department of labor buildingHauser will still play a critical role overseeing enforcement oflaws like the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and theAffordable Care Act. (Photo: Mike Scarcella/ALM)

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The reorganization of the top leadership of theEmployee Benefit Security Administration isdesigned to expedite rulemaking and guidance issuance, according toone attorney and former regulator with the Labor Department.

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"The Labor Department has always moved at a slow pace," saidErin Sweeney, a labor and ERISA attorney with Miller &Chevalier who served as a senior benefits counsel duringthe Bush administration.

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"The question the Trump administration is asking is if Labor hasalways had a slow pace, then how can we restructure EBSA so that itcan issue guidance and regulations in a more nimble fashion," sheadded.

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Effective October 1, EBSA's Office of Regulations andInterpretations, Office of Exemption Determinations, the Office ofPolicy and Research and Office of Health Plan Standards will fallunder the purview of the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, apolitically appointed position held by Jeanne KlinefelterWilson.

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Those core regulatory oversight responsibilities have fallenunder the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Program Operations, acareer, non-political position held by Timothy Hauser.

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Under the reorganization, Hauser will move to the DeputyAssistant Secretary for the National Office, where he will overseeEBSA's 10 regional offices and the agency's enforcementprograms.

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The new oversight structure closely emulates Labor's Office ofthe Solicitor, explained Sweeney, who worked on crafting thePension Protection Act of 2006 and for EBSA's Division of FiduciaryInterpretations.

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The Solicitor's Office has a reputation of greater efficiency,she said.

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"If you bring that overlay to EBSA, the idea is that it can bemore reactive to the Administration's goals. All senior staffreport up to the political appointee, who then presumably will moveguidance and regulations at a faster pace and allow for the marketinnovation the Administration is looking for," said Sweeney.

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Some in industry have speculated that key Trump administrationinitiatives issued through executive orders have developed tooslowly under Hauser's oversight.

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A regulation on pooled employer retirement plans that will beimplemented October 1 fell far short of industry's expectations.Other guidance, including electronic disclosures of 401(k)documents, has yet to emerge.

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"I have heard from some clients and industry trade associationsconcern that guidance is being slow-walked and that Labor is notmeeting the Administration's goal of providing guidance in a timelyfashion," said Sweeney.

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"The President issues an executive order and the Administrationwants to know where it is. The fact that it takes so long makespeople uncomfortable," added Sweeney.

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Hauser is considered to be a chief architect of Labor'sfiduciary rule under the Obama administration. EBSA isexpected to release a new fiduciary rule this fall.

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Hauser is also regarded as a brilliant legal mind and a dutifulpublic servant.

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"Tim is the consummate professional," said Sweeney, who workedclosely with Hauser during her time at Labor.

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"I've known him for a long time and never once have heard himutter a political opinion," she said.

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Hauser will still play a critical role overseeing enforcement oflaws like the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and theAffordable Care Act.

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"He came up through enforcement—that's where he cut his teeth,and he's really good at it," said Sweeney. "Tim brings a biggerpackage to enforcement. He's familiar with litigation andregulatory enforcement. He will be a great person to be in chargeof enforcement, and I think he enjoys it."

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READ MORE:

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Do DOL stats offer EBSA enforcementclues?

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Retirement plan auditors: What plan sponsors needto know about EBSA's CPA study

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Avoiding the headaches and frustration of ERISAlitigation

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