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United States > Labor and employment > Employee benefits and executive compensation > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings

Editorial

Index of tables

  1. Employee benefits and executive compensation
  2. Leading lawyers

Leading lawyers

  1. 1

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP’s New York-based team advises on employee benefits and executive compensation issues in large M&A deals, as well as ERISA regulatory and fiduciary matters. Michael Albano’s recent highlights include advising Actavis on its $70.5bn purchase of Allergan, acting for The Home Depot in its acquisition of Interline Brands, and assisting Google with the executive compensation challenges of its reorganization into a new holding company named Alphabet. Arthur Kohn advises McDonald’s on executive compensation, while Robert Raymond advises TPG and its portfolio companies on the application of ERISA to its investment funds. Counsel Mary Alcock is ‘excellent for ERISA work’, and advised Family Dollar on its purchase by Dollar Tree following interference by activist investors. Other clients include Medtronic and American Express.

Covington & Burling LLP’s Washington DC-based ‘excellent, cost-conscious and pragmatic’ team ‘provides outstanding service’ on the full range of employee health and welfare benefit matters. In 2015, Robert Newman and senior counsel Amy Moore worked on spin-offs and terminations of pension plans with nine-figure liabilities. Recent highlights also saw several partners advise the ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC) on proposed regulations affecting large employers’ employee benefit plans. Richard Shea and the ‘knowledgeable and practical’ Seth Safra are other key names at the firm, which also counts Textron, Verizon, Xerox and NFL as clients; Newman advises the latter on executive compensation, retirement plans and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP’s executive compensation practice advises corporates on the benefits and compensation aspects of high-value transactions such as M&A deals, IPOs and spin-offs. Edmond FitzGerald, who leads the executive compensation practice, is advising Aetna on its scheduled purchase of Humana, while Jeffrey Crandall advised Baker Hughes on its $38bn sale to Halliburton. Kyoko Takahashi Lin’s expertise includes advising restaurant sector clients on executive compensation, and she assisted churrascaria chain Fogo de Chão with matters surrounding its IPO. The firm also provides day-to-day benefits and compensation advice to Campbell Soup, Blackstone Strategic Partners and Stone Ridge Asset Management. The aforementioned attorneys are situated in New York, while Washington DC-based counsel Erin Cho advises hedge funds and private equity vehicles on ERISA fiduciary issues.

At Washington DC-based tax and benefits specialist Groom Law Group, the depth and breadth of expertise is ‘unparalleled in the niche area it operates in’; the ‘top-tier’ firm has a strong reputation for the finer points of employee health and pension plan management. Lawyers including Gary Ford (‘one of the pre-eminent attorneys in his field’), Elizabeth Dold and David Kaleda (‘very knowledgeable, responsive and efficient’) advise Fortune 500 companies on de-risking transactions; Lars Golumbic manages the plan funding and restructuring side of the practice; and Jon Breyfogle and Seth Perretta assist with employee healthcare plans. John McGuiness leads the executive compensation team, which also includes Jeff Witt, whose work straddles executive matters and qualified retirement plans. Clients include the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Target and the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System.

Latham & Watkins LLP advises businesses and private equity funds on the benefits and compensation aspects of transactions. Key highlights saw Los Angeles’ James Barrall acting for Allergan during its sale of its generic pharmaceuticals business to Teva Pharmaceutical. On the East Coast, Washington DC-based David Della Rocca assisted The Carlyle Group with its purchase of Acosta Sales & Marketing, and New York-based Bradd Williamson advised Leonard Green & Partners as part of a syndicate that purchased Life Time Fitness, a deal which included challenges regarding ‘golden parachute’ and deferred compensation packages of executive pay. Other clients include Blackstone, KKR, Siemens, LiveNation, Riot Games and some individual executives. Los Angeles-based Michelle Carpenter and New York’s Lori Goodman and Austin Ozawa were made partner in January 2016.

At Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, the multi-office team straddles both executive compensation and employee benefits, advising on plan management issues including plan design changes and multi-employer plans as well as issues such as the ‘parachute tax’ and section 409A. In Pittsburgh, practice head Steven Spencer advises on matters including pension plan regulatory matters and plan designs, and Randall Tracht assisted the appellate and ERISA litigation teams in the seminal M&G Polymers Supreme Court case. On the healthcare front, Andy Anderson, Amy Pocino Kelly and Zaitun Poonja, located in Chicago, Philadelphia and Palo Alto respectively, advise on the PPACA. Recent personnel developments saw Jeanie Cogill and Barbara Klippert join the New York office, and Matthew Hawes and Michael Richman promoted to partner in Pittsburgh and Washington DC respectively.

Truly outstanding in every dimension’, Proskauer Rose LLP provides ‘responsiveness, value for money and great results’ in the pension plan, transactional and executive compensation fields. Practice head Paul Hamburger in Washington DC advised Becton, Dickinson & Company on the regulatory aspects of its 401(k) and health plans, as well as on its merger with CareFusion; Robert Projansky, Rory Albert and Ira Golub assist with a number of pension funds for entertainment industry retirees, including the Broadway League Staff Retirement Plan; Michael Sirkin deploys his ‘unmatched knowledge’ of executive compensation, advising companies and executives; and Ira Bogner and Golub are praised for handling ERISA Title I issues and multi-employer plans respectively. Ali Fawaz is now a partner. Unless otherwise stated, all named lawyers are located in New York.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP has a focus on transactional work, much of which involves private equity purchasers. Brian Robbins, whose expertise includes fiduciary duties and plan terminations under ERISA, acted for DirecTV’s compensation committee in connection with AT&T’s $48.5bn purchase of the company. Greg Grogan advises private equity firms on portfolio transactions, and he recently handled a number of matters for Blackstone, including its purchase of GE Capital’s real estate assets, which involved employees located in several jurisdictions. Robbins and Grogan, along with Laurence Moss and David Rubinsky, who handle matters concerning multibillion-dollar M&A deals, are based in New York City. On the West Coast, Tristan Brown in Palo Alto advised Dell and Silver Lake Partners on the purchase of EMC. Other clients include Walgreens, Office Depot, Lorillard and KKR.

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP advises corporates on the executive compensation aspects of transactions, as well as negotiating executive remuneration packages for companies and executives. In recent work highlights, Marc Trevino acted for Alcaltel-Lucent during its purchase of Nokia, and Matthew Friestedt, who leads the firm’s executive compensation M&A team, assisted AT&T with the purchase of DirecTV. Washington DC-based special counsel Rebecca Coccaro is also involved in many of the firm’s key deals. In the executive entries and exits space, Trevino advised William Erbey, the former chairman of Ocwen Financial, on his exit from the company, while Friestedt advised Joshua Sapan on his appointment as CEO of AMC Networks. The firm also assists BNY Mellon, Chrysler and Cablevision with day-to-day plan governance and regulation matters. Other than Coccaro, all named lawyers are located in New York.

New York’s Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz has a strong reputation for involvement in some of the world’s largest M&A transactions. The firm is also well known for handling the executive compensation and employee benefits challenges in IPOs, spin-offs and complex hostile takeovers. Michael Segal is leading the firm’s benefits contingent, advising Charter Communications on its merger with Time Warner Cable and purchase of Bright House Networks, which includes executive compensation and ERISA plan challenges. In other work highlights, Jeannemarie O’Brien assisted Pfizer with its proposed purchase of Allergan, and Andrea Wahlquist handled eBay’s spin-off of PayPal into another publicly-traded company, which included restructuring equity compensation arrangements and negotiating PayPal’s new CEO’s remuneration. The firm was also involved in Hewlett Packard’s split into two companies, with Adam Shapiro handling the benefits and compensation work.

Baker McKenzie LLP has ‘excellent international resources to draw on’ and the team is ‘always realistic in its expectations’. The firm advises on transactions and plan creations, including employee stock ownership programs. In Chicago Maura Ann McBreen, who leads the executive compensation and employee benefits practice, is advising Merck on its $9.5bn purchase of Cubist Pharmaceuticals, a deal also involving Aimee Soodan, who has ‘a wonderful way of simplifying complex issues for lay clients’. San Francisco’s Valerie Diamond, who leads the global equity services team, advises on the equity award aspects of complex international company mergers; Brian Wydajewski in Chicago is ‘able to support various transactions and activities’; and Barbara Klementz in San Francisco has ‘global experience and extensive knowledge’. Richard Reilly, a leading lawyer since 2012, passed away in October 2015.

New York’s Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP’s team focuses on the compensation and benefits aspects of corporate matters such as M&A deals, IPOs and joint ventures. Eric Hilfers advised Cigna on its sale to Anthem and Precision Castparts on its sale to Berkshire Hathaway, and Jennifer Conway assisted Naspers and IBM with several joint ventures and acquisitions respectively. The firm also advises businesses on the design and implementation of equity compensation programs, as well as individual senior executives on compensation. Other clients include HJ Heinz, AmerisourceBergen and AGL Resources. Jonathan Katz was made partner in January 2016.

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP provides ‘sound and practical’ advice on transfers of large numbers of employees, executive compensation following large M&A deals, and plan management matters. Practice head Lawrence Cagney, who ‘is held in high regard on all matters relating to executive compensation’, is advising Verizon on the sale of its operations in three states, which includes the transfer of employee benefit responsibilities. Elizabeth Pagel Serebransky acted for Standard General in its acquisition of over 1,700 stores from bankrupt retailer RadioShack. In other recent work, Jonathan Lewis is advising Prudential Financial on de-risking transactions with Motorola Solutions and Kimberly-Clark, the latter mandate is reducing the pension liabilities of the leading provider of hygiene and safety solutions by $2.5bn. Meir Katz, who handles transactional matters, was made partner in July 2015. All named lawyers are all located in New York.

For some, Dechert LLP is ‘a one-stop shop for asset management companies’ with ERISA issues. However, the firm also assists corporates with transaction-related employment issues and executive compensation negotiation. Andrew Oringer, who is based in the New York office, advises a number of investment funds and financial institutions on the compatibility of their products with ERISA. In Philadelphia, David Jones assisted OCI Company with the employee benefits and executive compensation aspects of its sale of OCI Resources to a subsidiary of Ciner Group, which included the transfer of two underfunded defined benefit plans and severance agreements for some of the management staff. Boston-based ‘go-to ERISA practitionerSusan Camillo advises Golub Capital on the suitability of collateralized loan obligations as ERISA plan assets. Oringer and Jones share leadership of the practice.

Executive compensation aspects of high-value transactions sit at the core of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP’s ‘excellent’ employee benefits and executive compensation workload. Donald Carleen is ‘at the top of his game’; in 2015 he advised International Rectifier Corporation on the transformation of change of control severance agreements to retention rewards as the company was sold to Infineon Technologies. His expertise also includes ERISA fiduciary duty matters. In the employee benefits space, Amy Blackman advised CVS on the issues relating to its $1.9bn acquisition of Target’s pharmacies. In the regulatory field, Jeffrey Ross advises financial institutions on the eligibility to be a qualified professional asset manager under ERISA. All named lawyers are located in New York.

Kirkland & Ellis LLP’s benefits team focuses on corporate-related work involving M&A, spin-offs and restructurings. Work highlights included Chicago’s Vicki Hood advising Zebra Technologies on its purchase of Motorola Solutions’ inventory control business, and practice head Scott Price assisting Burger King Worldwide with the executive compensation aspects of its merger with Tim Hortons, a deal which saw the merged company locate its headquarters in Ontario. Price is located in the New York office, which added Matthew Shiels from Morrison & Foerster LLP. On the private equity side, Chicago-based Laura Bader advised Landmark Partners on creating its seventh fund, where investors include a number of ERISA-regulated and public sector pension plans.

The team at McDermott Will & Emery LLP has ‘particular depth and breadth of knowledge’ when it comes to managing employee benefits plans and crafting executive compensation packages. Practice head David Rogers and Ruth Wimer - both based in Washington DC - are advising MasterCard on a review of its pension plans, which includes regulatory issues involving the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). Rogers and the newly promoted Brian Benko (also based in Washington DC) assisted Intelsat with pension structuring, 401(k) plans and employee healthcare issues. Boston-based Andrew Liazos provides ‘outstanding guidance and knowledge in the area of executive compensation while setting a high bar for client experience and service’; he advises large companies and individual executives, including the CEO of a large publicly held company. In Chicago, Nancy Gerrie and Susan Nash assist technology sector clients with their benefits programs.

Washington DC’s Miller & Chevalier Chartered has a notable presence in this area, complemented by the firm’s tax and white-collar crime departments; it has a strong focus on sensitive regulatory matters involving the IRS, Department of Labor and PBGC, as well as handling internal investigations. In the pensions space, the firm has expertise in bankruptcies and de-risking transactions, and in the healthcare context, it handles Affordable Care Act issues. Marianna Dyson’s team includes Frederick Oliphant, recommended for matters including executive compensation and employee stock ownership programs, and Elizabeth Drake, who has de-risking and 401(k) plan expertise. Theresa Gee is a new lateral hire from O’Melveny & Myers LLP.

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP’s New York-based practice advises on the employee benefit and executive compensation aspects of corporate transactions and bankruptcies; the firm is also ‘very good in the ERISA area’. Recent work saw the ‘very intelligentLewis Clayton advising Caesars Entertainment on matters relating to its Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and practice head Robert Fleder assisting Oak Hill Capital Partners with its purchase of Berlin Packaging. The latter also advises investment managers on ERISA fiduciary duty matters. Other highlights include Andrew Gaines’ work for Time Warner Cable on its merger with Charter Communications, and Lawrence Witdorchic’s advice to Automated Data Processing regarding its spin-off of CDK Global.

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP’s executive compensation and benefits practice is centered around high-value transactions. In New York, Neil Leff advised the independent members of Time Warner Cable’s board on the executive compensation aspects of its acquisition by Charter Communications, and practice head Regina Olshan assisted Pinnacle Entertainment with the $4.8bn sale of the majority of its real estate assets to Gaming and Leisure Properties, following an unsolicited bid. On the West Coast, Palo Alto-based Joseph Yaffe advised American Apparel on the executive compensation and benefits issues regarding the suspension and subsequent dismissal of Dov Charney, the company’s founder and former CEO, following much-publicized accusations of sexual harassment. Yaffe’s clients also include a range of high-profile Silicon Valley and public sector executives, who he advises on securities law and compensation issues.

Steptoe & Johnson LLP’s benefits and compensation practice is focused on matters such as pension plan management, Department of Labor investigations and ERISA fiduciary standards. Melanie Nussdorf handles the Department of Labor and SEC regulatory side of pensions, and is advising Credit Suisse, BNP Paribas and Goldman Sachs on obtaining prohibited transaction exemption following the banks’ criminal convictions, allowing the institutions to manage ERISA assets. Other key lawyers include Edward Mackiewicz, formerly general counsel of the PBGC, and practice head Paul Ondrasik, who handles contentious and non-contentious matters. Los Angeles-based Don Wellington, the only employee benefits and executive compensation partner located outside Washington DC, advised CalPERS on obtaining an IRS determination letter for its tax-qualified status.

The team at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP provides ‘timely, and more importantly, succinct and practical advice in complex areas such as non-qualified deferred compensation and the taxation intricacies of executive compensation’. The ‘strong team, with great domain knowledge’ handles transaction-related matters, often with a private equity slant, and bankruptcies. Recommended partners include Paul Wessel, who advised DirecTV on its $67.1bn sale to AT&T, Amy Rubin, who acted for Facebook on its purchase of WhatsApp, and the ‘outstandingMichael Nissan, who assisted Centerbridge Partners with its purchase of KIK Custom Products. Nissan and associate Paula Han ‘have exceptional knowledge and experience, as well as a commitment to client service; both are responsive whenever needed’. The team, which is based in New York, also advises Berkshire Partners, General Electric and Kinder Morgan.

Greenberg Traurig, LLP’s multi-office team handles a range of issues regarding the management of employee benefits and welfare plans. Expertise also spans regulatory investigations by the IRS, Department of Labor and PBGC, and deferred compensation. Recommended partners include Silicon Valley-based Magan Ray, who advises on 401(k) plans, PPACA issues and welfare plan creation and management, and Miami-based Steven Lapidus, who has expertise in ERISA’s fiduciary requirements. Handling pensions regulation matters, Leslie Klein divides his time between Phoenix and Chicago, and leads the practice alongside Jeffrey Mamorsky in New York. Clients include Republic Services, Western Digital, Xilinx and Google, which the firm has acted for in this area for over a decade.

Hogan Lovells US LLP’s practice focuses on the benefits and compensation aspects of deals, often international, but the firm also handles plan design and compliance work. Margaret de Lisser advised Home Properties on plan issues including ‘cashing out’ of equity, ‘golden parachutes’ and the tax deductions of the company’s sale to Lone Star Funds. In other recent work, Carin Carithers advised a consortium of German automobile manufacturers on the purchase of Nokia’s digital mapping operation HERE, Kurt Lawson is advising Vanderbilt University on spinning-off Vanderbilt Medical Center, and Martha Steinman assisted WSP Global with its purchase of Parsons Brinckerhoff from Balfour Beatty. Other than Steinman, who is based in New York, all named lawyers are based in Washington DC. Steinman and de Lisser lead the practice.

Jones Day provides ‘excellent’ advice on a range of employee compensation matters ranging from executive compensation to welfare plans. Evan Miller and Kevin Noble, both located in Washington DC, continue to advise Motorola Solutions on a $4.2bn pension de-risking transaction with Prudential Financial. Daniel Hagen, who is based in New York, is advising Reynolds Tobacco on its purchase of Lorillard. In Cleveland, Patricia Eschbach-Hall advised Timken on spinning-off its steel business, and Procter & Gamble on selling its non-European pet care business to Mars. Miller and Hagen are co-chairs of the practice, which also acts for SAP, the City of Detroit and the Eastman Chemical Company.

Morrison & Foerster LLP is noted for advising technology sector clients on the executive compensation aspects of high-value transactions. Recent work includes advising SoftBank on the executive compensation elements of its role in a $1bn preferred offering of stock in peer-to-peer lending platform SoFi. The firm also advised Saba Software on its $400m sale to Vector Capital and ON Semiconductor on its purchase of Fairchild Semiconductor. Away from the technology sector, the firm has a strong practice in private equity acquisitions; New York-based Domnick Bozzetti advised Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners on its purchase of Holtwood for $860m. San Francisco’s Paul Borden, who advises on 401(k) plans, pension schemes and employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), is also a key contact. Michael Frank joined Sidley Austin LLP

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP provides ‘a high-level service’ to technology clients grappling employee benefits issues such as ESOPs and health plans, as well as executive compensation. In San Francisco, ‘incredibly responsive’ practice head Jonathan Ocker ‘cuts to the chase in complex issues’; he advised Vice Media on establishing a restricted stock unit equity program, and is also active handling executive compensation matters and PPACA compliance. Stephen Venuto and Christine McCarthy of the firm’s technology companies group, both based in the firm’s Menlo Park office, advised Pinterest on an unusual stock options program, which allows employees to exercise the option up to seven years after leaving the company. On an international level, New York-based Laura Becking advises Facebook on its equity compensation program outside the US.

Paul Hastings LLP advises a range of well-known clients on their benefits plans and executive compensation arrangements. Washington DC’s Mark Poerio advised The Economist on a change of leadership of the 401(k) plan committee and compliance issues. Eric Keller, also in Washington DC, is outside benefits counsel for Sony Corporation of America. His deal work includes advising Putnam Holding Company on the sale of a $1bn portfolio of residential properties in New York without encountering pension plan withdrawal liability. Peorio jointly leads the practice alongside New York’s Lawrence Hass, who has ERISA fiduciary expertise, and plan designer Stephen Harris, who is located in Los Angeles.

In addition to a strong practice advising on equity plans, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP’s expertise includes executive compensation and ERISA fiduciary issues. Practice head Susan Serota advises Louis Berger Group on the structure of executive compensation arrangements. She also handles international tax issues, ERISA plan design and health plan matters. Peter Hunt’s transactional highlights in 2015 include advising Business Insider, a longstanding client for equity compensation matters, on the executive compensation aspects of its merger with a subsidiary of Axel Springer. Other clients include Ikanos Communications and Cervalis Holdings. Both named lawyers are located in New York. Scott Landau left the firm to join Winston & Strawn LLP.

Alongside a strong ERISA practice, Ropes & Gray LLP has a notable transactional workload. William Jewett advised Cubist Pharmaceuticals on its sale to Merck, while Loretta Richard assisted Par Pharmaceutical Holdings with its sale to Endo International. In the private equity space, Richard advised Bain Capital and Blackstone Group on the sale of some of The Weather Company’s assets to IBM, and Renata Ferrari assisted Berkshire Partners with its purchase of Fibertech Networks. Peter Rosenberg acts for a number of well-known businesses on ERISA Title I compliance matters. Jennifer Rikoski, whose expertise includes sports industry executive compensation, was made partner in November 2015. All named lawyers are based in Boston.

Seyfarth Shaw LLP’s expertise includes plan drafting, transaction-related matters, governance issues and Affordable Care Act matters. In the New York office, Howard Pianko advises OOCL, The Hertz Company and College Board on their plan structures, while Randell Montellaro acts for Northwell Health (formerly known as the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System) on integrating the retirement and welfare systems of hospitals and healthcare practices it has acquired. Practice head Robert Flanagan, who is based in the Chicago office, handles executive compensation, ERISA regulation and multi-employer plan matters.

Shearman & Sterling LLP’s employee benefits team combines work for corporates in international transactions with executive compensation, plan design and construction and ERISA advice for private equity funds. Kenneth Laverriere advises investment funds on plan asset regulation and fiduciaries on their responsibilities. John Cannon handles a range of issues such as bankruptcy and transaction-related matters, while Linda Rappaport’s expertise includes the design and negotiation of executive compensation programs. Doreen Lilienfeld leads the team and advised Dow Chemical Company on the sale of its stake in MEGlobal to EQUATE. The firm’s clients have included Vivendi and John Henry (the primary owner of the Boston Red Sox, Liverpool Football Club and the Boston Globe). All four partners mentioned are based in New York.

Sidley Austin LLP’s Chicago-based practice is based around a core of executive compensation, transactional and ERISA plan management matters. Beth Dickstein and senior counsel Robert Ferencz act for the AT&T pension plan as outside ERISA fiduciary and investment counsel, which includes advising on numerous ongoing matters. Transactional highlights saw Matthew Johnson and Nicholas Turner advising eBay and PayPal on the employee benefits aspects of eBay’s spin-off of PayPal into a separate company. Johnson also advised International Game Technology on its purchase by GTECH. Other clients include the American Bar Association Retirement Funds, which Dickstein and Ferencz assisted with a change in service providers, and Cummins, which Eileen Lu acts for in relation to employee benefits issues raised by its acquisition of many of distributors across North America.

The team at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP is ‘superb at working through very difficult and complex tax issues that threaten benefit plans’. Vanessa Scott and ‘class-act’ Alice Murtos are advising The Aerospace Corporation on ERISA plan matters including 403(b) schemes, pensions and health benefits. Scott is also primary external counsel to the HR Policy Institution and advises a major energy company on its health plans. On the executive compensation front, Adam Cohen, who is ‘extremely valued by all who work with him’, has expertise in the ‘golden parachute’ excise tax and deferred compensation plans. Practice head Mark Smith advises on changes to the fiduciary rule. Aside from Murtos, who is based in Atlanta, the other named lawyers are in Washington DC.

In addition to transactional work, Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP’s New York-based practice advises financial institutions on their responsibilities under ERISA. New hire Peter Haller is advising Credit Suisse (whose in-house ERISA legal function he joined from) on the potential implications of the Department of Labor’s planned change to the fiduciary rule. In the transactional space, Michael Katz and Jordan Messinger advised HCC Insurance Holdings on the executive compensation aspects of its purchase by Tokio Marine Holdings, including retention plans and the tax implications of ‘golden parachutes’. All the mentioned partners have advised Insight Venture Partners and its portfolio companies on transactions and day-to-day matters including equity-based compensation and retirement plans. Other clients include Aberdeen Asset Management and RenaissanceRe.

The team at Winston & Strawn LLPprovides an excellent service in the employee benefits area’, with expertise in incentive schemes, ESOPs and securities matters. Michael Falk, an ‘experienced employee benefits attorney who understands clients with no-nonsense approaches’, handles transactions for private equity funds including Sycamore Partners and Water Street Partners, while Michael Melbinger provides advice to Fortune 50 companies on issues relating to stock incentive schemes and 401(k) plans. In New York, Scott Landau joined from the firm from Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP in March 2015, his transactional work highlights included assisting TreeHouse Foods with its purchase of ConAgra. Other clients include Cantor Fitzgerald and Nuveen Investments.

Baker Botts L.L.P. advises on a range of employee benefits issues and executive compensation matters, with a strong focus on work relating to the energy and oil industries. Rob Fowler, who advises on ERISA regulatory matters and employee benefit plan design, assisted Schlumberger on issues relating to its $15bn purchase of Cameron International Corporation. The firm also advised Tallgrass Energy on its $1.2bn IPO, with Mark Bodron leading on the compensation and benefits side. Gail Stewart leads the practice, and has expertise in executive compensation schemes, pension plans and ESOPs. Other than David Schiller, who is based in Dallas, the four partners in the team are located in Houston.

Unsurprisingly for a firm with a strong reputation for oil and gas work, the core of Bracewell LLP’s employee benefits practice pivots around a large workload of energy transactions, including purchases of companies in difficulty. Practice head Bruce Jocz advised Noble Energy on its purchase of Rosetta Resources, while Scott Sanders assisted Kinder Morgan with negotiating the benefits provision and implementing the transition of benefits with regards to its purchase of Hiland Partners. The firm also has a track record of handling deals in the financial services sector; Sanders advised Veritex Holdings on its purchase of IBT Bancorp. Both Jocz and Sanders are located in Houston. Other clients include Howard Energy Partners and BancorpSouth.

The ‘top-notch practice’ at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP is ‘deeply respected for its marketplace know-how’ that is ‘clearly at the pinnacle of the field when it comes to pension plan investments in financial products’. ‘Lawyers don’t get much better’ than James Frazier and Washington DC-based senior counsel Robert Davis, who are advising broker-dealers and banks on ensuring financial products are suitable for ERISA-regulated investors. Outside the regulatory space, practice head and executive compensation specialist Steven Eckhaus advised the Big Ten Conference’s compensation committee on extending the contract of its commissioner, Jim Delany. In the M&A field, special counsel Shane Stroud advised Salix Pharmaceuticals on its sale to Valeant. Unless otherwise stated, all named lawyers are based in New York.

The Washington DC-based team at Caplin & Drysdale, Chartered provides ‘unparalleled high-level service with respect to responsiveness, knowledge and efficiency’. The firm advises employers on benefits issues including deferred compensation and ERISA pension plans, and is noted for nonprofits. Joanne Youn and Richard Skillman, who has ‘extremely high levels of experience and knowledge’, assist Lakewood Church with its deferred compensation arrangements, and advise the International Monetary Fund and World Bank on benefit plan issues, including relations with the IRS regarding the planned ‘Cadillac Tax’. In other work highlights, Patricia Lewis and Youn advised SKF USA on plan design and implementation.

At DLA Piper LLP (US), the ‘seasoned and service-oriented’ team advises on transactions, plan management and executive appointments. In Chicago, Anne Pachiarek advises on multi-billion transactions, some of which involve private equity and international buyers, and Ian Kopelman has ‘strategic and specific knowledge of qualified plans’. Other noteworthy lawyers include San Francisco’s Mark Boxer, who advises on IRS regulatory matters, and Palo Alto’s Cisco Palao-Ricketts, who is a new hire from Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. Clients include a number of life sciences and technology companies.

Dentons’ multi-office team has expertise in a range of ERISA plan and executive compensation matters. In Chicago, Pamela Baker advised Hewlett-Packard’s compensation committee on executive compensation challenges relating to the company’s demerger into Hewlett Packard Enterprise and HP Inc; she also has expertise in pension plan de-riskings and equity plans. Daniel Lange, who joined the Chicago office in October 2015 from Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, advises individual C-suite executives. In Washington DC, Michael Maryn assists McDonald’s with its retirement plans and non-qualified deferred compensation schemes, including advising on its employee stock ownership plan. Martin Moderson, who leads the practice from Kansas City, handles issues including plan terminations and church plan statuses.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP handles a range of compensation and benefits matters. In Washington DC, William Kilberg and Michael Collins act for the NFL Players Association in collective bargaining with the National Football League over benefits matters. On the transactional front, Collins advised Towers Watson on its purchase by Willis Group. In Palo Alto, Stephen Fackler assists a number of technology companies with structuring their stock compensation and executive plans; his clients include AOL, which he advised on a ‘phantom stock’ plan. Also on the West Coast, matters relating to SEC disclosure rules and executive compensation are handled by Sean Feller of the Los Angeles office; his clients include MGM Resorts International.

Goodwin Procter LLP’s ERISA and executive compensation practice provides ‘excellent service’, and counts Healthcare System and Teva Pharmaceuticals among its clients. In addition to work on corporate transactions, the firm provides advice on issues such as retirement plans, executive compensation and ERISA fiduciary matters. Marian Tse is ‘an incredible resource with wonderful in-depth knowledge of both executive compensation and employee benefits’; she advised Paramount Group on the preparation of employment agreements, equity grants and an executive severance plan in connection with a $2.6bn IPO of a REIT. Practice head Scott Webster advised Manulife on its purchase of New York Life’s retirement plan business. With the exception of Lynda Galligan in Menlo Park, who advised Lynda.com on its sale to LinkedIn, the team is located in Boston.

Tax and employee benefits boutique Ivins, Phillips & Barker advises on employee health and welfare plan matters such as 401(k) plans, health plan design and compliance and employee stock ownership plans. Rosina Barker is well regarded by peers, and advises on pension de-riskings, executive compensation packages and PPACA compliance. While the vast majority of the firm is in Washington DC, it also has a satellite office in Los Angeles, where Steven Witmer has expertise in the employee benefits issues involved in corporate transactions. Clients have included Bayer, FedEx and Saudi Aramco.

Mayer Brown handles a range of non-M&A-related health and welfare plan matters, including ERISA fiduciary issues and executive compensation negotiations. The team is led by Maureen Gorman in Palo Alto, who has expertise in large pension de-riskings, retiree health plans and employee stock ownership programs. Other names to note include George Craven, who handles pension tax and securities issues, and Lennine Occhino and James Williams, who advised a large financial institution on structuring and creating a 401(k) plan. Clients include CIBC World Markets Corporation, Caterpillar and Tenneco. Unless otherwise stated, all named lawyers are located in Chicago, which is also the home of ERISA litigator Nancy Ross.

Thompson Hine LLP’s ‘very personable, professional, efficient and practical’ team combines ‘experts in the areas of ERISA, taxation, non-qualified deferred compensation and executive compensation’. Laura Ryan (‘an outstanding lawyer whose greatest strength is understanding the business case as well as the legal requirements’) and Kim Wilcoxon assisted Fifth Third Bank with a restructuring of its 401(k) plan and group health scheme. Karen Youngstrom advised Lincoln Electric’s fiduciary annuity committee on matters relating to a pension de-risking. In the executive compensation field, Shane Starkey is ‘incredibly smart - his business and financial acumen are well beyond his peers’. Other than Youngstrom, who is based in Cleveland, all named lawyers are in Cincinnati.

Vedder Price’s practice advises on executive compensation issues, for both individual executives and their employers, and ERISA plan designs. Thomas Desmond acted for the CEO and senior leadership of StanCorp Financial Group during negotiations regarding the company’s purchase by Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Company. In addition to work for Fortune 500 C-suite executives, Kelly Starr advised Brian Kibby, CEO of MV Transportation, on his compensation arrangements. In the employee benefits field, Thomas Hancuch’s expertise includes employee benefit plan design, high-stakes de-risking transactions and PPACA compliance. The firm’s clients also include Novartis, ArcelorMittal USA and the Hershey Company. All named lawyers are based in Chicago, where Desmond and Starr jointly lead the department.

Vinson & Elkins LLP acts for strong roster of energy clients on executive compensation and benefits matters, with a particular focus on transaction-related issues. In Dallas, David D’Alessandro advised Eagle Rock Energy Partners on its sale to Vanguard Natural Resources, while Shane Tucker assisted Targa Natural Resources with its purchase of Atlas Pipeline Partners. Outside the energy sector, D’Alessandro advised Medical Action Industries on its $207m sale to Owens & Minor. Tucker also has experience in designing employee benefits plans, including 401(k) plans, ESOPs and cafeteria plans. George Gerachis in Houston advises on tax-related issues and shares leadership of the executive compensation and benefits practice with D’Alessandro. In recent personnel developments, Sheri Dillon departed for Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP and Houston’s Stephen Jacobson was made partner.

Arent Fox LLP handles transaction-related matters and the creation of benefit packages. Practice head Quana Jew and Bill Charyk are key names to note; the former assists a number of fashion industry clients - including DVG Studio, Hugo Boss and Lacoste - with developing benefit packages for key personnel, and the latter advises a range of companies on deferred benefit plans and Catholic Charities USA on the healthcare benefits implications of Obergefell v Hodges. Together, they advise Monsanto and Choice Hotels on their benefit plans.

Baker & Hostetler LLP’s workload includes transaction-related employee benefits matters as well as day-to-day plan management. Columbus-based Georgeanne Peters advised Red Lobster, a new client and recently spun-off from Darden Restaurants, on benefit plans including 401(k) schemes for general employees and executive compensation. In Cleveland, John McGowan’s expertise includes multi-employer plans and the PPACA. Raymond Malone (also in Cleveland) advises on the benefits and compensation aspects of transactions, ERISA plan terminations and executive compensation. Malone and Peters jointly lead the practice.

Clifford Chance advises on the employee benefits and executive compensation aspects of major transactions, often working alongside other offices in the firm’s global network. Practice head Howard Adler, who has equity-based compensation expertise, and ERISA counsel Robert Stone advised Geodis on its purchase of Ozburn-Hessey Logistics from a private equity firm. The team also advises private equity clients; Stone advised Long Wharf Real Estate Partners on matters relating to the formation of its fifth fund. Other clients include GoldenTree Asset Management and the Hearst Corporation. Both lawyers mentioned are based in New York.

Epstein Becker & Green, P.C. has a strong practice handling qualified health and welfare plans, as well as deferred compensation and transaction-related work. Practice head Joan Disler, who is based in Newark, advises BlackRock on issues such as the management of qualified benefit plans, PPACA and plan governance. In New York, Michelle Capezza has expertise in ERISA fiduciary matters, section 409A compliance for long-term incentive plans and healthcare compliance. Clients also include Panasonic, Travelport and UniCredit.

Multi-office labor specialist Fisher & Phillips’ employee benefits practice, led by Irvine-based Sheldon Blumling, advises businesses on matters relating to qualified plans, ESOPs and corporate transactions. Blumling’s expertise includes employee health cover and M&A-related matters. Other key contacts include Atlanta’s Robert Christenson, who advises on multi-employer plans, and Sandra Feingerts in New Orleans, who is an ERISA specialist.

Jenner & Block LLP’s Chicago-based three-partner team advises a range of regional and national clients on day-to-day and transactional employee benefits matters. Tony Ling has experience in plan termination issues and corporate transactions, while practice head Matthew Renaud’s expertise includes equity plans for executives, ERISA fiduciary responsibilities and the PPACA. Raymond Sinnappan advises private equity investors on ERISA compliance. The team is also recommended for de-risking transactions and ERISA fiduciary duties.

Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. advises C-suite executives on compensation and businesses on their ERISA plans. Key contacts include David Lagasse, who advised the CEEO and COO of Business Insider on the company’s acquisition by Axel Springer, and Tyrone Thomas, who acts for several university presidents as well as the institutions themselves. Practice head Alden Bianchi has expertise in executive compensation work, as well as advising employers on ERISA fiduciary matters, qualified and non-qualified retirement plans and PPACA matters. Other clients include a number of staffing agencies. The three named lawyers are based in New York, Washington DC and Boston respectively.

Clients view Chicago’s Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP as like ‘an extension of their internal team’. Patricia Cain, who leads the practice, is ‘very level-headed and has a good balance between interpreting the law and understanding clients’ business needs; she always gets to positive and workable solutions’. Her workload includes benefit plan integration following transactions, group health plan compliance with the PPACA and executive compensation. Jeff Bakker’s expertise includes ERISA compliance, deferred compensation plans and the PPACA’s employer mandate. Associate Stephanie Vasconcellos left for Mayer Brown.

Reinhart, Boerner, Van Deuren SC’s ‘very deep bench of lawyers are on top of the trends and developments’. The Wisconsin-centered firm advises a coast-to-coast roster of public-sector clients; ‘great listener’ Steven Huff provides fiduciary advice to the Teacher Retirement System of Texas and the Milwaukee County Pension Board and Retirement System. Huff also advises private-sector clients including Schreiber Foods on 401(k) and employee stock ownership plans. Denise Goergen has expertise in pension restructures and de-risking transactions. Other clients include the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System. Both named lawyers are based in Milwaukee.

Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP’s practice head Steven Rabitz is ‘responsive, thoughtful and understanding of his clients - since he has worked on Wall Street he understands the expectations’. His workload includes advising the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association on a comment letter regarding the planned fiduciary rule change. The firm is also noted for ensuring the ERISA capability of financial products designed for sale to pension funds and structuring executive compensation packages. It acts for a number of high-profile financial services clients. Marissa Holob made partner in January 2016.

Sullivan & Worcester LLP has ‘significant depth in areas such as ERISA, tax qualification and compliance’. David Guadagnoli, whose expertise includes the design of deferred compensation plans, the prohibited transaction rules and executive compensation, is ‘a go-to lawyer - he never forgets anything the clients tell or ask of him and picks up on the details other would overlook’. Amy Sheridan, who advises on 409A and PPACA compliance ‘impresses with her attention to detail’ and ‘spends time developing strong client relationships’. Both are based in Boston.

Venable LLPprovides a very high level of service: the large and diverse team adds value’. Thora Johnson’s expertise includes HIPAA compliance and PPACA matters; Kenneth Hoffman advises on multi-employer plans and executive compensation; the ‘bright, rigorous and lucidHarry Atlas is ‘completely clear in his thinking’ and has expertise in retirement plans, executive compensation and transaction-related matters. In addition to acting for a strong roster of private-sector clients, this is a ‘go-to team for non-profits for help with the entire array of benefits issues’. Johnson and Atlas are based in Baltimore, Hoffman in Washington DC.

White & Case LLP has a strong healthcare transactional practice, where Henrik Patel advised Anthem on succession planning, equity awards and employee retention regarding its planned $54bn hostile purchase of Cigna. Private equity clients also form a significant part of the roster; Patel assisted CVC Capital Partners with management employment agreements following its purchase of a stake in Alvogen. Victoria Rosamond, a counsel who advises on ERISA and qualified plans issues, joined the firm from Linklaters LLP, while Mark Hamilton left the firm to join Danziger & Markhoff LLP Attorneys at Law. All named lawyers are located in New York.

WilmerHale’s practice head Kimberly Wethly is a ‘top-quality attorney; she knows the answers to the tricky questions off the top of her head’. Amy Null is a key contact for qualified plan matters, including ERISA regulation and health plans. Transactional highlights saw Mark Borden and Scott Kilgore advising Staples on its proposed merger with Office Depot. Other than Kilgore, who is based in Washington DC, all named lawyers are based in Boston.

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  • Bulgaria: Opening the gas market for foreign traders!

    Most recently, the Bulgarian Energy Regulator has taken significant steps towards the full liberalisation of the natural gas market: In December 2016, the Bulgarian Energy Regulator adopted legislative amendments to the Rules for Trading of Natural Gas ( Правила за търговия с природен газ , " Trading Rules ") and the Rules for Access to the Gas Transmission and/or Gas Distribution Networks and the Natural Gas Storage Facilities ( Правила за предоставяне на достъп до газопреносните и/или газоразпределителните мрежи и за достъп до съоръженията за съхранение на природен газ , " Access Rules "). Moreover, it adopted new Rules for Balancing of the Natural Gas Market ( Правила за балансиране на пазара за природен газ , " Balancing Rules "). read more...
  • When Arbitration Meets Insolvency in Montenegro - Can They Coexist?

    Even at first blush, it is apparent that arbitration and insolvency make strange bedfellows.
  • Hungary: Registration Fees for Company Establishment Abolished

    In an aim to simplify state administration and support economic growth, the Hungarian Parliament adopted a new law abolishing the registration fee and the publication cost for incorporating limited liability companies (" LLC ") ( korlátolt felelősségű társaság ), limited partnerships ( betéti társaság ), general partnerships ( közkereseti társaság ), and sole entrepreneurships ( egyéni cég ). The new law becomes effective on 16 March 2017. read more...
  • SyCipLaw TMT Bulletin: Philippine Central Bank Issues New FinTech Rules

    The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) (the Philippine Central Bank) has issued two new circulars that will be of interest to companies engaged in remittance services, e-money, digital currency, and other fintech businesses. Both circulars amend portions of the BSP Manual of Regulations for Non-Bank Financial Institutions.
  • IFLR: “Philippines: Foreign equity ownership decision”

    The March issue of the International Financial Law Review ( IFLR ) includes an international briefing article by SyCipLaw partner  Jose Florante M. Pamfilo  entitled “Philippines: Foreign equity ownership decision”. The article discusses the Philippine Supreme Court decision on the case of Roy v. Herbosa (GR no. 207246) to invalidate the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Memorandum Circular no. 8-2013 (MC 8-2013) on the guidelines on compliance with the Filipino-foreign ownership requirements prescribed in the Philippine Constitution and/or existing laws by corporations engaged in nationalized and partly nationalized activities.
  • New regulation on unit-linked life insurance in Hungary

    Policyholders of unit-linked life insurance products pay an agreed sum for the unit-linked insurance to the insurance company, as a regular premium, or in one lump sum. These payments cover the life insurance component as well as the investment, administrative costs, contracting fee and the commissions. The "total cost charged" ("TCC") is an indicator – calculated in line with the rules of Hungarian insurance regulations – showing all costs charged on life insurance policies having a savings element, reflected as a percentage value. The regulation of the TCC in Hungary has been amended effective 1 January 2017. read more...
  • Hungary: Increase of Minimum Sale Price May Affect Retail NPL Transactions?

    On 7 March 2017, the Hungarian parliament adopted a law that increases the minimum sale price of a residential property in the enforcement procedure from the current 70% of its market value to 100% (market value to be understood as the price set by the appraisal of the bailiff), provided that (i) the claim to be enforced stems from a consumer contract; (ii) the real property is the debtor's only real property; and (iii) the debtor resided in that real property for at least six months prior to the initiation of the enforcement procedure.   read more...
  • European Court of Justice rules for the first time on discrimination based on belief

    The Court of Justice confirms a policy of neutrality can justify discrimination based on belief.
  • RECENT COURT ORDER ON GOOGLE RELATED TO PROTECTING INFORMATION RIGHTS

    Korean appeals court orders Google to disclose to Korean users what personal information Google passed to U.S. government.
  • ECJ CASE C-28/26 - RECOVERABILITY OF INPUT VAT OF A HOLDING COMPANY

    Case C-28/26 - Examines the right of a holding company to deduct input VAT on services acquired in the interest of its subsidiaries where those services are offered to its subsidiaries with no consideration.

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