Eugene Scalia, DoL Secretary

The Senate Thursday confirmed Eugene Scalia as DOL secretary on a 53-44 party-line vote. As a partner at law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Scalia played a key role in defeating the department’s Obama-era rule requiring brokers and advisors working on retirement accounts to act as fiduciaries. He was lead counsel in a financial industry lawsuit that resulted in a March 2018 federal appeals court decision vacating the rule.

Former opponent to DoL overreach

Mr. Scalia, formerly a partner at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, was the lead counsel in a lawsuit against the DOL rule. Representing financial industry opponents of the regulation, Mr. Scalia argued that the regulation was too costly and that the DOL had overstepped its authority in promulgating it. A federal appeals court vacated the measure last year.

In his confirmation hearing last week before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Mr. Scalia said he may have to recuse himself from the agency’s rewrite of the regulation, due in December. Federal ethics rules could limit his involvement in work connected to his former clients.

Scalia, a son of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, has a long record of representing corporations and trade groups in employment-related cases, notes. Republicans and business groups have said that makes him highly qualified to lead the agency but Democrats criticized his nomination, saying his past record against Obama’s ruling, makes him too friendly to business.