BrightScope Inc is a San Diego start up firm that launched its public website,, on January 29th, 2009 as an independent rating firm for workplace retirement plans.  The founders thought of the idea in October 2007 while watching a Monday Night Football game and discussing their own retirement plans.  Although they did not know much about 401(k) plans at that time they soon realized they wanted to do for retirement plans what Morningstar did for mutual funds by providing an easy to understand ranking system.

They began by developing an algorithm, the BrightScope Ratings™, to assess the quality of a retirement plan on the company level.  It takes into account 200+ unique data inputs per plan to calculate a single numerical score to define 401k plan quality.    The algorithm runs simulations for each plan in order to determine how quickly each 401k plan will get the average 401k participant to retirement.  Factors include company contributions, fees, investment menu quality, vesting schedules, and eligibility periods.
As a plan sponsor you can subscribe to their Plan Management Dashboard which was launched in July 2009 in order to view the underlying BrightScope data and calculations and do a thorough fee analysis that benchmarks each fee you are paying.  In September 2009 BrightScope also launched Advisor Central as a prospecting tool for brokers and advisers to purchase data on a subscription basis to target retirement plans with low rankings.