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Welcome to the Hotel AXA/Equitable 🏨

October 27, 2020

Anytime a 403bwise Facebook Group member reports difficulty exiting a high-cost AXA/Equitable 403(b) plan I am reminded of the closing lyrics of the Eagles Hotel California... 

"You can check out any time you like
But you can never leave!"

Unlike the Hotel California, you can check out of an AXA/Equitable 403(b) but as of this writing it is not easy. Just like the song which says "Please bring me my wine," you are going to need a glass or two. A 403bwise Facebook Group thread on this topic began last week and it was really beyond absurd. Rube Goldberg has nothing on how hard AXA/Equitable makes breaking up. The following are key posts from the thread.

Initial post (October 20, 2020)
Can anyone help me deal with AXA? Equitable? I’ve been trying since March to roll over money from my 403(b) to a Vanguard IRA. I’ve been separated from my school district for over 10 years so there is no issue with how long they’ve held the funds.

My roll over requests have been rejected 4 times. First time because the forms did not include a “unique code” (contract #) even though the form did not request it. Second time because my forms were “expired.” Third time because they would not accept an “acceptance letter” from Vanguard, only a signature on Equitable’s form. 

This time, after finding someone at Vanguard who could could sign the third party form, Vanguard sent the paperwork on to Equitable rather than me, so it didn’t get sent through Omni before being sent to Equitable and I’ve been rejected again. 

This is Byzantine. I have never had so many issues with paperwork and it’s like they won’t reveal the next step until you send paperwork in to be rejected and then you have to start all over again. I have emails from Omni approving my rollover but Equitable won’t accept an addendum to my paperwork, everything has to be submitted together, so I can’t just upload or mail that in. 

They also won’t return my forms so I can resubmit because they contain “sensitive information and we would have to redact all of it.”
Vanguard has located my original paperwork and has agreed to send it to me, but at this point I have to assume that even if I attach approval from Omni, Equitable will find another reason to deny the rollover request.

I am so tired of dealing with these people. What’s the secret to getting my money back from them? Is there some sort of incantation I need to chant?
 

FB Reaction
Do you have an AXA/Equitable contact/phone number? I managed to get someone’s number and email in the chain and that sped things up considerably. Especially since I started calling every other day and CCing everyone on every email. Not gonna lie it took a good 2 months and major portions of my day. I scanned every piece of paper sent my way for just that reason ( I am sure I had to submit more than twice).Keep the retirement plan relationship status updates coming!

Original Poster
I’ve just been calling the number on the letters they send me, I have dealt with a different employee each time. I can try getting contact info from someone when I call again. I’ve just gotten no traction with anyone when I’ve called, it’s just nope, sorry, can’t help you need to start over.

FB Reaction
I heard you need to call the 1-800 number or their hotline not the sales guy? Did that help?

Original poster
I’ve been calling the 800 number and dialing the extension for rollovers. My local salesperson won’t answer emails.

Infuriated by this I Tweeted the following...

Infuriating: teacher has been separated from service for 10 yrs yet AXA/Equitable keeps rejecting her 403(b) rollover request for absurd reasons. No wonder teachers are rejecting AXA/Equitable. Our 1,600-strong 403bwise FB group is assisting so she will prevail. Where are you NEA?

Reply to my Tweet
25 years ago I ran the Conservation Desk for a large 403(b) carrier. Oh...the stories I could tell!

Reply to this Tweet
Share one story!

Reply to that Tweet
Paperwork comes in and it’s missing three things. We’d send a letter to the client asking for just one of the missing items. If we would get that item back we’d request the second thing and so on... Many times the client, who was unsure in the first place, would give up.

I posted this infromation on the 403bwise Facebook Group.

Original Poster 
This is exactly what I suspected has been happening. I’m a reasonably competent person and have never had this much trouble with a company.

FB Reaction
“Conservation Desk” says a lot right there. Did they used to work for a cable company?

FB Reaction
I'm currently also trying to separate from Equitable and move to Vanguard and 4 weeks in they still haven't moved anything.

Original Poster
On one phone call, I was given a link to the Omni we site and told I needed to submit my info there. Omni replied quickly and processed the request within 24 hours and sent an email approval. However on other call I was told to mail all my Equitable forms to Omni and have Omni send them on to Equitable.

FB Reaction
In the first case, did you fill out an OMNI form? Was the email approval sufficient for Equitable? Does the Equitable form include a sign-off for the TPA?

Original Poster
The Omni form was online and the approval was sent to me (from Omni) via email. I faxed my paperwork over to Equitable yesterday and then spoke (again) on the phone with a rep who couldn’t find the fax but stayed on the phone with me while I emailed her the same material I faxed. She said everything looks good and I should have approval in 5 business days. We’ll see. I’ll believe it when the money arrives into the Vanguard account.
I faxed in this case because I have a prior email from Equitable explicitly stating that TPA documentation can be mailed or faxed.

In case this is helpful to anyone else...

Original Poster
The Omni form was online and the approval was sent to me (from Omni) via email. I faxed my paperwork over to Equitable yesterday and then spoke (again) on the phone with a rep who couldn’t find the fax but stayed on the phone with me while I emailed her the same material I faxed. She said everything looks good and I should have approval in 5 business days. We’ll see. I’ll believe it when the money arrives into the Vanguard account.
I faxed in this case because I have a prior email from Equitable explicitly stating that TPA documentation can be mailed or faxed.

In case this is helpful to anyone else...

Original Poster (October 24, 2020)
As of today, my account at Equitable is listed as “closed” when I log in, so I am tentatively encouraged that this means my forms were approved and the money is on its way to Vanguard. I appreciate the feedback from folks on this post!

"Last thing I remember, I was
running for the door
I had to find the passage...

I'll add: "to something more."

Stay wise and well.