AAPL’s All-ETF 401(k) Plan? Not!
June 07, 2012
Reports of Apple moving to an “all ETF 401k plan” are either imaginary thinking, or really terrible journalism.
Sometimes, a story is so headline-grabbing it won’t die, no matter how patently wrong it is. Today Benzinga reported that “Apple Makes The Move to All-ETF Retirement Plans.” I’d have included the link, but it looks like Benzinga pulled the story down.
It was an attention-grabbing headline that contained actual quotes or information from either Apple, or Apple’s 401(k) plan administrator, Schwab. The article was heavily linked and rewritten throughout the ETF blogosphere, appearing on Bloomberg, MarketWatch and numerous other aggregators and content-borrowers.
The only actual live, current source for the story was a piece over at Employee Benefit News headlined “Pied piper of plan sponsors?” in which author Kathleen Koster spins a tale of how 401(k) plans will be made better by ETFs. It contains this paragraph mentioning Apple:
“Adding to the ETF excitement, Bloomberg recently reported that tech giant Apple will shift its entire retirement plan portfolio to ETFs. According to Apple’s Form 5500 filings from 2010, its recordkeeper, Charles Schwab, still is developing a version of Schwab Index Advantage that will use only index-based ETFs. The platform, which would support the intraday trading characteristic of these funds, is expected in 2013.”
Gee, that sounds pretty authoritative. However, the thing that Bloomberg “recently reported” was actually a podcast episode from January. That podcast itself was a report from the IndexUniverse Inside ETF conference in Florida that talked about the “ETFs in 401(k)s” panel we held there.
For some reason—and we really have no idea—the reporter on that podcast, Catherine Cowdery, who was not at our conference to our knowledge, concluded that “Apple apparently has an all ETF 401k plan.”
No source, no citation, and I can assure you, Apple wasn’t at our conference, and their name didn’t come up on the panel, which was moderated by our own Olly Ludwig.
Nevertheless, this rumor that Apple is going all-ETFs won’t die. It surfaced back in March too, when people found this single misspoken podcast, quoted from it, and spun entire stories out if it.
So let’s just set the record straight.
So yes, Virginia, there might be a few ETFs in that brokerage window, but that’s it.
ETFs might make sense in some 401(k) plans—they can be a lot cheaper and more transparent than mutual funds, and intraday trading might be considered either a blessing or a curse, depending on your opinion about 401(k) strategy.
But for the immediate future, if you’re looking for innovation, look to the record keepers themselves first.
Invest n Retire has patents on several of the bits and pieces that would be required for Apple—or anyone else—to go big into ETFs in 401(k)s. And Schwab has indeed said they love the idea of working toward ETFs in 401(k)s, and plan on rolling something out.
Welcome to the Internet, folks. Apparently the days when journalists actually picked up a phone and called the folks they were writing about to confirm facts are a dinosaur.
Neither Schwab nor Apple wanted to comment officially on this story for the record—likely because the whole thing is ridiculous.
But at least we asked.
EDITORS NOTE: Eagle-eyed readers may have found patient zero on this story in the following piece: "ETFS in a 401k: The Wave is Building," published on Wiser Wealth Management's website.