Preston Rutledge, senior aide on Senate Finance Committee, could be filling Phyllis Borzi's old post at DOL

The panel's senior tax and benefits counsel would be the point person on the Department of Labor's fiduciary duty rule

Oct 11, 2017 @ 2:42 pm

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

+ Zoom

A senior aide on the Senate Finance Committee could be in line to be the next point person on the Labor Department's fiduciary duty rule.

President Donald J. Trump will nominate Preston Rutledge, senior tax and benefits counsel on the panel, as the next DOL assistant secretary for the Employee Benefits Security Administration, according to a report in Politico, a Washington publication focusing on politics and policy.

Mr. Rutledge would fill the same position that Phyllis Borzi, known as the "mother of the DOL rule," held in the Obama administration when the regulation was finalized.

If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Rutledge would be influential in the agency's ongoing review of the regulation that was ordered by Mr. Trump earlier this year. The re-assessment could lead to changes to the enforcement mechanisms of the regulation, which requires brokers to act in the best interests of their clients in retirement accounts.

Capitol Hill staffers usually operate behind the scenes and don't get out in front of their bosses on policy matters. That makes it a challenge to predict how Mr. Rutledge will approach the regulation.

"I'm not aware of any public position he's taken on that issue," said Brian Graff, chief executive of the American Retirement Association.

Dallas Salisbury, former president of the Employee Benefit Research Institute, has known Mr. Rutledge for several years.

"He is smart, balanced, ethical — a fact-based analyst and policy person," Mr. Salisbury wrote in an email. "His work on some public sector pension and defined-benefit issues suggests he would review the fiduciary regulation, and all others, objectively, based upon the facts and the law and take only actions he felt met the law."

A spokeswoman for the Senate Finance Committee referred an interview request for Mr. Rutledge to the White House. A White House spokesperson was not immediately available for comment. Mr. Rutledge has not yet been formally nominated.

While on the Senate Finance Committee staff, Mr. Rutledge worked on the Secure Annuities for Employee Retirement Act, which would have given the Treasury Department, rather than DOL, jurisdiction over rules pertaining to individual retirement accounts, a move that would have undermined the DOL fiduciary rule. The bill has not become law.

Mr. Rutledge, who was a tax law specialist at the Internal Revenue Service prior to joining the Senate committee, according to his LinkedIn profile, was praised for his mastery of the areas he would oversee at DOL.

"He is one of the most knowledgeable people I know in town when it comes to employee benefits policy," said Jill Hoffman, vice president of government affairs at the Financial Services Roundtable.

Mr. Graff made a similar assessment.

"It's important that someone knowledgeable about retirement policy issues is in that position, and he certainly fits that bill," Mr. Graff said.

Observers said that Mr. Rutledge was instrumental to the Senate Finance Committee's bipartisan approval of the Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act last year. The bill did not get a vote in the Senate, and would have to be re-introduced during the current session of Congress.

"Preston Rutledge has been an outstanding champion for common-sense solutions to increase retirement security for all Americans," Lee Covington, senior vice president and general counsel at the Insured Retirement Institute, said in a statement.

The DOL is seeking a delay from Jan. 1, 2018, to July 1, 2019, for the implementation of the remaining parts of the fiduciary rule. Interest groups are eager to have a new EBSA director, as the DOL's review continues.

"We would encourage the White House to move swiftly because it's important to have someone in that position," Mr. Graff said.

0
Comments

What do you think?

View comments

Recommended for you

Sponsored financial news

Upcoming Event

Apr 30

Conference

Retirement Income Summit

Join InvestmentNews at the 12th annual Retirement Income Summit - the industry's premier retirement planning conference.Much has changed - and much remains to be learned. Attend and discuss how the future is full of opportunity for ... Learn more

Featured video

Events

What to do when your partnership ends

Breaking up is hard to do: and that is certainly true when it comes to advisory firms. Financial Adviser Rob Holdford tells his story and explains how you can survive and thrive when a partnership dissolves.

Video Spotlight

The Search for Income

Sponsored by PGIM Investments

Recommended Video

Path to growth

Latest news & opinion

T. Rowe Price steps up its game to serve financial advisers

The Baltimore-based mutual fund giant is more aggressively targeting financial advisers with a beefed-up wholesale crew and placement on custodial platforms.

The most important tax changes for 2018

The Internal Revenue Service issued inflation adjustments to more than 50 tax provisions for 2018.

E*Trade acquiring custodian Trust Company of America

Discount broker buying second-tier custodian for $275 million.

Another thousand Dow points higher, and investors yawn

Market milestones keep falling like dominoes, with 51 records broken so far this year.

LPL retains $570 million with super-OSJ deal

Kansas-based nVision Wealth will come under supervision of Chicago-based IHT Wealth Management.

X

Subscribe and Save 60%

Premium Access
Print + Digital

Learn more
Subscribe to Print