Good morning. In my State of the Union address, I committed our nation to three
great goals: To win the war, to secure our homeland, and to defeat the recession.
In recent days, we have heard some encouraging reports on our progress and our
work to defeat the recession. But many workers have lost their jobs and their
retirement savings when their companies went bankrupt. Employees who have worked
hard and saved all their lives should not have to risk losing everything if
their company fails. So my administration is proposing important safeguards
to our pension laws to protect the retirement savings of workers.
First, we want to give workers greater freedom to diversify their retirement
portfolios. Many companies require their workers to hold company shares long
after their workers wish to sell, even when the company's shares are dramatically
dropping in value. I propose that workers be permitted to sell company-contributed
shares in their retirement account and diversify after they have participated
in a 401(k) for three years.
Next, we need to make sure that companies have a single standard for their executives
and their employees. It is unfair for workers to be denied the ability to sell
stock when executives are free to sell their stock.
Right now, though, companies can create what are called blackouts, when they
switch the management of their retirement accounts from one investment firm
to another. During the switch, employees don't have access to their 401(k)s
and can't buy or sell. These blackouts usually happen because the company is
looking for better service for its employees. But when employees can't sell,
executives shouldn't be able to sell, either. So I am proposing that company
executives be prohibited from selling any and all of their stock during these
Third, workers should be informed in advance that a blackout period is coming.
Under my administration's reforms, workers must be given 30 days' notice before
employers make any changes that would stop them from selling their stock.
Fourth, companies will be put on notice when employees are blacked out, company
executives with power over 401(k)s will be held accountable for treating their
workers' assets as carefully as they treat their own.
Fifth, workers should have the benefit of solid, independent investment advice.
Right now, the law deters companies from providing employees with sound advice,
such as information about the benefits of diversification. And that doesn't
make sense. We need to encourage companies to provide workers good advice, not
punish them for doing so.
And, finally, employers should be required to provide regular information to
their workers about the current value of their accounts and their right to sell
and diversify. Right now, employers need to give an accounting to workers only
once a year. We're going to tell them they must do so every three months. These
measures will be a major benefit for American workers and for America's employers.
Our country's employers welcome the highest standards of conduct, because high
standards are good for business and good for America. I thank you for listening.