ERISA Advisory Council
Section 512 of ERISA provides for the establishment of an Advisory Council on Employee Welfare and Pension Benefit Plans, known as the ERISA Advisory Council. The duties of the council are to advise the Secretary and submit recommendations regarding the Secretary's functions under ERISA.
The council consists of 15 members appointed by the Secretary of Labor. Three members are representatives of employee organizations (at least one of whom represents an organization whose members are participants in a multiemployer plan). Three members are representatives of employers (at least one of whom represents employers maintaining or contributing to multiemployer plans). Three members are representatives of the general public. There is one representative each from the fields of insurance, corporate trust, actuarial counseling, investment counseling, investment management, and accounting. Members must be qualified to appraise the programs instituted under ERISA. Members are appointed for three-year terms with five terms expiring on December 31 of each year. The council holds at least four meetings each year, which are open to the public. The council is subject to the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
Vacancies for the council are announced each year in the Federal Register. Notice is given that any person or organization desiring to recommend one of more individuals for appointment to the council may submit recommendations to the attention of the council's executive secretary. The notice includes the date by which recommendations must be submitted.
Recommendations may be in the form of a letter, resolution or petition, signed by the person making the recommendations, or in the case of a recommendation by an organization, by an authorized representative of the organization. Each recommendation should identify the candidate by name, occupation or position, telephone number, address, and e-mail address, a brief description of the candidate's qualifications, and the position (group or field) for which he or she is nominated. For the purposes of ERISA section 512, the candidate's political party affiliation must be noted, as section 512 requires that no more than eight council members may be of the same political party. The recommendation also must state whether the candidate is available and would accept appointment to the council.
Letters received in nominating or recommending candidates for a position on the council are evaluated for completeness and qualification of the candidate. Nominating letters are acknowledged. Nominees are requested to complete a form declaring their political affiliation according to Section 512 of ERISA and are reminded of the time commitment necessary to work on the council. Letters of support for candidates are welcome and are acknowledged.
Once the nomination process is completed, the Assistant Secretary of the Employee Benefits Security Administration reviews the nominations and submits recommendations to the Secretary. The Secretary then appoints the five new members.
In addition, the Secretary selects the chair and vice chair of the council based upon the advice and recommendation of the Assistant Secretary.
The Executive Secretary position for the Advisory Council is established by Section 512 of ERISA. The Executive Secretary provides staff support regarding Advisory Council activities; schedules, coordinates and provides administrative support to all Advisory Council meetings; plans and coordinates the selection process for new members of the Advisory Council; prepares reports regarding the Advisory Council's activities; and establishes and maintains the archives of the Advisory Council.
Working Process Of The Advisory Council
After due consideration and debate, the council reaches a consensus to focus on issues important to the administration of ERISA, historically three to four issues each year. The Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Employee Benefits Security Administration may suggest issues to the council to be studied during the year. For each issue, the council defines the issue to investigate, takes testimony from witnesses, and submits a report of findings and recommendations. The council chair selects a chair and vice chair to lead the councilís work on each issue.
During scheduled meetings, the council hears testimony from experts on the issues, asks questions, and discusses findings and recommendations. A wide variety of witnesses are identified with a view to inviting them to testify before the council. During a typical meeting, the chair or vice chair calls the meeting to order and states the purpose of the meeting. If work assignments have been given to members, the chair invites a report. If witnesses have been invited to testify, they are called forward and requested to speak, limiting their testimony to 20 minutes. Witnesses usually submit written testimony, which is distributed to the members and the public and made part of the official record of the meeting. Members ask questions of each witness. When no further questions are forthcoming, the chair thanks and excuses the witness. The process continues until all witnesses scheduled for the meeting have been heard.
The issue chair invites members to discuss events of the meeting, encouraging them to express their views and concerns. Upon completion of discussion, the chair will invite statements from the general public. After statements from the general public and any discussion, the chair will ask for a motion to adjourn.
The council members study testimony and deliberations that took place on various issues during the council year. The council chair and issue chairs may designate members of a subcommittee who draft reports to present to the council for its consideration. These reports include summaries of witness testimonies, findings, and recommendations. The councilís decisions are made at scheduled meetings open to the general public.
The issue chairs present their findings and recommendations to the council at the final meeting of the year. The council discusses each report and accepts it by vote as presented or with modifications. The council then presents the findings and recommendations to the Secretary or the Secretaryís designated representative at the final meeting.
The final act of the council term is when the council Chair, in a letter to the Secretary of Labor, transmits the reports.
- Neal S. Schelberg (2012-2014), Senior Partner, Proskauer Rose, New York, NY, representing Employers, Advisory Council Chair
- Paul M. Secunda (2013-2015), Professor of Law, Marquette University Law School, Milwaukee, WI, representing the General Public, Advisory Council Vice Chair
- Ralph C. Derbyshire (2012-2014), Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, FMR, Boston, MA, representing Investment Management
- James English (2012-2014), retired Secretary-Treasurer, United Steelworkers, Pittsburgh, PA, representing Employee Organizations
- Cindy Hounsell (2012-2014), President, Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement, Washington, DC, representing the General Public
- David C. Kaleda (2012-2014), Principal, Groom Law Group, Washington, DC, representing Corporate Trust
- Josh Cohen (2013-2015), Head of Institutional Defined Contribution, Russell Investment Group, Chicago, IL, representing Investment Counseling
- Christina R. Cutlip (2013-2015), Managing Director and Head of Plan Sponsor Services, TIAA-CREF, Fairfax, VA, representing Employers
- Ron Gebhardtsbauer (2013-2015), Faculty-In-Charge, Actuarial Program, Penn State University, State College, PA, representing Actuarial Counseling
- James I. Singer (2013-2015), Partner, Schuchat, Cook and Werner, St. Louis, MO, representing Employee Organizations
- Kevin T. Hanney (2014-2016), Director, Pension Investments, United Technologies Corporation, Farmington, CT, representing Employers
- Christine S. Hwang (2014-2016), Partner, Leonard Carder, San Francisco, CA, representing Employee Organizations
- Dennis F. Mahoney (2014-2016), Director of the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist Program (CEBS) of the Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania, Malvern, PA, representing the General Public
- Mark E. Schmidtke (2014-2016), Shareholder, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, Valparaiso, IN, representing Insurance
- Deborah L. Smith (2014-2016), Partner, Grant Thornton, Oakbrook Terrace, IL, representing Accounting