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  1. ERISA litigation
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Not just ‘extremely knowledgeable, but also very responsive and good at thinking outside of the box’, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP is ‘simply the best’, according to one client. The ‘easy-to-work-withBrian Ortelere sits in the Philadelphia office and recently defended the University of Pennsylvania in a class action challenging the investment options offered by its 403(b) plan on the grounds of alleged breach of fiduciary duties. Chicago-based Sari Alamuddin and Melissa Hill in New York also worked with private universities in respective fiduciary putative class actions. On the health benefits front, Washington DC-based senior counsel Christopher Weals advised on the issue of vested right to lifetime retiree medical benefits. Jeremy Blumenfeld and Deborah Davidson are names to note in Philadelphia and Chicago respectively; they have recently represented clients in class actions involving allegations of breach of fiduciary duty, prohibited transactions and denial of lifetime vested retiree healthcare benefits. Clients also recommend Christopher Boran, who sits in Chicago.

The practice at Proskauer Rose LLP comprises ‘extremely strong partners at the top and a very deep bench of ERISA litigators’, and is hailed as ‘simply the best of the best’. Led by Myron Rumeld, the team is well known for handling stock-drop, excessive fee and church plan cases. Recent work includes representing Princeton University in a suit alleging a breach of fiduciary duties in its recordkeeping fees, and Russell Hirschhorn and New Orleans-based Howard Shapiro - whose ‘folksy charm is backed by encyclopedic knowledge’ - successfully arguing a motion to dismiss on behalf of Wells Fargo, in a case alleging the client padded its 401(k) plan with overpriced and underperforming target-date funds affiliated with the bank. Also noteworthy is the group’s work for investment manager Neuberger Berman regarding allegations of prohibited self-dealing and breach of fiduciary obligations. Employee benefits specialist Ira Golub also assisted the team with regard to withdrawal liabilities issues arising from an action against client Renco Group. Other key contacts include senior counsel Stacey Cerrone in New Orleans and Deidre Grossman. Named individuals are based in New York unless otherwise indicated.

Baker McKenzie LLP defends clients against the full spectrum of ERISA claims, including single-claimant actions and actions involving allegations of breach of fiduciary duties and prohibited transactions. San Francisco-based James Baker sits at the helm of the California sub-team and recently teamed up with the Chicago-based Lisa Brogan to dismiss a putative class action filed against Quest Diagnostics by a former employee claiming voluntary separation agreement benefits for herself and others in her situation. In other highlights, plan trustees appointed the group to handle class actions centered on the amount of pension benefit contributions to be transferred between two ERISA-regulated plans, and Baker is currently intervening in a withdrawal liability price adjustment dispute. The firm recently recruited William Dugan from Seyfarth Shaw LLP in Chicago, Meredith Kaufman from Littler Mendelson, P.C. in New York, and Todd Boyer in Palo Alto from Littler Mendelson, P.C..

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP has recently led a number of challenges to regulatory reforms, such as Eugene Scalia representing an industry coalition including the US Chamber of Commerce and SIFMA in an appeal against the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule for brokers of IRAs and 401(k) plans. A team led by Geoffrey Sigler and Los Angeles-based Richard Doren successfully dismissed a class action filed against Aetna pertaining to its decision to deny health plan coverage for stays at residential treatment facilities, while Jason Schwartz led the advice to Ford with regard to a series of claims challenging aspects of its lump sum retirement benefits program. Richard Doren - based in Los Angeles - secured a victory for Cigna, which had been accused of duping plaintiffs into believing they would be reimbursed for medical treatments provided to union members, and Miguel Estrada won an appeal for Aetna in a dispute regarding the calculation of offsets for other income that plan participants receive. Heather Richardson is another key name in Los Angeles, and of counsel Paul Blankenstein sits in Washington DC alongside Scalia, Sigler, Schwartz and Estrada.

The ERISA litigators at Groom Law Groupare experts in their specialized area and have the deepest knowledge of ERISA of any firm in the country’, according to one client. Michael Prame and Michael Kreps are recommended for their ‘numerous contacts and resources in the litigation, regulatory and government investigation space’, as is Lars Golumbic who heads the practice group. Sarah Adams was part of the team defending Catholic Health Initiatives in a ‘church plan’ class action suit, while Edward Meehan and Mark Nielsen won dismissal of a putative class action brought against an insurance company alleging breach of fiduciary duties. The team also filed a suit on behalf of a multi-employer plan seeking to collect withdrawal liability which had gone unpaid from its predecessor company’s bankruptcy proceedings, and represented institutional trustees in enforcement proceedings initiated by the Department of Labor (DoL) on the grounds of alleged prohibited transactions relating to ESOP transactions. All named attorneys are based in Washington DC.

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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.

Miller & Chevalier Chartered specializes in high-end litigation covering the gamut of ERISA regulations, including novel health benefits issues. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona engaged the practice to fend off a suit brought by a group of healthcare providers alleging violations of the ACA and ERISA and claiming that they, the providers, were the beneficiaries, and Michael Khalil is part of the team representing numerous retired Delta Airlines pilots in their challenge against the PBGC’s administration of their pension plan following Delta’s bankruptcy in 2006. Other notable clients include Caring for Montanans (in an appeal arising from its win in a breach of fiduciary duties class action), Berkshire Hathaway, and the Independence Hospital Indemnity Plan. Anthony Shelley heads the practice and Theresa Gee was recently elected chair of the firm’s employee benefits department.

O'Melveny & Myers LLP has substantial expertise in, among other things, defending financial service clients that provide administrative services and investment products to retirement plans. Brian Boyle represented Chevron in a fiduciary breach case pertaining to the management of its 401(k) plan and alleged prohibited transactions; he also represented CVS in a similar case. In other highlights, Los Angeles-based Catalina Vergara was part of a team acting for Walt Disney in a putative class action centered on allegations of improper investment options in its 401(k) plan. American Airlines is also a noteworthy client, and AON Hewitt obtained a complete victory in a breach of fiduciary duties and prohibited transactions class action thanks to a team that included New York-based Stuart Sarnoff. Shannon Barrett and Meaghan VerGow are key contacts in the Washington DC office, where other named individuals are based unless otherwise stated.

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP routinely intervenes in high-profile cases for heavyweight clients across a vast array of industry sectors, including Citigroup, Merck and JPMorgan Chase. Key name include Lewis Clayton and Brad Karp, who jointly lead the practice from New York and recently teamed up to defend a global bank in stock-drop litigation filed by retirement plan participants. JPMorgan Chase appointed the group to resolve a series of proceedings brought by various state and federal regulators as well as to handle derivative fund litigation, an ERISA class action and a securities case. Other highlights included a breach of fiduciary duties claim, which was assisted by benefits and compensation specialist Robert Fleder. All named individuals are based in New York.

According to one client, ‘few firms consistently match the depth and quality’ of Seyfarth Shaw LLP’s ERISA litigation team, which recently bolstered its senior line-up with the promotion to partner of Sam Schwartz-Fenwick in Chicago. The group is currently defending a multi-employer medical plan and its trustees in a class action alleging breach of fiduciary duties, and San Francisco-based D Ward Kallstrom and Kevin Lesinski are advising a client on a suit brought by healthcare providers claiming they were owed around $16m in unpaid or underpaid medical bills. The ‘very experiencedIan Morrison - who ‘shows great flexibility to adapt to his clients’ needs’ - and Amanda Sonneborn jointly lead the department from Chicago.

Paul Ondrasik and Gwen Renigar lead the ERISA litigation practice at Steptoe & Johnson LLP. In recent highlights, Ondrasik secured a win for BP alongside Eric Serron and Morgan Hodgson in a longstanding stock-drop case which arose from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Other significant wins included defending clients such as American Express and Express Scripts against claims involving allegations of breach of fiduciary duties and ACA obligations as well as prohibited transactions. Republic Services also engaged the team to defend a fiduciary breach class action in relation to the management of an employee-owned company, the sale of the ESOP’s stock to a third party, and the investment and distribution of the sale proceeds in connection with the termination of the ESOP. All named individuals are based in Washington DC.

Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP recently bolstered its ERISA litigation practice with the promotions to partner of Jared Friedmann and Adam Banks, who operate respectively within the complex commercial litigation and appellate litigation groups. The team is currently representing the University of Miami in a putative class action filed by a former ‘voluntary faculty’ staff member claiming the university breached its fiduciary duties when it denied the claimants the opportunity to participate in a number of plans open to regular employees. The team also represented an insurance company in a nationwide class action related to the inflation rider on its long-term care insurance policies, and continues to counsel an investment management entity on its response to a series of DoL subpoenas in the context of its investigation into a pension plan. Other key clients include Genworth, UnitedHealth and Washington Mutual. The New York-based team is led by Nicholas Pappas, Jeffrey Klein and Paul Wessel.

Goodwin’s ERISA litigation practice is ‘superior to most other choices’, according to one client, who also said the lawyers ‘have all impressed through their depth of knowledge, candor and business acumen’. The ‘outstandingJames Fleckner heads the practice and is ‘the best at what he does’; he is currently defending a Fortune 500 company in a putative class action pertaining to the management of its 401(k) plan. In other highlights, the firm represented clients in excessive fee, damage claim and breach of fiduciary duty cases. Other key names include Alison Douglass (who is overseeing a client’s response to a DoL inquiry into the propriety of its selection of investments for plan participants) and Jack Cleary (who advised a brokerage firm on a class action challenging the compensation it received from recordkeeping services and its retention of an independent financial adviser). All named attorneys are based in Boston.

Greenberg Traurig, LLP covers the gamut of ERISA litigation and recently intervened in an ESOP case in which a former participant launched a class action against the plan and its former fiduciaries in connection with its termination in 2011. Atlanta-based Todd Wozniak led advice to GlaxoSmithKline and other entities and their medical plans with regard to breach of fiduciary duties and unfair competition claims arising from the denial of services provided by out-of-network medical providers. In New York, Jonathan Sulds secured a motion to dismiss in a breach of fiduciary action involving allegations of failure to disclose information pertaining to a 401(k) plan. New Jersey-based Robert Bernstein is also a key name and has recently been representing a national reinsurance company in ERISA litigation.

Jenner & Block LLP has longstanding expertise in litigation and recently strengthened its ERISA capabilities with the additions of Christopher Rillo in Los Angeles from Maynard, Cooper & Gale, P.C. and special counsel Michael Graham in Chicago from Michael Best & Friedrich LLP. The team, led by litigation department head Craig Martin and ERISA litigation practice leader Amanda Amert, recently obtained a complete victory for Dow in a class action challenging the way pension benefits are calculated for certain employees. In other highlights, Northwestern University appointed the firm to intervene in a fee litigation case, and Aon Hewitt engaged the group to handle a novel case regarding the fees of ‘robo-advisers’. Named lawyers sit in Chicago unless otherwise stated.

Jones Day’s ERISA litigation practice draws strength from its renowned appellate team and recently secured a win for GE in a nationwide putative class action arising from its changes to post-retirement medical benefits for union retirees. Stanley Weiner, based in Cleveland, also settled a class action regarding retiree medical benefits on behalf of Century Aluminum, and Atlanta-based Craig Friedman - who was recently promoted to partner - defended Flower Foods against allegations of unfair denial of long-term disability benefits. In Washington DC, Evan Miller represented The New York Times in its filing of a federal court complaint against a pension plan determination that the client owes over $25m in withdrawal liability.

The ERISA litigation team at McDermott Will & Emery LLP is particularly strong in cases pertaining to healthcare but provides dispute resolution services covering the full gamut of issues. In recent highlights, the group successfully challenged a PBGC determination in support of a client's competitor to avoid sizable pension liabilities, and successfully defended a major US-based multinational on appeal in fiduciary breach claims. The practice heads are Los Angeles-based Chris Scheithauer - who has represented clients such as Walt Disney, Northrop Grumman and State Street - and Chicago-based counsel Bill Boies.

Arent Fox LLP has considerable experience at the intersection of employee benefits and bankruptcy mandates from its Washington DC office and has recently been prominent in the healthcare space - specifically with regard to managed care litigation. Practice head Caroline Turner English is currently representing a provider of dialysis products and services in a number of ongoing cases centered on disputes with ERISA-governed group health plans and large national insurers. Other names to note are Brian Schneider, who was recently promoted to partner, associate Alison Andersen and New York-based Mark Angelov, who acted for an oil company in a multi-employer pension plan withdrawal liability case involving mass withdrawal.

DentonsAlan Gilbert in Chicago is currently representing Hanover Insurance Group in a nationwide class action in which the plaintiffs are seeking the recovery of allegedly underpaid lump sum distributions from its cash balance pension plan. In New York, practice head Brian Cousin and Richard Scharlat are defending Chimes District of Columbia and its self-funded health and welfare plan in an excessive fee suit brought by the Secretary of Labor. Other names to note include Douglas Scullion in San Francisco and Jason Scheiderer in Kansas City.

King & Spalding LLP provides ‘a top-level quality of service’ delivered by ‘the top echelon of lawyers in the field’, according to one client. Known for his ‘ability to understand both the technical and practical implications of a case’, Atlanta-based David Tetrick successfully obtained a motion to dismiss on behalf of Peabody Energy in a stock-drop case. In Washington DC, Bobby Burchfield specializes in retiree health benefits and recently represented Meritor at the Sixth Circuit; in 2008, the appeals court ruled against Meritor on the question of whether retirement healthcare benefits are vested for life, but based on rulings in Gallo v Moen and M&G Polymers v Tackett, the firm filed a petition for rehearing, in which the appeals court found in favor of the client. Also notable is Tetrick’s work for Chevron in connection with disputes concerning withdrawal liability allegedly owed to a pension fund.

According to one client, ‘no firm compares toMayer Brown when it comes to ERISA litigation. The team is ‘very responsive and provides practical and proactive advice’ under the leadership of the Chicago-based Nancy Ross, who represents clients such as Northrop Grumman and universities including Columbia and Cornell. In Washington DC, Brian Netter is also defending universities and their 403(b) plans, but other recent work includes acting for the Chamber of Commerce in the filing of amicus briefs in two separate cases: one alleging breach of fiduciary duties and one concerning the availability of mandatory, non-opt-out class actions in cases involving defined contribution plans. Los Angeles-based Elizabeth Mann is also a key contact.

Paul Hastings LLP’s Stephen Harris recently won a summary judgment in a class action brought by an individual claiming he and his fellow beneficiaries were unlawfully denied accelerated transition benefits by the client’s benefit committee. In other highlights, the team is representing the authorities of a small island in a complex multi-employer plan withdrawal liability suit, and Harris is acting on behalf of an individual who was allegedly denied vested benefits by his former employer following his resignation and taking up of employment with a competitor. Eric Keller is also a name to note and is based in Washington DC along with Harris.

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