For-profit

401k Specialist Magazine

Type:

For-profit

Editor:

John Sullivan

401k Specialist magazine is a trade publication tailored to retirement plan providers. The publication consists of both a print magazine and online version and covers a wide array of issues surrounding day-to-day business activities of retirement plan advisors and advisory firms. [1]  The publication hosts a podcast and covers a variety of topics around 401(k) plan administration including fiduciary responsibilities, rollovers, investment strategies, and client acquisition.

The magazine in recent years has supported Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) investing strategies and was critical of a Trump administration rule that promoted transparency around ESG investing, praising the Biden administration for repealing the rule. [2] The publication has also provided positive coverage to shareholder activism efforts, including the May 2021 ExxonMobil board-of-directors elections that resulted in environmental activist hedge fund Engine No. 1 gaining multiple seats on the ExxonMobil board with the backing of BlackRock, the nation’s largest hedge fund, and pro-ESG proxy advisory firms such as Glass Lewis, Pensions and Investments Research Consultants, and Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS). [3]

Background

401k Specialist magazine is published in both print and online. The publication is owned by 401k Properties, LLC, and headquartered in Centennial, Colorado. [4] The parent company, which lists its primary business function as a lessor of nonresidential buildings, received a Paycheck Protection Program loan from the federal government of $96,610 in 2020. [5]

The editor-in-chief of 401k Specialist is John Sullivan. Sullivan has led the publication since 2014 and had prior stints as the editor-in-chief of Investment Advisor and Boomer Market Advisor. At the beginning of his career Sullivan was a financial analyst for Oppenheimer Funds, a global hedge fund. [6] Sullivan also writes for the magazine and has published articles promoting ESG investment strategies including a piece titled “How to Increase ESG ‘Appetite’ Among Investors.” [7]

Promotion of ESG Investments

While much of the content produced by 401k Specialist centers around day-to-day business practices for retirement plan advisory firms, much of the publication’s content has promoted Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) investing strategies. [8]

The publication provided significant coverage to Trump administration Department of Labor rules titled “Financial Factors in Selecting Plan Investments” [9] and “Fiduciary Duties Regarding Proxy Voting and Shareholder Rights”[10] which required those formulating investment strategies to take into consideration the potential for financial loss incurred by promoting an ESG investment strategy. The magazine characterized the regulations as harmful to the continued push to adopt ESG investing within investment firms, hedge funds, and retirement plans across the United States. [11]

The magazine also provided positive coverage to a Democratic-sponsored piece of legislation titled the “Financial Factors in Selecting Retirement Plan Investments Act,”[12] which lifts regulatory hurdles for retirement plan advisors to make investments of employees’ retirement funds into ESG-related investments. [13]

The publication has also provided positive coverage to ESG activism efforts, including the May 2021 ExxonMobil board-of-directors elections that resulted in environmental activist hedge fund Engine No. 1 gaining multiple seats on the ExxonMobil board. Engine No. 1‘s slate was promoted by a variety of investment firms, left-leaning pension funds, and proxy advisory firms that have all recently promoted ESG investing and shareholder activism. Supports of the activist slate candidates included BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street, who owned twenty percent of Exxon-Mobil shares, and pro-ESG proxy advisory firms such as Glass Lewis, Pensions and Investments Research Consultants, and Institutional Shareholder Services. Supporters also included the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS), the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) and New York State Common Retirement Fund, which are the three largest pension funds in the U.S. [14]

References

  1. “About us.” 401(k) Specialist Magazine. Accessed June 3, 2021. https://401kspecialistmag.com/about-us/ ^
  2. Anderson, Brian. “The End of the Trump-Era ESG Rule.” 401(k) Specialist Magazine. May 24, 2021. Accessed June 3, 2021. https://401kspecialistmag.com/the-end-of-the-trump-era-esg-rule/ ^
  3. Anderson, Brian. “Does ESG-Based Proxy Voting Matter? Just Ask ExxonMobil.” 401(k) Specialist Magazine. May 27, 2021. Accessed June 3, 2021. https://401kspecialistmag.com/does-esg-based-proxy-voting-matter-just-ask-exxonmobil/ ^
  4. “Contact us.” 401(k) Specialist Magazine. Accessed June 3, 2021. https://401kspecialistmag.com/contact-us/ ^
  5. “401k Properties LLC.” Federal Pay. Accessed June 3, 2021. https://www.federalpay.org/paycheck-protection-program/401k-properties-llc-centennial-co ^
  6. “John Sullivan.” LinkedIn Profile. Accessed June 3, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/john-sullivan-b469b15b/ ^
  7. Sullivan, John. “How to Increase ESG ‘Appetite’ Among Investors.” 401(k) Specialist Magazine. April 12, 2021. Accessed June 3, 2021.  https://401kspecialistmag.com/how-to-increase-esg-appetite-among-investors/ ^
  8. Anderson, Brian. “Biden’s DOL Scraps Trump Era ESG Rule.” 401(k) Specialist Magazine. March 10, 2021. Accessed June 3, 2021. https://401kspecialistmag.com/how-to-increase-esg-appetite-among-investors/ ^
  9. Anderson, Brian. “Biden’s DOL Scraps Trump Era ESG Rule.” 401(k) Specialist Magazine. March 10, 2021. Accessed June 3, 2021. https://401kspecialistmag.com/how-to-increase-esg-appetite-among-investors/ ^
  10. Anderson, Brian. “Biden’s DOL Scraps Trump Era ESG Rule.” 401(k) Specialist Magazine. March 10, 2021. Accessed June 3, 2021. https://401kspecialistmag.com/how-to-increase-esg-appetite-among-investors/ ^
  11. Anderson, Brian. “Biden’s DOL Scraps Trump Era ESG Rule.” 401(k) Specialist Magazine. March 10, 2021. Accessed June 3, 2021. https://401kspecialistmag.com/how-to-increase-esg-appetite-among-investors/ ^
  12. Anderson, Brian. “The End of the Trump-Era ESG Rule.” 401(k) Specialist Magazine. May 24, 2021. Accessed June 3, 2021. https://401kspecialistmag.com/the-end-of-the-trump-era-esg-rule/ ^
  13. Anderson, Brian. “The End of the Trump-Era ESG Rule.” 401(k) Specialist Magazine. May 24, 2021. Accessed June 3, 2021. https://401kspecialistmag.com/the-end-of-the-trump-era-esg-rule/ ^
  14. Anderson, Brian. “The End of the Trump-Era ESG Rule.” 401(k) Specialist Magazine. May 24, 2021. Accessed June 3, 2021. https://401kspecialistmag.com/the-end-of-the-trump-era-esg-rule/ ^
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