Labor Nominee May Sacrifice Up to $375,000 to Assume Post

Acosta posts ethics disclosure online

Labor secretary nominee Alexander Acosta / Getty Images
March 9, 2017

Labor secretary nominee Alexander Acosta plans to forfeit up to $375,000 in bonuses if confirmed by the Senate, according to an ethics disclosure posted online on Thursday.

Acosta, a law school dean and veteran public servant, earned a bonus valued between $50,000 and $150,000 for work he performed as chairman of the board at U.S. Century Bank in 2016. The same bank offered him 150,000 warrants that would allow him to buy $225,000 in its equity shares. Those warrants vest in annual 50,000 increments from 2018 to 2020.

Acosta said he would forego that compensation if he were confirmed to lead the Labor Department.

"If confirmed, I will resign from the Board and thus forfeit the 150,000 warrants that vest in 2018, 2019 and 2020," he said in the ethics disclosure, adding that he would also forfeit a $50,000 to $150,000 bonus given to him by the bank. "The bonus amount was not set as of the date of nomination. I will forfeit unless I receive the bonus prior to assuming the duties of the position of Secretary."

Ethics disclosure issues plagued President Trump's first nominee for labor secretary, fast food executive Andy Puzder. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) was forced to reschedule Puzder's confirmation hearing at least three times because the Office of Government Ethics ordered him to completely divest from his holdings in CKE Restaurants, which owns the Hardee's and Carl's Jr. franchises.

Cutting ties with the company proved difficult because CKE is a private corporation. Puzder kept the ethics orders under wraps because he did not want to get underpaid for those holdings, according to several sources who worked on his confirmation.

Trump nominated Acosta the day after Puzder withdrew his nomination on Feb. 15. Unlike Puzder, Acosta is not a career businessman and has been confirmed by the Senate to three different posts in the federal government, including a brief stint at the National Labor Relations Board. He earned a $379,620 salary from Florida International University and a $170,000 salary from U.S. Century Bank in 2016 and part of 2017, according to the disclosure. He will earn $203,700 as Secretary of Labor, according to a pay scale adopted by President Obama in 2014.

The Senate HELP committee has scheduled Acosta's confirmation hearing for March 15. Chairman Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) met with the nominee on March 1 and praised his willingness to roll back several Obama-era regulations.

"Alexander Acosta … understands how harmful Obama-era labor regulations have made it harder for Americans to create, find, or keep good-paying jobs," Alexander said in a statement. "I look forward to hearing his views on creating an environment for American workers to succeed in a rapidly changing workplace."

The confirmation hearing will begin on March 15 at 1:30 p.m.