US - Retirement security could be reduced by last minute regulation from the Bush administration, witnesses at a House of Representatives subcommittee hearing claimed.
There were also concerns among consumer advocates and lawmakers that the regulation might enable financial advisors to charge higher fees - while allowing them to give conflicted investment advice on products in which they have financial interest.
Congressman and subcommittee chairman Rob Andrews commented: "If workers receive investment advice, it should be independent and free of conflicts of interest."
He added that during a time where US workers have already lost $2trn in assets due to last year's market downturn, exposing their hard-earned retirement savings to greater risk by allowing advisers to offer them conflicted advice was both "irresponsible" and "imprudent."
Several congressmen have already objected to the proposal - claiming it conflicted with parts of the Pension Protection Act of 2006, which ensure limited investment advice by pension providers based on independent computer models.
The regulation has now been placed on hold by the Obama administration.
Data on pension plans from the Security and Exchange Commission - analysed by the US Government Accountability Office - highlighted that undisclosed conflicts of interest could result in lower returns than plans that properly document financial interests.
Other problems are anticipated due to the widespread use of 401(K) plans.
As account holders in these plans select investment options provided by their employer by themselves, they assume greater risk, as opposed to traditional plans operated by managers.
Further issues may arise, as smaller fees - many of which do not need to be revealed - could reduce long-term retirement security of account holders.
GAO acting director of education, workforce and income security Charles Jeszeck commented: "Since workers largely bear the risk of investment under this plan design, any factor and decision that reduces the account's rate of return can have potentially irreversible consequences for the participant's retirement income."
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