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Biden Nominee to Lead EBSA Advances in Senate

Regulatory Agencies

President Biden’s nominee to lead the Employee Benefits Security Administration has moved one step closer to being confirmed. 

Lisa Gomez, who was nominated by Biden in July to serve as Assistant Secretary for EBSA at the Department of Labor, was approved Dec. 2 by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee on a near party-line vote of 12-10. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was the lone Republican to vote in favor of her nomination. 

Gomez currently is a partner at labor law firm Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP, representing employer and union pension plans. She joined the firm in 1994, became a partner in 2002 and currently serves as Chair of the firm’s Management Committee.

While her nomination was received in July and a hearing was held by the Senate HELP Committee in October, her nomination reportedly was held up after Republican members wanted to delve deeper into her views on environmental, social and corporate governance investing.  

Less than a week after her testimony before the HELP Committee, the Labor Department released a new proposal that would set aside the Trump administration’s final rules on the use of ESG factors in selecting plan investments and fiduciary duties regarding proxy voting for one that explicitly allows a consideration of those factors.  

One of the key responsibilities of the Assistant Secretary for EBSA is overseeing the Biden administration’s regulatory agenda with respect to ERISA issues, including the forthcoming proposal revisiting the definition of a fiduciary. The administration’s regulatory agenda still includes a December target date for release of a proposed rule, but that date may slip. 

Gomez would also oversee development of the rule on the use of ESG factors in selecting plan investments, guidance under the SECURE Act, and the multiemployer plan relief provided under the American Rescue Plan. 

If she is confirmed by the Senate—which now seems likely given the HELP committee’s approval—Gomez would replace Ali Khawar, who has been serving as Acting Assistant Secretary for the EBSA and would remain as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary.