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The Accidental Plan Sponsor: Origins, Evolution and Future of the U.S. Retirement System


Feb. 24, 2021
Recorded Online

How did employers become responsible for the retirement security of American workers, and is this system working? A new podcast from PGIM, the $1.5 trillion global asset management business of Prudential Financial, Inc. explores the history, evolution and future of employer-based retirement plans, including the 401(k), through the eyes of their creators — providing unparalleled insight into an imperfect system that works for many, but not all.

In The Accidental Plan SponsorTM, Josh Cohen, PGIM’s head of institutional defined contribution, brings together experts from around the globe to share their personal stories about the events that led to employers assuming their role as plan sponsors, and evaluate how the current system is working. Despite the many benefits of today’s system, a tension still exists between a public policy interest of having a population that is financially secure in retirement and employers trying to solve a business and workplace management issue.

“The 401(k) went from being this nascent idea, trying to find its place among pension and various workplace savings plans, to the bedrock of the employer-based retirement system,” said Cohen. “In my 25 years’ experience working with plan sponsors, it’s clear that while there are many good aspects of the current system, many employers find themselves struggling at times to solve for the retirement needs of their workers. My goal in launching this podcast is to explore whether there is a better way forward, by building on our current system or evolving toward a new one.”

Throughout the series, Cohen brings the events leading up to ERISA and the 401(k) to life through interviews with experts including:

  • Frank Cummings, lawyer, professor and former chief of staff to U.S. senator Jacob K. Javits during the development of ERISA
  • Ted Benna, the unofficial “father of the 401(k)”
  • Lori Lucas, president and CEO of the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI)
  • Lew Minsky, president and CEO of the Defined Contribution Institutional Investment Association (DCIIA)

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