Top benefits newsmakers of 2012

6. David Siegel 6. David Siegel

Siegel, CEO of Florida-based real estate and timeshare firm Westgate Resorts, infamously emailed his employees just weeks before election day to put them firmly on notice: “If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current president plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company. This means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone.” No word on whether Siegel followed through on his threat after President Obama was re-elected in November, but his note to workers represented all that was at stake in this year’s presidential election and how strongly employers on both sides of the political spectrum felt about the workforce issues that were debated throughout 2012.

5. Whole Foods 5. Whole Foods

Whole Foods Market — which has 300 stores in the United States, Canada and the U.K. — puts its benefits to a vote. Every three years, the company lets employees nominate benefits and if other employees agree, the benefit is added. The votes empower employees and encourage innovation, CEO and co-founder John Mackey says — two major reasons the grocer is on our top newsmakers list. [Image: Bloomberg]

4. David Wray 4. David Wray

When the Plan Sponsor Council of America went looking for a new president in 1987, it found the perfect candidate in Wray, who understood the legislative process thanks to the years he spent early in his career working in both the Colorado and Iowa Houses of Representatives. Over the course of a remarkable career, Wray facilitated the development of a regulatory structure so that 401(k)s could be a widely available program, and an educational process to accompany it. Wray retired as PSCA's leader in September, leaving big shoes to fill.

3. Sears and Darden 3. Sears and Darden

These two companies made mainstream headlines this year after announcing they would give employees money to purchase insurance through private online exchanges. Nearly half of employers (47%) say they "definitely will" or "probably will" switch to similar defined contribution health care model, according to J.D. Power and Associates, making Sears and Darden benefits trailblazers. [Image: Bloomberg]

2. Christine Carstens 2. Christine Carstens

No, she didn't lead a key benefits industry nonprofit or write a landmark legal opinion this year, but Carstens, director of employee benefits at Hughes Network Systems LLC, is a notable newsmaker in 2012, having implemented of a new open enrollment system, launched a special retirement communication series and oversaw the company's best year since 2005 for wellness screens — not too shabby. Her dedication and work ethic, coupled with her efforts to raise employee participation in and awareness of Hughes Network's retirement plan and wellness programs, earned her distinction as EBN's 2012 Benefits Professional of the Year.

1. The Supreme Court 1. The Supreme Court

Never before have nine people been so closely watched as the justices were this summer while the nation — benefits professionals in particular — awaited the Supreme Court’s ruling on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, specifically the law’s controversial individual mandate. Although the court ultimately upheld PPACA as constitutional, the story doesn't end there. With funding streams, rulemaking, exchange infrastructure and more still to be decided, the landmark decision was just the beginning — which is why the Supreme Court is EBN's top newsmaker of 2012. [Image: Shutterstock]

Move over, Prince Harry and Honey Boo Boo. These two may have been among this year’s “most fascinating” to Barbara Walters, but EBN's list is a bit more discerning. We've compiled a list of our 6 top benefits newsmakers of 2012, and we assure you there’s not a reality star or scandal-magnet monarch anywhere.

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