Edwin Johnson, ‘godfather’ of 401(k) plan, dead at 82

Edwin T. Johnson, founder and former CEO of employee benefits consulting firm The Johnson Cos. who was known as the “godfather” of the 401(k) plan, died Aug. 23 at age 82, according to a death notice from Swartz/Givnish Funeral Home in Newtown, Pa.

Mr. Johnson's Newtown-based consulting firm was home to Ted Benna, known as the father of the 401(k), who was a senior vice president there.

Mr. Benna originated the idea of the 401(k) plan in January 1980, and it took until Nov. 10, 1981, for his plan design — based on the new 401(k) section of the Tax Code added with the Revenue Act of 1978 — to get formal IRS sanction.

“We were working with the 1978 (tax) code” and Mr. Benna showed Mr. Johnson the 401(k) proposal, Mr. Johnson said in an interview with Pensions & Investments in 2001. “I thought it would be tremendous if it would work because the IRS did not have pretax payroll deductions.”

In 1990, the British company Noble Lowndes bought most of Mr. Johnson's firm, creating Noble Lowndes Johnson, where Mr. Johnson continued as a principal. Noble Lowndes merged with Marsh & McLennan Cos.' Mercer unit in 1998.

Services will be held at 1 p.m. EDT Sept. 7 at Newtown Presbyterian Church, 25 N Chancellor St., Newtown, Pa. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in his memory to The Jackson Laboratory.