John Oliver Rips Apart Retirement Plans, Publicly Trashes Own Firm's 401k

Oliver tore apart John Hancock for hidden intermediary fees.

Last Week Tonight/YouTube

John Oliver tore into retirement plans on Sunday evening, attacking companies that deceive people into believing that their financial advisors are anything more than commissioned salespeople, pushing products designed to line the back pockets of investors.

Oliver demonstrated this by getting his show’s production company, Avalon Television, to explore the option of taking out a 401(k) plan for its employees with John Hancock. Oliver subsequently ripped apart the plan’s intermediary fees on air. The plan’s broker fees were also criticized, when the broker in question sent Avalon a spreadsheet that miscalculated their fees by a margin of $10 million.

“We’re going to be leaving both Hancock and the broker, and I’m guessing after they’ve seen this show, they will be happy to let us go!” Oliver said.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) explains that financial advisors, brokers, and similar job titles, are not protected by law. So these people are not bound to act in the best interests of their clients. Many of them are also compensated for pushing certain products like annuities, which are only appropriate for certain portfolios, and receiving luxury cruises and watches in return.

The only people that are bound to act in their client’s best interests are fiduciaries, a fact that isn’t exactly widely known among the general public. “It’s like finding out that some restaurant waiters are forbidden from ejaculating in your food!” Oliver said.

Oliver played a clip from Suze Orman’s show, Can I Afford It?, in which callers ask if they can make investments. One caller asked if he could travel to Iceland to study elf-spotting, which Orman “denied” as a bad investment.

“Yeah, of course she is, ‘cuz nobody should be spending $4,000 on an elf-spotting qualification!” Oliver said. He then directed viewers to visit LastWeekTonight.com to download their own elf-spotting qualification.

Oliver also generously offered up a financial advising certificate, ready for printing from the Last Week Tonight website, as the qualification is about as worthless as the elf-spotting course.