August 13, 2020 – The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), a federal corporation that insures private-sector defined benefit pension plans, has enlisted Rockville, MD-based JDG Associates to find its next general counsel. Leading the assignment is Darren DeGioia, the search firm’s president.
The general counsel, who reports to the director of Washington, D.C.-based PBGC, serves as secretary to the board of directors, comprised of the secretaries of Labor, Commerce and Treasury, said JDG Associates. The individual is charged with providing legal advice and counsel to the director as well as to the corporation regarding corporate governance, financial operations, litigation, and on legal issues such as employment and personnel, labor-management relations, equal employment opportunity, the Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts, procurement, appropriations law and compliance issues.
The general counsel serves as the lead legal office for investigating and prosecuting claims for fiduciary breach brought by PBGC in its capacity as trustee of terminated plans. The individual manages a $7 million annual budget and an overall staff of about, including five direct reports (four department directors and one division manager).
Among the role’s responsibilities, the general counsel represents the PBGC in litigation concerning disputes over labor and employment, procurement, Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act matters, bankruptcy and matters related to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), said JDG Associates. He or she also exercises authority over legal tasks, including bankruptcy/legal actions; represents PBGC on matters before courts/administrative tribunals; communicates with underfunded plan sponsors; and supervises regulatory matters. In addition, the general counsel reviews all proposed legal actions for the director’s approval, including commencement and disposition of litigation and decisions whether to appeal adverse rulings, and promulgation of regulations.
The ideal candidate for the role would possess extensive experience as one of the top legal officers of a corporation or financial institution, and/or as an experienced lawyer in a law firm, or as a management-level lawyer in a comparable governmental organization, said the search firm. Prospects must have knowledge of information and privacy laws, ethics, EEO, personnel, procurement, and Title IV of ERISA, to provide legal and authoritative advice on extremely difficult and complex matters of law and policy; and to litigate issues in these areas.
Candidates should have experience in regulatory and administrative matters, including and understanding of the Administrative Procedure Act. Also required is demonstrated authoritative knowledge and extensive experience in the legal profession to render legal advice and services and to make decisions which have substantial impact on the mission and functions of the corporation. Experience in oversight of procurement practices and contract review is required as well.
Among the other qualifications for the general counsel role: superior ability to render sound and practical legal advice to clients who are the subject of significant public scrutiny; experience reviewing and analyzing financial reporting information required by various stakeholders, including regulatory financial reporting requirements; experience working with auditors and a strong understanding of the audit process; and demonstrated leadership and management experience with superior oral and written communication skills.
Candidates must possess a law degree from a school of law accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) as well as currently be a member in good standing of the bar of a state, a territory of the U.S. or the District of Columbia.
The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, ranked as one of the top five Best Places to Work for small government agencies, was created by ERISA. PBGC’s priorities are to preserve plans and protect pensioners, to pay timely and accurate benefits, and to maintain high standards of stewardship and accountability. The agency’s operations include management of over $130 billion of assets, administration of two insurance programs covering about 25,000 defined benefit plans sponsored by private-sector employers, and payment of annual benefits of more than $6 billion to nearly a million workers and retirees.
JDG Associates has been providing executive recruitment services to Fortune 1000 corporations, associations and non-profits, federal, state and local governments, research and consulting firms and defense contractors since 1973. The firm’s research-intensive process and personal approach have resulted in more than 4,000 senior-level searches across a broad spectrum of industries and disciplines in the Washington, D.C. region and nationally.
Mr. DeGioia conducts senior-level search assignments for research and consulting organizations as well as the public sector. His areas of expertise include information technology, accounting and finance, the quantitative sciences, operations / general management, marketing and communications. Prior to joining JDG, Mr. DeGioia spent four years in the hospitality industry with the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and Sheraton Hotels.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media