Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who died of brain cancer Tuesday night, played a leading role in shaping U.S. pension policy, including the Pension Protection Act of 2006, the largest single reform of the U.S. pension system since the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.
Mr. Kennedy, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, was active even through his final weeks, working on pension-related issues in Congress and with the Obama administration.
He was “known for attracting the best and brightest minds, so it (came) as no surprise that Kennedy staffers would be mentioned for any number of positions” for top pension-related posts in the Obama administration, Anthony Coley, a spokesman for Mr. Kennedy, said in a Nov. 10, 2008, Pensions & Investments story, underscoring Mr. Kennedy's influence on pension policy and legislation in his Senate career, stretching back to 1962.
“Sen. Kennedy was very involved in pension issues and always took a pragmatic approach,” James A. Klein, president of the corporate pension advocacy group American Benefits Council, said in an interview.
In regard to Mr. Kennedy's work last December on the Worker, Retiree and Employer Recovery Act of 2008, providing corporate pension funding relief from the market meltdown and economic downturn, Mr. Klein said, “Sen. Kennedy tried to address issues on funding that wouldn't unduly burden the system.”
While Mr. Kennedy was better known for his work on health care, education and civil rights, “on pension issues that were not in the headlines, he worked very collaboratively with his Republican colleagues,” Mr. Klein said.
Ted Godbout, manager-communications at the ERISA Industry Committee, another pension policy advocacy group, said in a statement, “While we did not always agree with Sen. Kennedy's approach to pension and retirement policy, he was a friend of ERIC's and we always respected and admired his leadership and willingness to work with both parties to find common ground. He truly will be missed.”
”Sen. Kennedy was a national treasure,” Amy Borrus, deputy director of the Council of Institutional Investors, said in a statement. “He was one of the most effective leaders in the Senate and a widely respected voice on pension issues.”
In May, concerning allegations that Charles E.F. Millard, a former PBGC director, was inappropriately involved with the hiring managers to invest $2.5 billion, Mr. Kennedy joined five other senators, Republicans as well as Democrats, to refer the case to the Department of Justice, according to a June 1 P&I report.
The landmark Pension Protection Act toughened corporate funding requirements to strengthen the financial condition of pension plans and encouraged automatic enrollment in 401(k) plans, furthering retirement security.