Remembering a True Public Servant: Alan Lebowitz
In September, the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) lost a true pioneer, its greatest individual influence, and dearest friend, Alan D. Lebowitz.
Alan was the first Deputy Assistant Secretary of EBSA and its preceding agencies. He spent nearly three decades of his 43-year federal career crafting and shaping the agency’s regulatory, compliance assistance, public outreach, education, and enforcement programs. When he retired in 2013, he left his influence on nearly every part of the agency.
Alan dedicated himself to protecting the hard-earned savings of America’s workers and families. Throughout his career, he saw more than $20.1 billion in benefits restored to American workers and their families, and helped secure more than 2,300 criminal indictments against those who defrauded workers out of their retirement and healthcare benefits. He also played an outsized role in the Department of Labor’s enforcement efforts, including its actions to protect workers and retirees and the assets of their retirement plans from the Enron and Madoff scandals.
Recognizing the need for fast and effective compliance assistance, Alan spearheaded the effort to create a team of Benefits Advisors to answer questions directly from the public by phone and email, and annually resolve thousands of benefits disputes. The program has served more than 3.1 million Americans and has been recognized as one of the best customer services operations in government – recovering more than $2.1 billion in benefits since the program was founded.
With an eye to the future, Alan coordinated with the Internal Revenue Service and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation to develop an online system for plans to file legally required annual reports. The new electronic filing system went live in 2009, ahead of schedule and under budget. His efforts modernized the reporting process, reduced employer burden, and improved the accessibility of retirement plan data.
Alan was recognized for his extraordinary executive and managerial abilities throughout his career. He received the Meritorious Executive Presidential Rank Award in 1987 and the Distinguished Executive Presidential Rank Award in 1991. In 1999, he received both the Department of Labor’s prestigious Philip Arnow Award, given annually to one employee in recognition of superior accomplishments and service to the Department, and the Public Service Award from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. At the time, he was only the second non-member of Congress to receive this prestigious award. Upon his 2013 retirement, EBSA honored Alan’s service and legacy by creating the Alan D. Lebowitz Honorary Award to recognize managers and supervisors who exemplify Alan’s dedication, distinguished career of excellence, and commitment to mentoring future leaders.
Alan led the agency with quiet authority, wry humor, and a clear-eyed focus on the workers that EBSA serves. He was a shrewd and sympathetic boss with a well-developed sense of the absurd, which he viewed as critically important to his long and happy career. He loved Boston, Cape Cod, his family, his colleagues, and his agency.
For all he did for EBSA and the American public, we remember Alan most as a thoughtful leader, wise mentor, dedicated husband, father and grandfather, and loyal friend. His influence will long outlive his time at EBSA’s helm. None who knew him will soon forget his commitment to public service, and to the people he loved.
Timothy D. Hauser is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for National Office Operations in the Department of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration.