WASHINGTON - Having Lloyd Bentsen at the helm of the Treasury Department was a bonus for the pension community, but Robert Rubin is an acceptable replacement to many because of his Wall Street experience.
"(Mr.) Bentsen had a long record on pension issues, and the track record has been favorable," said Frank McArdle, Washington office manager for Hewitt Associates L.L.C. "We don't have a track record for (Mr.) Rubin. What we had with (Mr.) Bentsen is a rarity in that regard."
After serving two years at the Treasury Department, Mr. Bentsen resigned from the post, effective Dec. 22. President Clinton announced he would nominate Mr. Rubin, chairman of the National Economic Council, as his replacement.
White House Deputy Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles is expected to be considered for Mr. Rubin's NEC post.
Several pension sources were unsure whether Mr. Rubin has any pension experience or interest, but all agreed his knowledge of the capital markets will be an advantage. Prior to joining the NEC two years ago, Mr. Rubin spent nearly 30 years at Goldman, Sachs & Co., New York, where he rose to co-chairman.
But while Mr. Rubin may have extensive investment knowledge, he doesn't have the vast experience Mr. Bentsen has had in shaping pension law.
Mr. Bentsen, who served in both houses of Congress, probably was the most knowledgeable Treasury Secretary on pension issues since passage of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. His congressional legislative experience dates back 20 years, and includes helping draft ERISA.
As Senate Finance Committee chair, Mr. Bentsen made considerable strides in toughening minimum funding rules for pension plans, as well as expanding individual retirement accounts.
"I think the thing we'll miss the most is his sensitivity to the concerns of plan sponsors, and his historical perspective,' on pension issues, said James Klein, head of the Association of Private Pension and Welfare Plans, Washington.
Mr. Klein said he hopes Mr. Rubin would continue work on savings and pension simplification.
"When politicians focus on the need to save, pension plan sponsors have benefited," he said.
Senate confirmation hearings for Mr. Rubin are expected to be smooth.
"(Mr.) Rubin is the shining star of people who have been brought" into the Clinton administration, said one administration source. "His philosophical views are close to (Mr.) Bentsen's."
Neither Mr. Rubin nor sources close to him would discuss his viewpoints or possible changes in economic policy.