With the creation of NAPA in 2011, plan advisors who want to bring about change rather than react or complain have a group that speaks for them and a way to engage with Washington. The first step in the process of engagement is understanding the issues and the people in Washington who have the most influence over them.
That’s why we created our list of the 25 most influential government officials affecting retirement plans — and why the cover story of the inaugural issue of NAPA Net — The Magazine, which reviews the major issues at stake and the five people in Washington who are most likely to affect them, is so important. Like the defined contribution market, it all comes down to people — and, just like our industry, it’s surprising how few really matter. It’s important for plan advisors to understand not just the issues, but also the people driving them, to get a sense of the directions they may take.
There are four major issues on the table in Washington affecting plan advisors:
• Tax reform
• DOL’s definition of fiduciary rulemaking
• SEC’s uniform fiduciary rulemaking
• Regulation of IRAs
Following is our list of the top 25 most influential officials in Washington, grouped by these four key areas. (For a printable pdf of this list, click here.)
Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI)
Rep. Camp is the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which has primary jurisdiction over tax reform. If tax reform happens, it will start in the House. Camp seems to be taking the lead on tax reform, not only because of his position on the Committee but because of his close working relationship with House Speaker John Boehner. Camp is term-limited as Chairman until November 2014. Though Camp has publicly supported the retirement system, all bets are off as Congress struggles to balance the budget — everything is still on the table, include retirement tax incentives.
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
Sen. Baucus is the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax legislation and other revenue measures considered by Congress, including key retirement tax incentives and tax qualification issues relating to retirement plans. He spearheaded the most sweeping changes to America’s pension laws in more than 30 years when the Pension Protection Act was signed into law. Baucus has announced his retirement at the end of his current term in the Senate and is committed to writing and passing comprehensive tax reform legislation before he leaves office in 2014.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Sen. Cardin is a respected member of the Senate Finance Committee and is expected to be heavily involved in any tax reform effort in the Senate. He has been supportive of retirement savings and active in retirement policy throughout his career in Congress. As a member of the House Ways & Means Committee he co-sponsored, along with then-Congressman Rob Portman, comprehensive retirement legislation that raised employee contribution limits to retirement plans, created catch-up contributions for older workers, and accelerated vesting schedules for employer contributions. That bill became law in 2001.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Sen. Hatch is the Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee. As the leading Republican member of the Committee, he will play a key role in crafting tax reform legislation in the Senate. Hatch has also introduced legislation which includes many common-sense and overdue reforms to the private pension system that will help small and mid-sized employers establish and maintain retirement plans for their employees.
J. Mark Iwry
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Retirement and Health Policy, Treasury Dept.
Iwry (pronounced “EVE-ree”) is the reporting authority for the Office of the Benefits Tax Counsel in the Treasury Department. As a senior advisor to the Treasury Secretary, he provides advice and counsel to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Assistant Treasury Secretary for Tax Policy Mark Mazur regarding tax issues relating to retirement savings, health care and employee benefits. In short, Iwry is the Obama administration’s point person on retirement tax policy.
Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI)
Rep. Kind is a member of the House Ways & Means Committee. He was the Democratic leader of the Pensions/Retirement Tax Reform Group and has been active in developing policies to encourage small businesses to offer 401(k) or similar retirement savings plans for their employees. Kind also leads the centrist “new Democrat coalition” that has been active in questioning the Department of Labor’s recent regulatory approach with respect to the definition of fiduciary.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)
Sen. Portman is a key member of the Senate Finance Committee and is also well versed in retirement issues. Along with being a member of both the House and the Senate, he also served as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget in the George W. Bush administration. As a member of the House Ways & Means Committee he co-sponsored, along with then-Congressman Ben Cardin, comprehensive retirement legislation that raised employee contribution limits to retirement plans, created catch-up contributions for older workers, and accelerated vesting schedules for employer contributions. That bill became law in 2001.
Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH)
Rep. Tiberi (pronounced “TEE-berry”) is a senior member of the House Ways & Means Committee and chairs that committee’s Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures, which considers tax legislation in the House. He led the Pensions/Retirement Tax Reform Working Group, one of 11 separate Ways & Means Committee Tax Reform Working Groups formed in the spring of 2013. In this capacity, he engaged in an in-depth fact-finding exercise that examined all of the tax policies concerning retirement savings.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)
Sen. Wyden is next in line to take over the Senate Finance Committee in the 114th Congress, should the Democrats maintain their majority in the Senate after the 2014 election cycle, because of the impending retirement of Sens. Baucus and Rockefeller. He has been active in developing tax reform proposals with his Senate colleagues on a bipartisan basis. Wyden has recognized the importance of the tax incentives for retirement savings by maintaining them in his tax reform proposals.
DOL FIDUCIARY DEFINITION
Assistant Secretary of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration
No matter who sits in the EBSA director’s chair, they will wield considerable influence over corporate retirement plans. But the current director, Phyllis Borzi, may have a greater impact than her predecessors if the redefinition of fiduciary rule is promulgated. Appointed in July 2009 as Assistant Secretary of Labor of the EBSA — and with the potential to stay on until the end of President Obama’s second term or longer — Borzi’s impact on DC plans and advisors has been significant, and will continue to be. Her pet project is the redefinition of fiduciary because she is concerned about conflicts of interest among advisors that do not act in a fiduciary capacity. Her comments have led some to suggest that she questions the value proposition of financial advisors — an issue that she seems to be addressing in the proposed rule.
Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ)
Rep. Andrews is a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and serves as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions. He also serves on the Subcommittee on Workplace Protections. Like Rep. Roe, Congressman Andrews has been active in trying to craft reforms for the multiemployer pension plan system as the funding rules for these types of plans expire in the near future. He has also taken a lead role in raising concerns with the Department of Labor with regard to the definition of fiduciary rulemaking effort.
Sylvia Mathews Burwell
Director of the Office of Management and Budget
As head of the White House Office of Management and Budget, Burwell will play a key role in determining the final outcome of the DOL’s rulemaking revising the definition of fiduciary. Prior to her appointment as head of OMB, she served as president of the Walmart Foundation and president of the Global Development Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. During the Clinton administration she served as Deputy Director of OMB, Deputy Chief of Staff to the President, Chief of Staff to the Secretary of the Treasury, and Staff Director of the National Economic Council.
Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC)
Sen. Hagan is both a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions and the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Since she serves on committees that oversee both private pension rules and rules governing financial products, she is uniquely positioned to critically examine the various issues relating to the retirement plan industry. Hagan is also working on legislation to incentive states to incorporate financial literacy into student curriculums for grades 6-12 and has been active in communicating concerns to the Department of Labor about their definition of fiduciary rulemaking.
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Sen. Isakson serves on the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Since he serves on committees that oversee private pension rules, tax issues governing pension plans, and policies impacting retirement tax incentives, he is uniquely positioned to influence retirement policy in Congress. Isakson is the sponsor of a “sense of the Senate” resolution highlighting the importance of the retirement savings tax incentives and the sponsor of legislation that would require 401(k) plan sponsors to inform participating workers of the projected monthly income they could expect at retirement based upon their current account balance.
Rep. John Kline (R-MN)
Rep. Kline is the Chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which has jurisdiction over education and workforce matters generally, including the private pension plan system. The committee also conducts oversight over the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration. Kline plays a key role in the development of legislation impacting the retirement industry because he leads this important committee.
Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN)
Rep. Roe is a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and chairs the committee’s Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions. This subcommittee has jurisdiction over employment related health and retirement security issues, including pension, health, and other employee benefits and ERISA. The HELP Subcommittee has been especially active in examining reforms of the multiemployer pension plan system since current multiemployer pension plan funding rules expire at the end of 2014. Roe has also been engaged in the effort to shape the Department of Labor’s rulemaking on the definition of fiduciary.
SEC UNIFORM FIDUCIARY STANDARD
Mary Jo White
Chair, Securities and Exchange Commission
As SEC Chair, White has jurisdiction over RIAs and great influence over all financial advisors. She earned her reputation as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York from 1993 to 2002, where she focused on complex securities and financial institution fraud. She went on to lead the litigation department of a large New York law firm before being confirmed as SEC Chair in April 2013. White’s influence over plan advisors in particular could make an impact as her agency tackles the issue of uniform fiduciary standards for financial advisors, just as the DOL is pushing ahead with its own rule. With the appointment Thomas Perez as Secretary of Labor this summer, followed closely by the two agencies signing an official agreement to work closely together on matters of mutual interest, the SEC could change how plan advisors interact with their retirement plan and IRA clients.
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX)
Rep. Hensarling is Chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services, which has jurisdiction over banks, banking, insurance, securities, exchanges and financial products generally. The Committee oversees the SEC, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other executive branch agencies tasked with implementing Dodd-Frank and other banking laws. Hensarling has moved legislation through the committee that would slow down regulatory efforts in the SEC and the DOL on the definition of fiduciary under ERISA and Dodd-Frank.
Chairman and CEO, FINRA
FINRA is an independent, not-for-profit organization authorized by Congress to protect America’s investors by making sure the securities industry operates fairly and honestly. The group writes and enforces the rules governing the activities of more than 4,200 securities firms with approximately 630,000 brokers. FINRA examines firms for compliance with those rules, fosters market transparency and educates investors.
Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO)
Rep. Wagner is a member of the House Financial Services Committee and was selected by the freshman class of the 113th Congress to be their representative on the Elected Leadership Committee in the House. She has been a leader in the fight against rulemakings in the DOL and SEC that would expand fiduciary responsibilities to more financial service professionals. To that end, Wagner sponsored legislation that prohibits the DOL from issuing new fiduciary rules until 60 days after the SEC finalizes its fiduciary rule. That legislation also requires the SEC to identify whether expanded fiduciary standards would result in less access to financial products and services for retail investors and would reduce confusion over standards of care for financial professionals.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA)
Rep. Waters is the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Financial Services. She is a past Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and a co-founder of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Waters is a strong proponent of consumer financial protection and appropriate regulation and enforcement of safeguards against risky financial products. To that end, she supported the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Board under Dodd-Frank.
Director, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Cordray is the first Director of the CFPB, which was created in 2010 by the Dodd-Frank law and given a broad mandate to supervise banks, credit unions and other financial companies and to enforce federal consumer financial laws. Previously Cordray served as Ohio’s attorney general and in several other elected positions in Ohio. He is exploring whether the CFPB has the authority to regulate savings in IRAs through its Office for Older Americans.
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Sen. Harkin is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, which has jurisdiction over the laws and regulations relating to private pension plans, including ERISA. The committee also monitors the actions of the DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration, the executive branch agency that enforces ERISA. In his role as committee Chairman, Harkin is a key player in the development of retirement policy in Congress.
Rep. George Miller (D-CA)
Rep. Miller is the senior Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the DOL, ERISA, education and labor unions. Miller led the charge for more fee disclosure in qualified plans, which eventually led to the DOL’s 408(b)(2) and 404(a)(5) rules. Now he seems poised to champion fee disclosure for IRAs. Along with Sens. Nelson and Harkin, Miller called for greater fee disclosure after the 2013 GAO report on potential abuses and misleading information by service providers.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
For a freshman senator, Warren has made a big impact in Washington in a relatively short time. For example, she was given a seat on the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, which makes her a key player for retirement plans. Warren was a consumer bankruptcy law professor at Harvard Law School before defeating incumbent Scott Brown in 2012. She is well known as a consumer advocate on financial services issues, and her work with the Department of Treasury after the financial crisis is largely credited with the formation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Along with her position on the HELP committee, her background and interests, as well as good working relationship with Rep. Miller, puts her in a key position when Congress eventually focuses on IRA fee disclosure and transparency.