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Press release:

The SPARK Institute Releases Final 403(b) Plans Best Practices Documents

Issued by: The SPARK Institute

Date: May 7, 2008

SIMSBURY, CT, May 7 -- The SPARK Institute today released final versions of its “Best Practices for 403(b) Plans Information Sharing -- Minimum and Comprehensive Data Elements” and a sample “Information Sharing Agreement” (ISA), which were developed to help vendors and employers comply with the new IRS regulations, said Larry Goldbrum, General Counsel.  “The Data Elements Best Practices will help vendors and employers understand what information will be shared and facilitate consistency in the industry.  Our goal is to help employers and vendors comply with the information sharing requirements in a cost effective and efficient manner,” said Goldbrum.

Goldbrum said that in order for these documents to achieve their intended purposes, they will have to be widely accepted and followed.   To that end, The SPARK Institute has posted the documents on its website so that they can be downloaded and used by anyone.  The documents are on The SPARK Institute’s website.

The documents were developed by a special 403(b) plans task force comprised of many leading 403(b) plan vendors including AIG Retirement, AXA Equitable, Fidelity Investments®, Great-West Retirement Services®, The Hartford’s Retirement Plans Group, ING, Lincoln Financial Group, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, Prudential Retirement, TIAA-CREF and Vanguard.  “The National Tax Sheltered Accounts Association (NTSAA) also worked with us in the development of the data elements and they endorse their use,” Goldbrum said.

Goldbrum said The SPARK Institute is continuing its efforts regarding 403(b) plans by developing additional best practices that will help vendors and employers resolve how to share the necessary data.  The Institute is also creating a sample RFP specifically for 403(b) plans.   “We have heard from our members that RFP volume is high and many 403(b) plan sponsors are using the SPARK RFP Guide which was developed for 401(k) plans,” said Goldbrum.  “Since that document is not intended for use by non-ERISA plans, we are developing a new version designed specifically for the 403(b) market and expect to make it available to the public shortly,” he added.

The SPARK Institute is the leading voice in Washington for the retirement services industry.  Through the combined expertise of its member companies, The SPARK Institute provides research, education, testimony and comments on pending legislative and regulatory issues to members of Congress and relevant government agency officials.  This disciplined process and resulting solutions help shape America's retirement future.

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