John W. Lee


On Labor Day 1974, President Ford signed into law~the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, commonly known by its acronym ERISA. The genesis of ERISA is found in a study released in 1965 by the President's Committee on Corporate Pension Fund and Other Private Retirement and Welfare Programs, titled "Public Policy and Private Pension Programs-A Report to the President on Private Employee Retirement Plans." The Committee had been established in 1962 by President Kennedy in recognition of the growth of the pension industry and the need for reform. The report made recommendations as to vesting; funding; termination insurance and portability; perceived inequities under tax laws as to coverage, integration with social security, absence of limitations on contributions, and favorable treatment as to lump-sum distributions of employer securities; fiduciary reforms, principally concerning investments in employer securities; and disclosure to plan participants as to investment holdings. This report served as the basis for many of the subsequent legislative proposals in the pension area, principally beginning in 1968 in the labor committees of the House and Senate. By September, 1973, the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare and the Senate Committee on Finance had reported out of committee major pension reform bills-S. 4 and S. 1179, respectively. These two labor and tax bills were melded into a single compromise bill and tacked as a rider onto a House revenue bill, H.R. 4200, in September of 1973 when the compromise labor- tax bill was passed by the Senate. This bill contained, among others, provisions as to coverage, vesting, minimum funding, optional forms of benefits, requirements for tax-qualification of plans, limitations on contributions and benefits, portability and termina- tion insurance, reporting and disclosure, and fiduciary standards and enforcement. As discussed below, H.R. 4200 assigned specific functions to the Department of Labor and to the Department of the Treasury, thereby tending to create a dominant role for each of these agencies of the executive branch and minimizing the degree of jurisdictional overlap in the above areas.