Most Employers Ease Company Stock Requirements

By Staff Report

Nov. 26, 2007

Going well beyond what federal law requires, most U.S. employers now allow 401(k) plan participants to immediately sell matching contributions made in company stock, according to a recent survey.

The Hewitt Associates survey of 300 employers finds that among companies that match salary deferrals exclusively with company stock, 67 percent allow participants to diversify immediately.

That’s a huge change from 2005, when less than one-quarter of employers allowed the immediate sale of company stock contributed as a 401(k) match. That also exceeds requirements of a 2006 federal law that requires companies to allow employees to divest company stock contributed as a match after three years.

That diversification requirement was triggered by the meltdown of one-time energy giant Enron Corp., which exclusively matched 401(k) plan participants’ contributions with Enron stock and then required participants to hold the shares until age 50.

That meant participants were powerless to take action and sell those shares as Enron’s woes became public. Ultimately, the shares became virtually worthless, resulting in tremendous financial losses to many participants.

Additionally, the survey found that fewer employers now exclusively match salary deferrals with company stock, with just 23 percent doing so this year, down from 36 percent in 2005.

Filed by Jerry Geisel of Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, please e-mail

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