Some 35 years ago, I actually called on an executive at Fifth Third Bank Headquarters, in Cincinnati, and that is still it’s Headquarters City. I recall asking how it got the Fifth-Third name, and he told me that it was formed by the merger of the Third National Bank of Cincinnati and the Fifth National Bank of, what else, Cincinnati. Perhaps that conservative city couldn’t be a bit more creative in choosing a name.
Most of the Press on banks these days has been on the “Too Big to Fails”, especially JPMorgan Chase (which has racked-up easily more than $20 Billion in fines and penalties this year alone), as well as Bank of America and Citibank. Well, that’s probably because the Big Five have 60% of the Deposits for the entire Country. So, although Fifth Third is, perhaps, in the second tier of banks, it is small potatoes for the Media.
This past Friday, however, the U. S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a lower Court Appeal, brought by the Fifth Third Banking Corp. The lower Court had agreed with former Employees that it could sue the bank for losses in their 401(K)s, when the Company Stock dropped 74% over a two-year period, due to the bank’s exposure to sub-prime mortgages. The bank counters that it couldn’t have known the impact of the Nation’s worst recession since the Great Depression, since the 1930s.
I read in a similar article in another newspaper noted that the bank stock was considered a “prime equity” investment option. I Emailed him, asking if that was a recommended investment, or if the various options were just limited. He said that the court documents were not very helpful; however, it did seemed that the options were few.
Oftentimes, when people live all their lives in the shadow of a bank, which was always there, they sometimes fail to see the cracks in the infrastructure and keep adding funds, especially as the stock price plummets. Kind of “wait ‘til next year! The article, from the Wall Street journal is linked, as follows: https://blogs.wsj.com/law/2013/12/13/can-employees-sue-over-401k-losses-supreme-court-to-decide/tab/print/.
The result is that, if you contribute to a company-sponsored “qualified plan”, which investments you choose, and to that degree, are your responsibility. The people at H. R.–and even at the (outside) “Administrator’s” office–are generally not investment professionals–and they cannot provide advice or information, other than ever you to what is on the web site or in the Annual Report. Having worked in financial institutions for almost 40 years, I can attest that most bankers simply do not have a clue what is in their 401(k)s.
If you have an investment professional that you deal with for other investments, ask for their assistance. If they are smart, they should want to help, so they can hope to get your Retirement Assets when you leave the Company. Also, they should want to provide whatever advice they can, based on your total portfolio, rather than just what you already have invested with their Firm.
Keep in mind that assets in the Plan are the Company’s Assets (even though you might be vested) until you actually withdraw them. And, in most cases, you cannot call and sell-out completely or, let’s say, sell half of everything, and have it executed that day.