Another Try at Reform

A year ago, the Journal asked Randi L. Starr to gauge the chances that Congress would enact pension reform. "I'm past guessing anymore," she said. But she hasn't given up. Starr, who is chairwoman of the AICPA employee benefit plans committee, returned recently to Washington for another round of testimony before the Subcommittee on Human Resources of the Committee on House Government Reform to make another push for pension reform.

Starr spoke specifically about limited-scope audits, noting they existed only in ERISA audits. In some cases, plan administrators can instruct auditors not to audit certain assets held by banks and certain other regulated entities. In those situations, the administrator can request such institutions to certify that the assets and related information are accurate and complete. "On a certification I personally reviewed," testified Starr, "I saw the investment fair value information reported by the bank from one year to the next did not change. Clearly, in this instance, this was not correct, and the bank had to revise the plan's investment report because of an error."

She reassured bankers who feared auditors would be overly intrusive if ERISA required full-scope audits. "I have not heard from banks, insurance companies, and so forth, that currently are trustees of plans with full-scope audits that there are many auditors camped on their doorsteps."

What happens next?

After the testimony, Starr told the Journal , "The good news is the House scheduled the hearings; I think there's a sincere interest in resolution on Capitol Hill." Nevertheless, a hearing is not a bill, and she does not expect any real changes to occur in the near future.


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