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As these figures show, insurance is by far TIAA’s main activity. It is a joint-stock life insurance company whose shares are held by the supervisory board of TIAA. Most of the money it generates in its operations is plowed back into the business or paid out to TIAA annuity holders, the company says. Last year, it paid out $3.8 billion to these holders.

TIAA employees were paid nearly $1 billion in 2016, its documents show.

TIAA’s executive compensation packages are comparable to those on Wall Street. In 2016, Mr. Ferguson, its managing director, received $18.5 million in compensation, 5.1 million dollars more than Michael Corbat, the general manager of Citigrouphas received.

Although TIAA claims that its sales representatives are not paid commissions, it awards bonuses to financial consultants and advisors if they sell in-house products or services. “Consultants are encouraged to refer you or recommend that you open TIAA accounts, products and services,” a TIAA filing with the SEC said.

TIAA financial consultants who deal with institutions also receive bonuses based on their ability to keep clients’ money in-house, the filing said.

The company says in the filing that it resolves these conflicts of interest “by disclosing them to you.” Although the long document is sent to TIAA customers, they may not read it. Conflicts are not discussed in the current TIAA Private Assets management brochuredated March 2017, which says, “Your team always manages your portfolio in your best interests.

But the whistleblower’s complaint recounted a comment made by an executive at a convention of company advisers in Orlando, Florida, in 2014. At the event, according to the complaint, Carol Deckbar, then vice -executive president and chief operating officer of the firm, urged advisers to put more of their clients into in-house mutual funds. “Where do you think you get your bonuses?” the executive asked the crowd, according to the complaint.

Ms Deckbar, now head of institutional investment and endowment products and services at TIAA, declined to comment through the TIAA spokesperson. The spokesperson also declined to comment.