WASHINGTON - The late Commerce Secretary Ronald H. "Ron" Brown, killed earlier this month in a plane crash near Dubrovnik, Croatia, played a quiet, but important, role in pension issues.
Martin Slate, executive director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., Washington, said Mr. Brown "was a leader in protecting pensions." Mr. Brown was a member of the PBGC's board of directors.
"He fought for retirement security. Under his direction, the Commerce Department played a major role in crafting the Retirement Protection Act. He provided a bridge we could cross to bring pension reform to the corporate sector," Mr. Slate said.
"He was a steady ally in our negotiations with General Motors (Corp.) to improve their pensions. He stood strong against proposals to siphon off pension money.
"For him, business and social concerns were forged together and placed in the foreground of his leadership agenda. He accomplished this in masterful ways, meeting the needs of the American people and the business community," Mr. Slate said.
Last September, Mr. Brown publicly opposed the House Ways and Means Committee's proposal to allow employers to withdraw surplus assets from corporate pension plans. Mr. Brown bashed the proposal, saying it "directly contradicts the promise of pension security inherent in the (Clinton) administration's pension reforms."
He claimed "a stable business climate could be threatened" if the reversion proposal became law. "These changes could open the way for corporate raiders to use reversions to finance takeovers" as happened in the 1980s, Mr. Brown said at the time.
Mr. Brown and Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich and Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin, all members of the PBGC's board, together signed a resolution last September urging Congress "to reject any legislation that would permit the transfer of pension assets in any way that could reduce retirement security."