ERISA architect Nagle praised as intelligent, fair

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Robert E. Nagle was general counsel of the Senate committee drafting legislation that became ERISA.

Robert E. Nagle, one of the architects of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 who died Aug. 16, is remembered by colleagues as a good, kind, competent man whose knowledge and fairness in the employee benefits field was unmatched.

Mr. Nagle had been appointed as the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare's general counsel by Sen. Harrison A. Williams Jr., D-N.J., then chairman of the committee that drafted the bill that became ERISA.

He died at home in McLean, Va., following a battle with cancer. He was 84.

Frank Cummings, an attorney who was chief of staff to Sen. Jacob K. Javits, R-N.Y., during the development of ERISA, said in a telephone interview that Mr. Nagle “really was a great guy.”

“He was a nice, competent, civilized, effective staff guy for Williams and made a lot of things possible that might not have been possible,” Mr. Cummings said.

“Those were the days when Republicans and Democrats were civilized and they dealt with each other in a straightforward and respectful manner,” Mr. Cummings added. “Bob Nagle was instrumental in that whole relationship that led to the legislation that came out of the Senate Labor Committee.”

Norman Stein, senior policy adviser of the Pension Rights Center and professor at Drexel University School of Law, Philadelphia, said in an e-mailed statement: “There were few people in the employee benefits field as knowledgeable or as wise as Bob, and no one ever had a kinder heart. He was a gentle man and good man in every sense of those words and will be deeply missed.”

From 1979 to 1982, Mr. Nagle was executive director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. His selection had been praised in a Sept. 10, 1979, Pensions & Investments article, and he was cited by pension experts as someone who could ably make independent decisions.

Since 1982, he had been an attorney in private practice and an arbitrator for issues arising under collective bargaining agreements. He also was a multiemployer plan trustee.

Mr. Nagle, a graduate of Wesleyan University and the University of Chicago Law School, also recently served as a member of the Bloomberg BNA Benefits Practice Resource Advisory Board and was a Michael S. Gordon fellow with the Pension Rights Center.

“Bob provided invaluable advice on numerous legal and policy issues,” Karen Ferguson, Pension Rights Center director, said in a statement. “He was an amazing person, extraordinarily knowledgeable, wonderfully wise and incredibly generous with his time. He was loved and admired by all.”

A memorial service will take place at 3 p.m. EDT on Sept. 6 at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 4444 Arlington Blvd., Arlington, Va. 22204.

This article originally appeared in the September 1, 2014 print issue as, "ERISA architect Nagle praised as intelligent, fair".