On February 16, 2017, President Trump nominated R. Alexander Acosta for Secretary of the Department of Labor. Acosta had been identified on the shortlist of potential replacements for the DOL after Andrew Puzder withdrew from consideration. (Our post on Puzder’s withdrawal, and identifying Acosta as a potential replacement is here.)
Acosta, currently the dean of the Florida International University School of Law, previously made it through the Senate confirmation process three times for different roles. He was a member of the National Labor Relations Board from 2002 to 2003, under President George W. Bush. President Bush later named Acosta Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Acosta then went on to become the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.
Although it is a little early to speculate on Acosta’s possible effect on the DOL Fiduciary Duty Rule, Acosta at first glance does not appear to be as hostile to federal labor regulation as Puzder did. Puzder had drawn serious opposition from labor advocacy groups and Democrats, who questioned Puzder’s track record with labor disputes within his own companies and his apparent disdain for federal minimum wage, overtime, and family medical leave laws. Acosta, on the other hand, advocated in 2010 that the National Labor Relations Board should shift from a “quasi-judicial administrative agency model” to one in which it would issue rules. “Rulemaking is a better, more democratic, more stable, more transparent, and more modern path for quasi-legislative enactments,” he wrote at the time.
We will continue to update on Acosta’s confirmation process and the anticipated effects on the DOL Fiduciary Duty Rule.