On Thursday, the full Senate confirmed Preston Rutledge to serve as Assistant Secretary for the Employee Benefits Security Administration.
“Mr. Rutledge will have the important job of protecting hard-working Americans who participate in employee pension and welfare benefit plans, and I look forward to working with him,” Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, said in a statement following the vote.
The successor to regulatory powerhouse Phyllis Borzi who preceded him, supporters and detractors alike note Rutledge is very familiar with the responsibilities of the role, and industry advocacy groups praised the nomination and confirmation.
“I’m pleased to report that this evening before leaving town for the holidays the Senate confirmed Preston Rutledge as the new DOL Assistant Secretary for EBSA,” Brian Graff, chief executive officer of American Retirement Association wrote in LinkedIn post. “Now that tax reform is over—guess what? It’s back to the fiduciary rule—happy new year!”
“As the Senior Tax and Benefits Counsel for the Senate Finance Committee, Rutledge is well acquainted with the staff and activities at EBSA,” the ESOP Association said upon news of his nomination by President Trump in October. “And as a practicing employee benefits litigator and counselor, he has seen first-hand how tax and benefit regulations are applied in the workplace.”
Prior to joining the Finance Committee, Rutledge served as a senior tax law specialist on the headquarters staff of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division of the Internal Revenue Service, and as a senior technical reviewer in the Qualified Pension Plans Branch of the IRS Office of Chief Counsel.
During his tenure there, according to a bio released by the White House, he was a top performer and the recipient of an Office of Chief Counsel National Award.
Rutledge also served as a law clerk on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and worked in private law practice as an employee benefits counselor and ERISA litigator.
Rutledge earned a B.S. in business, cum laude, from the University of Idaho; J.D., with high honors, from the George Washington University School of Law, and an L.L.M.–taxation, with distinction, including a certificate in employee benefits law, from the Georgetown University Law Center.
“If confirmed, Rutledge will oversee, among other matters, the disability claim regulation discussed above, as well as the fiduciary rule, parts of which (like the best interest contract exemption) are postponed until July 1, 2019,” noted James Plunkett of the law firm Ogletree, Deakins.