The 2013 Pension 40: Joshua Gotbaum

Joshua Gotbaum
Pension Benefit
Guaranty Corp.

Appointed head of the $85 billion Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. by President Barack Obama in 2010, Joshua Gotbaum stands out in the administration as a tireless advocate for public and private pension security.  The 1974 ERISA federal pension law established the PBGC to insure, protect and encourage private defined benefit pensions. A former investment banker and restructuring adviser, Gotbaum showed how seriously he takes that duty when he successfully lobbied American Airlines, whose parent company filed for bankruptcy in 2011, to keep its defined benefit fund. Many employers would offer defined-benefit-like retirement options if they had more regulatory flexibility, contends Gotbaum, 62, the son of a labor leader. But thanks to ERISA and the way it’s interpreted, “we have regulated away innovation in the private sector,” he says. “Around 20 percent of private sector employers offer defined benefit plans; there are tens of millions of people in my system.” But if the system doesn’t change, he warns, the movement away from employers’ offering defined benefit plans or an equally secure alternative will continue. Gotbaum, who grew up in Chicago and New  York and has a master’s in public policy and a JD from Harvard University, also held various posts in the Carter and Clinton administrations.

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