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PBGC Participant and Plan Sponsor Advocate

PBGC Participant and Plan Sponsor Advocate
Constance A. Donovan

Constance A. Donovan,
Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
Washington, DC

Ms. Donovan is presently at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) and was selected by the PBGC Board of Directors to serve in the newly created position under ERISA as Participant and Plan Sponsor Advocate. In that role, Ms. Donovan acts as liaison between PBGC and participants and plan sponsors of defined benefit plans to assist in resolving disputes and conflicts between these groups.

Previously, Ms. Donovan was at the U.S. Department of the Treasury as Pension Counsel to the Office of D.C. Pensions, and prior to that she was at the U.S. Department of Labor and assisted the Secretary with the Department’s oversight of the PBGC.

Ms. Donovan was the Chief Executive Officer of the $6.5B New Hampshire Retirement System, the former General Counsel and Executive Director of the District of Columbia Retirement Board, and General Counsel of the Montgomery County Maryland Board of Investment Trustees. Prior to her position as Executive Director and General Counsel to prominent public pension funds, Ms. Donovan worked for NCR Corporation as a vice president where she held a variety of increasingly responsible positions in the areas of employee benefits, mergers and acquisitions, and employment law. Ms. Donovan began her career with the federal government in Boston, Massachusetts.

Ms. Donovan served as a member of the National Association of Public Pension Attorneys Executive Board and Investment Committee Co-Chair. Bar memberships include Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia.

Ms. Donovan graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Boston College (magna cum laude), received her J.D. from The American University, Washington College of Law, and her LL.M. in Taxation from the Georgetown University Law Center, where she studied and published under the late U. S. Congressmen John Erlenborn.

Participant and Plan Sponsor Advocate Statutory Language

Below is a copy of the legislation that defines PBGC Advocate program.

29 U.S. Code § 1304 - Participant and Plan Sponsor Advocate

The board of directors of the corporation shall select a Participant and Plan Sponsor Advocate from the candidates nominated by the advisory committee to the corporation under section 1302 (h)(1) of this title and without regard to the provisions of title 5 relating to appointments in the competitive service or Senior Executive Service.

(b) Duties

The Participant and Plan Sponsor Advocate shall—

(1) act as a liaison between the corporation, sponsors of defined benefit pension plans insured by the corporation, and participants in pension plans trusteed by the corporation;

(2) advocate for the full attainment of the rights of participants in plans trusteed by the corporation;

(3) assist pension plan sponsors and participants in resolving disputes with the corporation;

(4) identify areas in which participants and plan sponsors have persistent problems in dealings with the corporation;

(5) to the extent possible, propose changes in the administrative practices of the corporation to mitigate problems;

(6) identify potential legislative changes which may be appropriate to mitigate problems; and

(7) refer instances of fraud, waste, and abuse, and violations of law to the Office of the Inspector General of the corporation.

(c) Removal

If the Participant and Plan Sponsor Advocate is removed from office or is transferred to another position or location within the corporation or the Department of Labor, the board of the [1]directors of the corporation shall communicate in writing the reasons for any such removal or transfer to Congress not less than 30 days before the removal or transfer. Nothing in this subsection shall prohibit a personnel action otherwise authorized by law, other than transfer or removal.

(d) Compensation

The annual rate of basic pay for the Participant and Plan Sponsor Advocate shall be the same rate as the highest rate of basic pay established for the Senior Executive Service under section 5382 of title 5 or, if the board of directors of the corporation so determines, at a rate fixed under section 9503 of such title.

(e) Annual report

(1) In general

Not later than December 31 of each calendar year, the Participant and Plan Sponsor Advocate shall report to the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee of the Senate, the Committee on Finance of the Senate, the Committee on Education and the Workforce of the House of Representatives, and the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives on the activities of the Office of the Participant and Plan Sponsor Advocate during the fiscal year ending during such calendar year.

(2) Content

Each report submitted under paragraph (1) shall—

(A) summarize the assistance requests received from participants and plan sponsors and describe the activities, and evaluate the effectiveness, of the Participant and Plan Sponsor Advocate during the preceding year;

(B) identify significant problems the Participant and Plan Sponsor Advocate has identified;

(C) include specific legislative and regulatory changes to address the problems; and

(D) identify any actions taken to correct problems identified in any previous report.

(3) Concurrent submission

The Participant and Plan Sponsor Advocate shall submit a copy of each report to the Secretary of Labor, the Director of the corporation, and any other appropriate official at the same time such report is submitted to the committees of Congress under paragraph (1).

Contact PBGC's Participant and Plan Sponsor Advocate

PBGC's Participant and Plan Sponsor Advocate can be contacted at advocate@pbgc.gov or at 202-326-4000 ext. 4877