Herman Takes Labor Post
A lexis M. Herman was sworn in May 9 as the secretary of labor. Herman, whose nomination was approved on April 30 after a four-month partisan dispute in the Senate, replaces Robert B. Reich, who had left the Labor Department in December, 1996. Cynthia A. Metzler served as the acting labor secretary in the interim.
The Senate confirmation vote of 85 to 13 came only after President Clinton had said he would drop an executive order directing federal agencies to consider awarding large federal construction projects to companies with unionized labor.
In 1993, Herman became assistant to President Clinton and director of the White House Office of Public Liaison after serving as deputy director of the Presidential Transition Office and chief executive officer of the 1992 Democratic National Convention Committee. Before that, she had advised state and local governments and private companies on reducing and eliminating labor market barriers, on human resources issues and on hiring and training strategies. At her swearing-in ceremony, Herman told guests that running her own small business had helped her understand employers needs while she was advising other entities on how to hire, train and keep good workers.
Herman said her experiences had taught her to respect the rights of working Americans. "I intend to be a secretary of labor for the new American workforce," said Herman. "That means building partnerships among the business community, the labor movement, every level of government and community, charitable and professional organizations."
Dj Vu on Pension Audits
P resident Bill Clinton announced another attempt at pension audit reform, which failed to make it into law last year. He said his reform proposal will close loopholes that omit $950 billion in pension plan assets from meaningful audits and will ensure that only qualified professionals conduct audits of plans under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). "I urge Congress to pass the audit reform this year so that our workers can have the peace of mind they deserve."
Randi Starr, chairwoman of the American Institute of CPAs employee benefit plans committee, told the Journal she doesnt expect to see any significant changes between the presidents new proposals and older versions (see "Clinton Offers Major Pension Changes," JofA, July96). "The only modifications I see coming are in scope of application. Will the proposal call for repealing limited-scope audits just for pension plans or for health and welfare plans, too?" she asked. Will anything pass in the near future? "Im past guessing anymore," said Starr.
Brian Cooney, AICPA director congressional and political affairs,
said some elements in the business community do not want
limited-scope audits repealed. And although several bills have been
introduced, no hearings have been scheduled. "Theres a long way
to go before we see anything enacted," said Cooney. One reason
for the delay has been the secretary of labor vacancy, which has
recently been filled (see preceding story). The Department of Labor
and the AICPA both support pension audit reform.