Pension Expert Robert Nagle, '54, 1929-2014

Law School Communications Office
August 22, 2014

Robert E. Nagle, '54, one of the architects of the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, died Saturday after a battle with cancer. His long career in pension policy-making and regulation helped to secure the retirements of millions.

“He was responsible for crafting and ensuring the passage of what became the nation’s seminal pension law,” noted Dean Michael Schill. “ERISA safeguards retirement protections for American workers and retirees by establishing minimum standards for pension plans in private industry and protects employees and their beneficiaries.”

Nagle served as general counsel to the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare from 1971 to 1974, where much of work centered around the drafting of key sections of ERISA. From 1979 to 1982 he was executive director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) where he was responsible for administering ERISA’s termination insurance program implementing the Multiemployer Pensions Plan Amendments Act of 1980.

But Nagle’s interest in safeguarding workers’ futures did not stop with his entrance into private practice. In 1984 he warned of the huge financial exposure PBGC faced if major companies folded their pensions plans. At the time, the agency’s deficit was just under $500 million. Last year, because PBGC had enacted numerous billion-dollar takeovers of pensions plans sponsored by such companies as Bethlehem Steel and United Airlines, topped $27 billion.  As the deficit has soared, PBGC premiums paid by employers to help pay benefits have also risen dramatically.

In the past few years, Nagle has worked as a neutral trustee for two mining industry pension and health funds, and participated in the Pension Rights Center’s Conversation on Coverage.