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Top Labor benefits official to step down


WASHINGTON--The U.S. Labor Department's top employee benefits official will leave next month to return to the private sector, the agency announced Wednesday.

Assistant Secretary of Labor Ann Combs joined the Labor Department as head of the Employee Benefits Security Administration in May 2001, making her the longest-serving head of EBSA, which regulates more than 6 million employee benefit plans covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

Ms. Combs was involved on behalf of the Bush administration in the negotiations that led to last month's passage of comprehensive pension funding reform legislation, as well as the recovery of more than $220 million for Enron Corp. pension plan participants.

More recently, Ms. Combs guided the development of proposed regulations to help shield employers from liability for offering automatic enrollment in their 401(k) and other participant-directed defined contribution plans.

Prior to joining the Labor Department, Ms. Combs was a vp and chief counsel for pensions and retirement at the American Council of Life Insurers and a principal at William M. Mercer Inc.

President Bush has not announced a successor for Ms. Combs, who will depart Oct. 27. The position is subject to Senate confirmation.