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  1. ERISA litigation
  2. Leading lawyers
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The ERISA litigation practice at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLPmakes the experience of a class action lawsuit relatively painless’ and is led by Jeremy Blumenfeld and Brian Ortelere in Philadelphia and Deborah Davidson in Chicago. The team took over a stock-drop case brought against Pilgrim’s Pride claiming breach of fiduciary duties, and Ortelere dismissed a purported class action suit against AlliedBarton claiming wrongful discharge from employment to prevent plaintiffs receiving benefits. Blumenfeld represented Cigna and its subsidiary LINA in several suits relating to the alleged denial of long-term disability benefits. Other notable highlights included two putative ‘church plan’ cases on behalf of OSF, and New York’s Melissa Hill successfully dismissing a retiree medical case in connection with Weyerhaeuser’s termination of the plaintiffs’ medical benefits. Clients also recommend Christopher Boran, Chicago.

Proskauer Rose LLP provides ‘exemplary’ advice ‘of the highest quality’ and is ‘a joy to work with in the fires of ERISA litigation’, including stock-drop, church plan and withdrawal liability cases. Clients praise ‘all-wise ERISA guru Howard Shapiro in New Orleans and rising star Russell Hirschhorn in New York defended Wells Fargo and Avon in class action stock-drop suits alleging failure to uphold fiduciary obligations. Shapiro, assisted by senior counsel Stacey Cerrone, is also defending over a dozen healthcare providers in a wave of church plan suits. The ‘practical, tactical legal geniusMyron Rumeld in New York acted for Intel, Neuberger and Renco in 2016; the last of these in connection with a PBGC withdrawal liability claim. Recent work also saw the team defend Foot Locker in a class action alleging violations of its disclosure obligations under ERISA in connection with the conversion of its pension plan to a cash balance plan.

Steptoe & Johnson LLP attracts high-profile, nationwide class action litigation from large corporate clients. Practice co-chair Paul Ondrasik won an appeal at the Fifth Circuit in connection with a putative class action seeking to recover losses on employer stock following the 2010 gulf oil spill, while Eric Serron defended Carfax in an ERISA action alleging the client wrongfully denied supplemental life insurance benefits to the spouse of a deceased participant. Ondrasik, Serron and practice co-head Gwen Renigar defended MagnaCare in a suit regarding the client’s provision of healthcare services, and defended Express Scripts against fiduciary, ACA, RICO and contract breach allegations. Los Angeles’ Ed Gregory advised on an administrative pension calculation challenge. Named attorneys are based in Washington DC except where indicated otherwise.

Covington & Burling LLP’s Washington DC-based team has a strong presence in the US appellate courts, including the Supreme Court, and handles high-profile class action suits at the forefront of ERISA regulation. Experienced litigator and ERISA expert Robert Long advises on issues related to ESOPs and stock-drop allegations. Senior counsel Jeffrey Huvelle specializes in employment discrimination law and counsels on fiduciary breach and prohibited transaction claims in the context of spin-offs and insolvency. Christian Pistilli has represented pension plans, their sponsors and fiduciaries in complex class actions in trial courts and on appeal.

Based in Washington DC, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP’s ERISA litigation team advises clients such as Boeing, Kodak and Aetna. Michael Collins, Eugene Scalia and Jason Schwartz, who jointly lead the practice, defended Ford in two separate wrongful benefit denial and fiduciary breach ERISA actions. The firm was also retained by ABF Freight to advise on a suit in which multi-employer and welfare plans associated with Local 710 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters alleged ABF failed to make necessary contributions to the plan; this case was handled William Kilberg and of counsel Paul Blankenstein. Scalia also represents USC in a putative class action, one of numerous such suits brought against a number of universities across the country. Litigation expert Richard Doren is also a key contact.

Lars Golumbicknows ERISA and conveys his knowledge in a way that imbues confidence’ and leads the ‘outstanding’ litigation practice at Washington DC’s Groom Law Group. The team consists of ‘highly responsive’ lawyers advising on issues including fiduciary breach claims, excessive fee and stock-drop matters, and retiree health suits. Of counsel Sean Abouchedid has ‘a deeper understanding of the impact of legal developments’ and assisted Golumbic in the defense of CHI in a class action suit claiming its retirement plan did not qualify as a ‘church plan’ exempt from ERISA, among other issues. Other notable names include Sarah Adams, Edward Meehan and Mark Nielsen, all of whom advised ESOP and multi-employer plan trustees in fiduciary breach cases in 2016.

Trusted Advisor - with Finnegan

IP specialist Finnegan detail how their collaborative approach makes for a unique culture which is designed to allow them to work with clients in a way which is cognizant of the challenges facing all companies today.

Washington DC’s Miller & Chevalier Chartered focuses on high-stakes ERISA health benefits litigation brought by classes and governmental authorities. Recent highlights include defending a putative class action against Berkshire Hathaway and its subsidiary Acme; practice head Anthony Shelley led a team that obtained a dismissal in federal district court. Adam Feinberg led the representation of Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield against allegations of ACA violations, while Timothy O’Toole and Michael Khalil were key in a suit involving the novel question of whether in-network healthcare providers qualify as ERISA beneficiaries. Elsewhere, the Department of Labor (DOL) filed a suit against numerous entities including FCE - represented by Theresa Gee - related to administrative and claims processing services provided to Chimes DC’s welfare plan.

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP specializes in high-profile cases and advises heavyweight clients such as JPMorgan Chase and ING. The practice was engaged by Citigroup and the fiduciaries of its pension plans to defend two stock-drop suits; Lewis Clayton and Brad Karp, who jointly lead the team, secured the dismissal of both actions. Robert Fleder and other team members defended Dave & Buster’s in a Section 510 putative class action related to the employer mandate under the ACA. Clayton and executive compensation and employee benefits expert Andrew Gaines advised Primerica on fiduciary regulation changes. All named partners are based in New York.

Seyfarth Shaw LLP’s ‘mastery of ERISA and multi-employer pension plans is extremely strong’, according to clients. Acclaimed by clients, Chicago-based Ronald Kramer is representing Republic Services in a complex withdrawal liability action, while Ada Dolph - known for her ‘persuasive advocacy’ - worked on a 401(k) excessive fee suit. In San Francisco, the team is handling a high-stakes action by plan trustees against a former third-party administrator alleging a breach of fiduciary duties, and defended PMA’s welfare plan and its trustees in a claim brought by the Omidi family and several ambulatory surgical centers on the grounds of unpaid benefits. Ian Morrison and Amanda Sonneborn lead the practice and are also key contacts.

The ERISA litigation department at Sidley Austin LLP is spread across the country and represents a diverse client roster. Mark Blocker and Joel Feldman defended The Hartford in a putative class action wherein plaintiffs alleged the defendant violated ERISA through cross-subsidization pricing, while practice head Anne Rea represents Merrill Lynch in a 401(k) excessive fees claim brought by a former litigation partner at Clifford Chance. The firm continues to deploy a multi-office team, including Chris Meyer and David Carpenter in Los Angeles, in a complex, 12-year, multifaceted suit involving two separate classes and numerous ERISA challenges filed against client Bank of America in connection with fund transfers from the defendant’s 401(k) plan to its pension plan. Named partners are based in Chicago except where otherwise stated.

The ‘expert, strategic, pragmatic and cost-effective’ team at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP is ‘simply the best litigation team’, according to one client. ‘Exceptional lawyerNicholas Pappas, who leads the practice with Jeffrey Klein, and Paul Wessel - who also serves as head of the firm’s executive compensation and employee benefits practice - obtained a precedent-setting victory before the Second Circuit for Marsh, and defended UHG (and related entities) and its self-funded ERISA health plans in a class action suit brought by ambulatory surgery centers. Other notable clients include Genworth and AIG. Named attorneys are based in New York.

James Baker heads Baker McKenzie LLP’s ERISA litigation department from San Francisco and led the defense of Quest Diagnostics in a class action suit brought by a terminated employee seeking voluntary separation agreement benefits; the team secured dismissal twice. In Chicago, Douglas Darch represented Whirlpool in an action filed by 2,100 retirees alleging the defendant’s changes to their level of health insurance benefits violated their vested rights to unchanged benefits. Other highlights included withdrawal liability cases and plan contribution disputes.

Goodwin’s two-partner ERISA litigation practice stands ‘among the best’ and handles district, federal and Supreme Court cases for financial services clients and plan providers. The firm represented clients in cases surrounding allegations of fiduciary breaches, prohibited transaction violations, and stock-drop and excessive fee practices. Spearheaded by the client-recommended James Fleckner, the group is defending American Century and its affiliates in a class action suit filed in Missouri regarding the use of proprietary funds for its 401(k) plan. Alison Douglass, whom clients also recommend, and Jack Cleary are other key contacts. All named individuals work in the Boston office.

The nationwide practice at Greenberg Traurig, LLP represents clients such as DeVry University, Whole Foods and GlaxoSmithKline in a wide array of employment law cases. In Atlanta, Todd Wozniak is defending a healthcare consulting entity and its ESOP in a class action suit filed by a former participant alleging the termination of the plan in 2011 violated ERISA regulations; in New Jersey, Robert Bernstein recently obtained summary judgment dismissing all counts of a suit wherein the plaintiff sought to recover benefits allegedly promised orally. The group was also engaged by multiple clients, including GlaxoSmithKline, to defend them and their medical plans in ERISA violation and unfair competition suits arising out of their denial of claims for services provided by out-of-network providers.

McDermott Will & Emery LLP’s ERISA litigation team derives much strength from the firm’s employee benefits practice and has specific expertise in healthcare-related litigation. Recent highlights include Bill Boies’s representation of longstanding client State Street in an action filed by 400 retired Chrysler executives alleging fraud and breach of trust when Chrysler used $200m from the ‘top hat plan’ for company operations during the company’s near bankruptcy in 2008. Chris Scheithauer defended Northrup Grumman, Yahoo! and Aecom in actions regarding the wrongful denial of benefits, the failure to properly reimburse the plaintiff following in-network medical care, and various ERISA violation challenges following a DOL audit. Boies and Scheithauer jointly lead the practice and are based in Chicago and Los Angeles respectively.

Brian Boyle leads the practice at O’Melveny & Myers LLP and is representing CVS in a class action suit filed in Rhode Island claiming the stable value fund’s cash equivalent holdings were excessive following the economic crisis, thereby depressing the returns of CVS’s 401(k) investment line-up. Other key contacts include Catalina Vergara in Los Angeles, who is defending Chevron is an excessive fee case; Shannon Barrett, who obtained the dismissal of a stock-drop claim for Evercore on the basis of the Dudenhoeffer standard; and Gregory Jacob, who secured two victories for Boeing in stock-drop and fiduciary breach class actions. Named attorneys are based in Washington DC except where otherwise noted.

Arent Fox LLP’s Washington DC-based ERISA litigation practice works closely with the firm’s employee benefits and executive compensation team and has particular expertise in healthcare litigation. Caroline Turner English represents the Suffolk School employees, its health plan and its trustees in a withdrawal liability case brought by the Sayville school district, while Carol Connor Cohen advised a separate client on insolvency-related PBGC issues. Associate Alison Andersen handled administrative appeals and disputes in connection with ERISA-governed health plans and is also a key contact.

Dentons has a nationwide practice that acts on behalf of plan sponsors, fiduciaries, third-party administrators and insurance companies in individual and class action suits. Spearheaded by Alan Gilbert in Chicago, the firm represents Hanover in a national class action seeking millions of dollars in alleged underpayments of lump sum distributions from the client’s pension plan, while Martin Moderson led the advice on stock-drop and excessive fee cases brought against two 401(k) plans by the DOL. In the healthcare sector, the team handled suits claiming underfunding of pension plans and the denial of due payment to out-of-network service providers. Brian Cousin leads the practice from New York.

Fantastic attorneyAmanda Amert leads Jenner & Block LLP’s ERISA litigation practice from Chicago and works closely with Craig Martin on a wide array of claims on behalf of heavyweight international clients. The team ‘understands a corporate client’s needs’ and recently obtained a complete victory for Dow in a class action challenging benefits provisions for certain retirees. Northern Trust also engaged the team to defend it in a class action arising from seven allegations of ERISA violations, including breach of fiduciary duty, anti-cutback claims and discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Martin’s representation of Northwestern University in a suit regarding its 403(b) plan and its fiduciary duties under ERISA is also a recent highlight.

Jones Day’s practice, jointly led by Michael Gray and Matthew Lampe, was recently strengthened by several lateral hires and acts for clients such as Boeing and Meggitt. Cleveland’s Stanley Weiner is defending GE in a suit brought by its unions and 26 retirees claiming that their medical benefits are vested and cannot be modified or terminated, while Washington DC’s Evan Miller represents C&S and its former subsidiary in a withdrawal liability suit. In Atlanta, Craig Friedman led the defense of Flower Foods in a nationwide class action claiming plaintiffs were unlawfully denied benefits for being misclassified as independent contractors.

King & Spalding LLP is particularly focused on the energy and financial sectors, but is also retained by clients such as Coca-Cola and Home Depot to handle employment and ERISA disputes. Atlanta-based David Tetrick is part of AIG’s national fiduciary liability panel and is also representing Peabody in a stock-drop suit as well as SunTrust in class actions alleging that the client retained its mutual funds as investment alternatives for its 401(k) plan despite charging excessive fees and poor returns. In Washington DC, Bobby Burchfield handles healthcare litigation, especially regarding vested retiree benefits issues; clients of his include Moen, CNH and BorgWarner.

Mayer Brown’s practice is ‘very strong, very knowledgeable in ERISA and strong in client relations’ and acts for a diverse roster of clients. Washington DC’s Brian Netter, assisted by Chicago-based practice head Nancy Ross, represents three Ivy League universities in connection with the recent wave of litigation aimed at their 403(b) plans. The pair also defended FreightCar in a class action brought by the United Steelworkers challenging the termination of retiree medical benefits. In Los Angeles, Elizabeth Mann is defending ASH in several class actions pertaining to provider non-discrimination violations under the ACA.

At Paul Hastings LLP, Stephen Harris, Lawrence Hass and Mark Poerio lead the ERISA practice from Los Angeles, New York and Washington DC respectively. The team, which handles high-value, complex litigation, has recently worked on cases pertaining to benefits claims, specifically in connection with allegations of wrongful benefits termination, the offsetting of benefits, and ACA issues. Recent work highlights also include a multi-employer withdrawal liability suit. New York-based Patrick Shea is also a key contact.

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