Once known as TIAA-CREF, TIAA provides retirement services primarily to employees of governments and nonprofits. It was begun as an organization devoted to helping teachers have decent retirement incomes. But the organization’s changed over the decades. This article reports allegations from lawsuits filed by former employees, confidential whistleblower reports, and other sources. It argues that TIAA doesn’t work in the best interests of its investors and is little different from other financial services firms.
Now, TIAA’s image as a benevolent provider of investment advice is in question. Several legal filings — including a lawsuit by TIAA employees with money under the company’s management, and a whistle-blower complaint by a group of former workers — say it pushes customers into products that do not add value and may not be suitable but that generate higher fees. Such practices would violate the legal standard that applies to retirement accounts and securities laws governing investment advisers.
And while TIAA contends that its operations are untainted by conflicts because its 855 financial advisers and consultants do not receive sales commissions, former employees, in interviews and in the whistle-blower complaint, disagree. They say the company rewards its sales personnel with bonuses when they steer customers into more expensive in-house products and services.