers the following warning signs that pension contributions are being misused.

Warning Signs That Pension Contributions Are Being Misused

  1. Your 401(k) or individual account statement is consistently late or comes at irregular intervals
  2. Your account balance does not appear to be accurate
  3. Your employer failed to transmit your contribution to the plan on a timely basis
  4. A significant drop in account balance that cannot be explained by normal market ups and downs
  5. 401(k) or individual account statement shows your contribution from your paycheck was not made
  6. Investments listed on your statement are not what you authorized
  7. Former employees are having trouble getting their benefits paid on time or in the correct amounts
  8. Unusual transactions, such as a loan to the employer, a corporate officer, or one of the plan trustees
  9. Frequent and unexplained changes in investment managers or consultants
  10. Your employer has recently experienced severe financial difficulty

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