Director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation: Who Is Gordon Hartogensis?

Monday, June 04, 2018
Gordon Hartogensis (photo: Patrick McMullan, Getty Images)

On May 14, 2018, President Donald Trump announced that the next director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC) will be a wealthy private investor who has no experience in government or pension fund management. Gordon Hartogensis, however, is well-connected, in a nepotistic way. He is married to Grace Chao, a sister of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). This makes Hartogensis a brother-in-law of both Chao and McConnell. The nomination has raised serious ethical questions, given Hartogensis’ lack of relevant experience or background, and the apparent role of nepotism.


“The White House’s process for naming and vetting candidates is flawed,” Scott Amey told The Washington Post. General Counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, Amey also charged that “this seems to be another example of who you know rather than what you know.”


The PBGC is a Labor Department agency that collects insurance premiums from companies that have defined-benefit pension plans and pays benefits to workers when companies cannot. In other words, when companies leave workers in the lurch by failing to fully fund their pension plans, PBGC steps in to help the workers. With 966 employees, PBGC has an annual budget of $423 million (FY 2017), $184 billion in obligations, and $108 billion in assets. If confirmed by the Senate, Hartogensis would succeed W. Thomas Reeder Jr., an Obama appointee who started in October 2015 and is only halfway through his term of office. During testimony before the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions on November 29, 2017, Reeder characterized PBGC’s multiemployer program as being “headed toward insolvency.”


Born June 17, 1970, to attorney Peter Hartogensis and Susan (Shaw) Hartogensis, Gordon Hartogensis grew up in the Montgomery County, Maryland, suburbs of Washington, DC. He graduated Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville, Maryland, in 1988, and earned a BS in Computer Science at Stanford University in 1992. Years later, in 2016, he added an MS in Technology Management at Columbia University. 


Hartogensis worked one year, July 1992 to July 1993, as a foreign exchange trader at Credit Suisse in New York.


In August 1993, barely a year after graduating, Hartogensis joined Petrolsoft Corporation in San Diego, which had been founded only 4 years before by two Stanford graduates. Hartogensis became the third partner in the firm, with the title of chief operating officer and principal. In June 2000, Aspen Technology, Inc. acquired Petrolsoft for an estimated $59.6 million in stock, making Hartogensis a wealthy man. Hartogensis remained with Aspen for two years, managing the integration of Petrolsoft’s products into Aspen’s product line.


After leaving Aspen in June 2002, Hartogensis co-founded Auric Technology LLC, a New York-based firm of which he was CEO from January 2004 to August 2011. Like Petrolsoft, Auric sold software to business clients, in Auric’s case a customer relationship management (CRM) system targeted at manufacturing companies. Auric was sold to Telnorm of Mexico City in 2011, and Hartogensis stayed on a short time to help integrate CRM products into Telnorm’s offerings.


Since September 2011, Hartogensis has been trustee of the Hartogensis Family Trust, which he manages from his home in Old Greenwich, Connecticut. His LinkedIn profile lists no other job titles or activity. However, in April 2012, he joined Juggernaut Capital Partners for one year and, since April 2013, he has been listed as a managing member of Harben Capital.


A Republican, Hartogensis has donated more than $85,000 to Republican candidates and organizations, including $11,600 to McConnell and $50,000 to the Republican Party of Kentucky.

-Matt Bewig


To Learn More:

Make Nepotism Great Again: 20 Families Got Jobs in Trump Administration (by Lachlan Markay, The Daily Beast)

LinkedIn Profile

Trump’s Pick to Run Labor’s Pension Agency: Mitch McConnell’s Brother-in-Law (by Alex Horton, Washington Post)

Trump Nominates Brother-in-Law of Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell and Transportation Secretary Chao to Run Pension Agency (by Dan Mangan and Kevin Breuninger, CNBC) 


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