Ms. Gomez was sworn in as the head of EBSA in October, and the agency has kept busy since she took on her new role.
In November, the Labor Department finalized their ESG rule, which explicitly permits retirement plan fiduciaries to consider climate change and other environmental, social and governance factors when selecting investments and exercising shareholder rights. Since then, the rule has faced significant political pushback, including two lawsuits filed in federal court.
In a follow-up discussion with reporters, Ms. Gomez characterized the pushback as "disappointing," as she said the rule is "not so controversial."
"The intent of the rule … is just to level the playing field," she added.
Ms. Gomez said in her public remarks that EBSA is focused on educating the public on the meaning of the rule, as well as how it applies to plan sponsors and fiduciaries.
"I'm hopeful that we'll be able to continue to get the message out, and that (the rule) will have the intent that it was supposed to," Ms. Gomez told reporters.
Separately, Ms. Gomez said during her remarks that the DOL is focused on issuing a new proposal that could expand who is considered a fiduciary under ERISA by amending the regulatory definition of the term fiduciary. As Ms. Gomez noted, the DOL initially issued a regulation known as the "fiduciary rule" in 2016, however, a court struck down the rule in 2018.
"Things have changed so much in the retirement market, and we are trying to acknowledge those changes (and) reflect how the system works best in this new world," Ms. Gomez said, adding that the agency is "reflecting on challenges" the rule previously faced as it prepares a new proposal.
EBSA is also working on "a number of different projects" related to SECURE 2.0, the comprehensive retirement security package that Congress passed at the end of last year.
The package directs the DOL to implement several provisions, including creating a lost-and-found database to help retirement savers who lost track of their 401(k) or pension plan find the contact information for their plan administrator.
Establishing that database is "a tremendous undertaking," Ms. Gomez said, though EBSA is working with stakeholders and other agencies to get it done.
Another provision tasks the Labor Department, along with other regulatory agencies, to study disclosure requirements for plan sponsors and recommend ways to simplify, consolidate or standardize them. Ms. Gomez said this provision aligns with her priority of "making sure that people understand what (their) benefits are, how to use them (and) how they work."