"The purpose of that rule is to just make it clear that fiduciaries can take ESG factors into consideration when they're making retirement decisions, just like they would prudently consider any other factors," Ms. Gomez said at the National Institute on Retirement Security's 2023 Annual Retirement Policy Conference.
In late January, a group of Republican attorneys general from 25 states sued the Department of Labor for the rule, arguing it undermines key protections for retirement savers, oversteps the department's authority, and is arbitrary and capricious.
Several bills have also been introduced on Capitol Hill relating to the Labor Department's ESG rule. House Democrats introduced a bill last week to codify the rule into law, following a Senate version of the bill introduced earlier this month. Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers have introduced a joint resolution under the Congressional Review Act that would nullify the rule, and the vote is slated for later Tuesday.
Ms. Gomez acknowledged the lawsuit and various actions taking place on Capitol Hill but did not comment on any specifics. She said the department is working on "implementation and education with respect to that rule."
Separately, Ms. Gomez said SECURE 2.0 is one of the main priorities at the Labor Department and EBSA.
The retirement security package, which Congress passed in late December, directs the Labor Department to help implement various provisions, including one that codifies the auto-portability process into law. That provision directs the department to issue guidance within one year of the bill's effective date on items that include an automatic-portability provider's notice and disclosure requirements.
Another provision directs the department to create a lost-and-found database for retirement savers who have lost track of their 401(k) or pension plan to find the contact information for their plan administrator.
"We are working hard on determining how to establish the lost-and-found participant retirement database and the regulatory work that is going to be tied to that database, as far as collecting the information to populate that," Ms. Gomez said.
Ms. Gomez said an overarching theme to how she is approaching her work is improved communication, especially with plan participants and beneficiaries.
"What good is it for the participants or for the employers that are spending time and money to put these benefits out there and not have people really understand or appreciate the benefits that they do have?" Ms. Gomez said.