The American Benefits Council (the Council) is a national trade association based in Washington, D.C. that advocates for employer-sponsored benefit plans. The Council’s members represent the private employee benefits community and either sponsor directly or provide services to retirement and health benefit plans both nationally and internationally.

The Council advocates for legislation and regulations in support of the employment-based benefits system and seeks to influence policy development within Congress and the White House and executive branch agencies. The Council also serves as a technical resource on benefits issues for lawmakers, the media and other industry trade associations. The Council frequently works with other public policy organizations in developing and communicating a collective business community position and forges alliances on benefits issues.[1]


The Council was originally known as the Association of Private Pension and Welfare Plans (APPWP) until September of 2000.[2] It was founded in February of 1967 by a number of leaders in employee benefit consulting firms as well as plan sponsors and financial institutions. Its original purpose was to monitor public policy as it related to employee benefits. In 1978, APPWP became a 501(c)(6) organization and integrated advocacy with its mission, due to a feeling after the passing of ERISA that there was a need for more engagement.[3] Howard Weizmann, former deputy director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, served as executive director of the Council from 1988 to 1992.[4] He was succeeded by the Council's current president, James A. Klein. Other past executive directors include Stuart J. Brahs,[5] Edward Davey,[5] and Jeff Hart.

The Council has been part of a number of coalitions focused on employer-sponsored benefits, including the Global Pension Coalition,[6] the Employers' Coalition on Medicare (ECOM),[7] How America Saves: The Coalition to Protect Retirement,[8] the Consumer-Purchaser Alliance[9] and the National Coalition on Benefits.[10] The Council also has an ongoing partnership with the MetLife Symposium[11] and the International Employee Benefits Association (IEBA).[1]

Policy Issues

The Council examines a wide variety of benefits issues, with a core focus on employee retirement and health benefits. Specific issues include defined contribution/401(k) plans, defined benefit pension plans, retiree health programs, health care reform under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), consumer-directed plans (HSAs/FSAs/HRAs), wellness programs and executive compensation.

Board of Directors

The American Benefits Council Policy Board of Directors serves as the principal policy-making body for the organization. Executive Board members hold the ultimate authority to make decisions concerning the public policy positions that the Council adopts and advocates. Previous Chairs of the Board have been representatives of employer plan sponsors, such as The Dow Chemical Company, Cigna and FedEx, as well as from consulting firms and financial institutions such as Mercer, Willis North America, Fidelity and Vanguard.

The Council’s Executive Board includes James A. Klein, Council President; Chair of the Board Janet Boyd, director of government relations, tax, and benefits for The Dow Chemical Company; Vice Chair Jay Kirschbaum, senior vice president and national practice leader, employee benefits legal and research group for Willis North America; Vice Chair Bob Holcomb, executive director, legislative and industry affairs for J.P. Morgan Retirement Plan Services; Treasurer Kate Ranalli, regional benefits director for the Americas at AstraZeneca; Secretary Allison Klausner, assistant general counsel, benefits for Honeywell; and Past Chair Wilma Schopp, global lead, compensation, benefits and HR operations for Sigma-Aldrich Corporation.[12]

In addition, the Advisory Council consists of additional Council members who participate in Board meetings as well as in dialogue on policy issues but do not vote on Council policies.

Impact on Legislation

The Council works to be a leading voice on Capitol Hill on employer-sponsored benefits and to maintain an important presence. The Council has influenced landmark pieces of legislation since its founding in 1967.

The Council was active during the shaping of President Obama’s healthcare reform bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The Council published a set of proposals on reforming health care quality, cost and coverage[13] and met with members of Congress and presidential transition team officials in January of 2009, shortly before President Obama’s inauguration. The Council remained vocal on the legislation both during Congressional debate and afterward, with Council President James A. Klein encouraging the administration to acknowledge and address unintended consequences of the law in order to produce the best possible legislation.[14] Klein testified before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee on May 12, 2009 on financing health care reform[15] and he testified again before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor on June 23, 3009 on the Tri-Committee (Education and Labor, Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce committees) Draft Proposal for Health Care Reform.[16]

The Council also contributed to and/or influenced the following major pieces of legislation, among others:

  • Patients’ Bill of Rights: The Council had serious concerns about this legislation; it ultimately did not pass.
  • Health Security Act (Clinton Health Care Reform): The Council had serious concerns about this legislation; it ultimately did not pass.
  • Tax Act of 1986
  • EGTRRA: The Council supported increased limits for 401(k) and other defined contribution retirement plans as well as "catch-up" contributions for savers over 50.

American Benefits Institute

The American Benefits Institute is the education and research affiliate of the Council. The Institute's mission is to convene meetings and sponsor research that assist public policy makers, the media and other stakeholders in making informed decisions about employee benefits policy matters. As an affiliated entity of the American Benefits Council, the Institute is also the principal venue where Council members engage in global benefits policy issues and share information about international health and retirement plan and compensation practices The Institute serves U.S. based companies as a conduit for information about benefit practices outside the United States and for non-U.S. based companies to learn about employee benefits policy and legislative and regulatory developments in the United States.[19]

Recent Publications

The Council regularly prepares or sponsors research papers and surveys on employer-sponsored benefits. Recent publications include:

  • Further PBGC Premium Increases Pose Greatest Threat to Pension System (June 23, 2014)[20][21]
  • Our Strong Retirement System: An American Success Story (December 4, 2013)[22]
  • WorldatWork/American Benefits Institute Survey Report: 2013 Trends in 401(k) Plans and Retirement Rewards (March 13, 2013)[23]
  • 2012 Corporate Governance of Global Employee Benefits Study (October 10, 2012)[24]
  • Verisight/McGladrey Compensation, Retirement and Benefits Trends Annual Survey (annual)[25]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Bradford, Hazel (August 5, 2013). "Benefits groups team up to expand reach". Pensions&Investments. Retrieved November 19, 2014. 
  2. "APPWP, the Washington-based private pension trade group, changed its...". Pensions&Investments. September 21, 2000. Retrieved September 30, 2014. 
  3. Klein, James A. (2014, October 16). Personal interview.
  4. Howard Weizmann (June 1, 2014). Retrieved on October 10, 2014.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Anand, Vineeta (September 18, 1995). "Roth sets for expanded IRAs". Pensions&Investments. Retrieved November 5, 2014. 
  6. Glenister, Michael (September 26, 2014). "Groups call on BCBS and IOSCO to protect pension funds from initial margin rule". Thomas Murray IDS. Retrieved November 19, 2014. 
  7. Members. Employers' Coalition on Medicare (2009). Retrieved on November 19, 2014.
  8. About Us (2014). Retrieved on November 19, 2014.
  9. Our Participants. Retrieved on November 19, 2014.
  10. Membership. Retrieved on November 19, 2014.
  11. MetLife's 10th National Benefits Symposium. MetLife. Retrieved on November 19, 2014.
  12. "American Benefits Council Elects New Officers And Executive Board, Reports Record Membership Growth". March 11, 2014. Retrieved September 30, 2014. 
  13. "Ten Prescriptions for Reforming Health Care Quality, Cost and Coverage". American Benefits Council. January 2009. Retrieved November 21, 2014. 
  14. Klein, James A. (April 6, 2010). "The White House and the Writedowns". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved September 30, 2014. 
  15. Roundtable Discussion on Financing Comprehensive Health Care Reform (May 12, 2009). Retrieved on November 18, 2014.
  16. "The Tri-Committee Draft Proposal for Health Care Reform" (June 23, 2009). Retrieved on November 18, 2014.
  17. Testimony of Kenneth W. Porter on behalf of the American Benefits Council before a hearing of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on the Administration's Pension Reform Proposal (March 2, 2005). Retrieved on November 21, 2014.
  18. Testimony of Sallie Ballantine Bailey on behalf of the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Benefits Council, Business Roundtable, ERISA Industry Committee, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, before a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Subcommittee on Retirement Security and Aging on PBGC Reform: Mending the Pension Safety Net. U.S. Senate (April 26, 2005). Retrieved on November 21, 2014.
  19. Aon Hewitt and American Benefits Institute Survey Shows Multinational Companies Want Increased Control of Global Benefits Programs. Aon Hewitt (October 10, 2012). Retrieved on November 21, 2014.
  20. "Further PBGC Premium Increases Pose Greatest Threat to Pension System". Quantria Strategies, LLC, for the American Benefits Council. June 24, 2014. Retrieved November 21, 2014. 
  21. Iekel, John (June 26, 2014). "PBGC Premium Hikes an Unnecessary Threat, Says Report". ASPPA. Retrieved November 21, 2014. 
  22. "Our Strong Retirement System: An American Success Story". The American Council of Life Insurers,the Investment Company Institute and the American Benefits Council. December 4, 2013. Retrieved November 21, 2014. 
  23. "Trends in 401(k) Plans and Retirement Rewards". WorldAtWork, American Benefits Institute. March 13, 2013. Retrieved November 21, 2014. 
  24. "2012 Corporate Governance of Global Benefits Study". Aon Hewitt, American Benefits Institute. October 10, 2012. Retrieved November 21, 2014. 
  25. "2013/2014 Verisight and McGladrey Compensation, Retirement, and Benefits Trends Report". Verisight, McGladrey, in collaboration with the American Benefits Institute. 2014. Retrieved November 21, 2014. 

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