Is Joshua Gotbaum the ‘Superman’ for the PBGC?

Pension Benefit Guaranty Director picked for his grasp of politics as well as finance.


The news was even grimmer than expected. In mid-November the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. reported that its deficit for the latest fiscal year was $22 billion — up 96 percent in one year. Along with punishing markets, the agency has had to contend with having to assume the obligations of several large failed pension plans, including Delphi Corp.’s $6 billion plan. What’s more, the PBGC’s director, Charles Millard, left under a cloud in January; he’s being investigated by the agency’s inspector general for allegedly influencing manager procurement improperly — a charge he has denied.

Enter Joshua Gotbaum, President Barack Obama’s choice for PBGC director who has served as assistant secretary of the Treasury for economic policy and assistant secretary of Defense under Bill Clinton. Some in Washington say that the 58-year-old Gotbaum, currently a partner at New York private equity firm Blue Wolf Capital, is well cast for the all-but-impossible PBGC job because of his grasp of politics as well as finance.

But as Douglas Elliott, a former JPMorgan Chase & Co. investment banker and a senior fellow at the liberal Brookings Institution who wrote 25 white papers on the pension agency, puts it, “The ideal job description to run the PBGC is Superman.”