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Trump Picks Another DOL Chief

February 17, 2017

President Donald Trump has tapped a former National Labor Relations Board member to head the Department of Labor, a day after the president’s original pick withdrew his nomination, Reuters reports. But it’s unclear how the new nomination will affect the agency’s fiduciary rule review, according to Employee Benefit News.

Alexander Acosta, currently dean of the Florida International University College of Law in Miami, is expected to sail through the confirmation process thanks to his previously Senate-confirmed posts, Reuters writes. And Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who chairs the Senate committee vetting Acosta, says the “nomination is off to a good start,” according to the newswire.

Former Republican president George W. Bush had appointed Acosta to the National Labor Relations Board as well as to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Reuters writes. Acosta was also appointed U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida and was a law clerk from 1994 to 1995 to U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito, who was then a judge at the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, according to the newswire.

Acosta’s nomination doesn’t clear up how the agency will handle the fiduciary rule, Employee Benefit News writes. The rule, which requires retirement brokers to put clients’ interests first, was scheduled to go into effect in April until earlier this month Trump issued a memorandum to review the provision.

The DOL has already sought a delay to the rule and requested to initiate another public comment period.

But Trump’s original pick to head the agency, Andrew Puzder, withdrew his nomination Wednesday amid allegations of wage theft and revelations of him hiring an undocumented immigrant worker.

Without a confirmed permanent secretary to lead the agency, the review of the rule would likely have to be delayed, sources told BenefitsPro.

As reported previously, Edward Hugler has been acting labor secretary since January 20 when president Barack Obama appointee Thomas Perez resigned.

Alexander Acosta (Getty)

But Joel Wood, senior vice president for government relations at the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers, tells Employee Benefit News that Puzder’s withdrawal isn’t likely to slow down the Republican drive to kill the rule.

“It’s hard for me to imagine the president selecting a Labor Secretary who doesn’t feel the same about these regulations,” he tells the publication, referring to Republican “antipathy” toward financial regulations overall. And Scott Sinder, outside counsel and chief legal officer for CIAB, expects the DOL to issue a 180-day delay Friday or Monday, according to Employee Benefits News.

Meanwhile, until a confirmed secretary can provide direction, it’s going to be difficult for DOL staff to come up with another cost-benefit analysis of the rule, InvestmentNews writes. On the one hand, they’ve been working on the rule for six years, including regular assessments, the publication writes. But on the other hand, they have to follow directives from Trump’s memorandum to review the rule one more time, InvestmentNews writes. In the short term, according to the publication, they’re likely to move ahead without Acosta.

By Alex Padalka
  • To read the InvestmentNews article cited in this story, click here.
  • To read the Reuters article cited in this story, click here.
  • To read the Benefit News article cited in this story, click here.