[Excerpt] Federal law places few restrictions on the types of investments allowable in tax-favored retirement accounts, such as IRAs or employer-sponsored 401(k) plans. Recent federal and state investigations and litigation have raised questions as to whether investing in unconventional assets may jeopardize the accounts’ tax-favored status, placing account owners’ retirement security at risk. GAO was asked to examine issues related to the potential risks and responsibilities associated with investments in unconventional assets.
GAO examined: (1) what is known about the prevalence of accounts that invest in unconventional assets; (2) how these accounts are managed; and (3) what challenges are associated with administering these retirement accounts. GAO reviewed relevant federal laws, regulations, and guidance; analyzed data collected from the retirement industry; analyzed available industry documents; and reviewed 334 related consumer complaints collected from three federal agencies and two independent entities.