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View More Press Releases by ERIC [ERISA Industry Committee]

Press Release

The ERISA Industry Committee Promotes James Gelfand to President and Kathleen Carr-Smith to Chief Operating Officer

Issued by ERIC [ERISA Industry Committee]

June 16, 2022

The ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC) on June 15 announced that James Gelfand, currently executive vice president, has been promoted to co-lead the association as President. Annette Guarisco Fildes, ERIC’s President and CEO since 2015,  will remain as the organization’s CEO. Additionally, Kathleen Carr-Smith, vice president of membership and strategic partnerships, will become the organization’s first chief operations officer.

The promotions of Gelfand and Carr-Smith are effective on June 16, following the ERIC Board’s two-day planning meeting this week.

“James has proven himself an adept policy expert, lawyer, and government relations advocate on behalf of ERIC member companies,” said Guarisco Fildes. “He has become a respected authority on legal matters affecting large employer plan sponsors and has demonstrated repeated success working with policymakers on both sides of the aisle to achieve common ground for the benefit of employee health and well-being. James has also helped to shape the strategic vision of the association, manage and recruit top-tier staff, driven growth in membership and strategic partnerships, and supported the ERIC Board of Directors in identifying and executing projects to improve the policy landscape for large employers.”

In his new role, Gelfand will be responsible for leading ERIC’s public policy and legal advocacy, membership, strategic partnerships, and public affairs, and will work with the CEO to manage all aspects of the association. 

Throughout his tenure with ERIC, Gelfand has worked with member companies to develop and advance public policies to support their ability to design and administer health plans, including legislative and regulatory advocacy at the federal, state, and local levels. Gelfand has led efforts to advance ERIC’s litigation to overturn health care mandates in Seattle, San Francisco, and Oakland County, now pending in a petition before the U.S. Supreme Court. James has participated in leadership of the association, building deep relationships within the benefits professional community, and working to advance ERIC’s mission, vision, and values.

Early in his career Gelfand worked as a lobbyist for ERIC and returned in April 2016 after leading the federal affairs team at the March of Dimes Foundation, where he successfully advanced policies critical to the health of women and children. He previously led health policy efforts for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and served as counsel to Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and to Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), covering an array of issues. He earned his J.D. at George Washington University Law School, and his undergraduate degrees in Political Science and Legal Studies at Northwestern University.

Carr-Smith has been responsible for setting and guiding ERIC’s strategy for membership and strategic partnerships. She has grown membership and strategic partnerships and raised the bar on membership communications and experience. In her new role she will be responsible for ERIC’s internal operations efforts, while continuing her critical role involving membership and strategic partnerships. Before joining ERIC, Carr-Smith was executive vice president of communications with the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA) where she led the group’s membership, sponsorship, and branding efforts. Previously, she was director of meetings and conventions for the Council for Responsible Nutrition, and served as director of membership and meetings at Jewish Women International.

“Kathleen has established herself as an integral part of ERIC to our members, partners, and staff.  This promotion will allow her to take on further challenges to improve our member benefits and programming,” said Guarisco Fildes.

Plotting the Course for the Remainder of the Year

At its meeting this week, the ERIC Board approved the organization’s short- and long-term priorities that support the ability of large employers to design and administer benefits for their unique, nationwide workforces. A new ERIC priorities document is summarized here:

ERIC’s policy priorities are centered around protecting the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, and working to ensure national uniformity. Large employers who operate in multiple states need the consistency and certainty provided by ERISA to ensure that they can offer uniform, national benefits to their employees, families, and retirees.

ERIC works to shape rules and legislation to help large plan sponsors efficiently provide generous benefits in a cost-effective way. It also works to change well-intentioned but counterproductive rules that harm workers and retirees with inflexible directives and limits on efficiently using benefit plan resources. ERIC supports policies that help plan participants get the most from employer-provided benefit programs.

Specifically in the area of health care, ERIC sees the need for functioning markets and affordable costs as its primary challenges. Employers typically pay 80 percent of health care costs on behalf of employees, families, and retirees, but often this spending results in poor value for the money spent. ERIC will work through federal and state advocacy to build and restore competitive markets. Health care costs increase much faster than the economy grows, making health care unaffordable to many patients and purchasers. ERIC supports reforms to the health care system that will drive value for patients and for the employers who sponsor their health benefits, whether that involves telehealth, prescription drug policies, payment reforms, safety, transparency, or mental health support.

On retirement and compensation, issues of flexibility, costs and administrative burdens, and helping participants are paramount to ERIC and its member companies. Sometimes, federal rules get in the way of the flexibility that employers need in order to offer helpful options to their workers. ERIC promotes policies that reduce barriers and increase opportunities to make the most from retirement savings.

The full document of ERIC policy priorities is available at

View More Press Releases by ERIC [ERISA Industry Committee]

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