Donald Trump’s Employees Don’t Share Wealth in 401(k) Plan

You’re hired! But forget about being retired. It takes endurance to get a piece of the mogul’s “profit-sharing.”
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Donald Trump attends the 2015 Hank's Yanks Golf Classic at Trump Golf Links Ferry Point on July 6, 2015 in New York City.

Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

Donald Trump has built billions of dollars in personal wealth. His employees aren't getting much of it.

The Republican presidential candidate operates a stingy 401(k) plan for his workers, according to government filings.

If you can jump through hoops and endure years of working for Trump, his matching contributions are actually more generous than average. If you contribute 6 percent of your salary, Trump will kick in 4.5 percent.

But there's a catch. You can't even join the plan until you spend a year as a Trump employee. Call it an apprenticeship.

Then, if you want that matching contribution, you have to wait until the end of a calendar year. Leave—or get fired—in October, and you get nothing.

Even if you stay, Trump's contribution doesn't completely belong to you for six years. That vesting schedule is the slowest allowed under U.S. law.

And if you worked for Trump from March 1, 2009 through June 30, 2012, you were out of luck entirely. Trump, who claimed an $8.7 billion net worth last month, suspended all employer contributions to 401(k)s for more than three years. 

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Under Bloomberg's rating system for 401(k) plans, Trump scores a 30 out of a possible 100, lower than all but one of the top 50 companies by market capitalization. It scored one point back in 2011 when Trump wasn't matching contributions at all.

The plan scores a 59 under the rating system at BrightScope, which calls the Trump plan "below average" for its peer group. It's far from the worst, though. 

Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, didn't comment in response to questions about the 401(k) plan on Monday. 

The details are revealed in the forms filed annually with the U.S. Department of Labor by the Trump Payroll Corp. 401(k)/Profit Sharing Plan, and they're worthwhile reading for anyone trying to analyze the business success that's the foundation of the Trump campaign. 

As of the end of 2013 (the most recent information available) the Trump retirement plan had 1,136 participants with account balances totaling $22.9 million, or an average of just over $20,000.

The plan covers nonunionized employees of 35 entities in the Trump empire, including The Mar-a-Lago Club LLC, Trump University LLC, Trump Las Vegas Sales & Marketing Inc. and Eric Trump Wine Manufacturing LLC. It's not clear what portion of Trump's employees that is or what jobs they do. 

The Trump plan lacks automatic enrollment, a feature that dramatically increases participation rates, said Brigitte Madrian, a Harvard Kennedy School professor who reviewed the filings at Bloomberg's request.

Also, she said, although many companies suspended matching contributions during the recession, Trump resumed his later than others.

Madrian said, however, that the Trump plan looks fairly typical in industries with significant employee turnover.

"If the plan really wanted to facilitate employee savings, it would institute automatic enrollment, reduce or eliminate the eligibility requirement, and vest employees in the employer match more quickly," she said.

The Donald's apprentices would fare much better if they got jobs at the network that used to air his show: NBC, owned by Comcast. According to the most recent filings, the network's employees are fully vested in their matching contributions from day one. 

(With assistance from Margaret Collins.)