Preston Rutledge retiring as Assistant Secretary of Labor

Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) Preston Rutledge announced his plans to step down from the agency recently, prompting the Department of Labor and retirement industry associations to quickly chime in to praise his service.

Preston Rutledge

“As Assistant Secretary for EBSA, Preston Rutledge brought greater security to employees’ retirement and healthcare plans, and helped small businesses extend healthcare and retirement benefits to their workers,” Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia said in a statement. “His past two-and-a-half years at the Labor Department are a fitting capstone on an exceptional 25 years in government service. We will miss his counsel and wish him all the best.”

EBSA is responsible for 401k-plan defined contribution regulation, reporting, oversight and enforcement. As head of EBSA, Rutledge also oversaw self-insured health plans, and the DOL fiduciary rule.

Rutledge is retiring, Labor Department spokesman Robert Bozzuto said Thursday. Jeanne Wilson, currently the deputy assistant secretary to Rutledge, will take over as acting assistant secretary when he leaves on May 31, according to a senior Labor Department official.

“He has been an outstanding champion for common-sense solutions to increase retirement security for all Americans. He has been dedicated to advancing and implementing policies that will help Americans achieve a secure and dignified retirement,” said Wayne Chopus, president and CEO of the Insured Retirement Institute.

During his tenure as a top Senate staffer, Rutledge worked with Senate leaders on bipartisan retirement security legislation that laid the groundwork for what developed into the SECURE Act, which passed at the end of 2019. As the Assistant Secretary of Labor for EBSA, he has been a “transparent, accessible leader,” Chopus said.

“IRI has worked with Assistant Secretary Rutledge for many years and we share a commitment and understanding to help Americans through improved access to workplace retirement plans, increased retirement savings, and greater access to lifetime income products. IRI wishes Assistant Secretary Rutledge well as he closes this chapter of his dedicated and successful public service.”

Rutledge, who replaced high-profile fiduciary advocate Phyllis Borzi in 2017 and whose tenure was marked by President Trump’s Executive Order on Strengthening Retirement Security in America, made expanding multiple employer plans (MEP) and a review of plan disclosures priorities in the EO’s wake. The issue of missing plan participants was also an agency focus.

“Millions of Americans will enjoy a more secure retirement because of Preston’s leadership and passion,” added American Council of Life Insurers President and CEO Susan Neely.

He also led the agency in getting expanded access to retirement savings, streamlined retirement plan administration, and health plan expansion across the finish line. He swiftly positioned the agency to help workers see the potential value of their savings as lifetime income in retirement.

“Domestically and internationally, he was an outspoken advocate for the role of life insurance and lifetime income for retirees. We applaud Preston’s many achievements and dedicated service to workers and retirees,” Neely said.

“Preston will definitely be missed in his capacity as Assistant Secretary of Labor,” noted Brian H. Graff, CEO of the American Retirement Association. “His in-depth knowledge of ERISA has led to significant regulations including ARPs and the hopefully soon to be forthcoming e-disclosure regulation, which will save 401k participants hundreds of millions of dollars a year in unnecessary fees. The ARA wishes him well in his future endeavors.”