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  1. Employee benefits, executive compensation and retirement plans: design
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Who Represents Who

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Groom Law Group is ‘clearly the best in this area’ and clients value its ‘highly responsive, extremely knowledgeable, efficient and business-oriented’ lawyers, based in Washington DC. Covering the full gamut of employee benefits and executive compensation mandates, the team consists of recommended names such as the ‘fantastic’ Erin Cho, the ‘vastly experiencedJon Breyfogle, Michael Prame, who is known for advice on Department of Labor (DOL) audits, and Tom Roberts, who is recommended for his expertise in fiduciary compliance and collective investment fund matters. The ‘particularly strongJeff Witt is part of a group assisting clients with pension plan de-risking mandates and, alongside Seth Perretta and Allison Ullman, has advised clients on healthcare issues. Mark Lofgren is a key name for IRS and Treasury matters.

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP’s employee benefits team is divided into seven task forces which cover the scope of the practice area, from fiduciary duties to fringe benefits. Clients such as CSS, PNC Financial and Novitex retain the group to oversee day-to-day maintenance and administration of their retirement, health and executive compensation plans, which includes advice pertaining to tax regulations, ERISA requirements and plan mergers and spin-offs. Althea Day represents a wide variety of plan sponsors and recently acted for a corporate client in the resolution of penalties imposed by the DOL following a filing error. Other key names include Pittsburgh-based John Ferreira and Matthew Hawes, Philadelphia-based Steven Spencer, as well as Rosina Barker and Jonathan Zimmerman, who recently joined from Ivins, Phillips & Barker. Named attorneys are based in Washington DC unless otherwise stated.

The service at Proskauer Rose LLP is ‘consistently superior to other firms in the field’, according to one source, and the team is ‘knowledgeable on any regulatory issues the client may encounter’. The ‘extremely creativeRobert Projansky is praised as ‘extremely pragmatic, exceptionally smart and capable of setting his ego aside to protect his clients’. New client PROMESA appointed a team, led by Washington DC-based practice head Paul Hamburger, to restructure its debts - a large fraction of which is attributed to the retirement systems for government employees. Ira Golub and Neal Schelberg specialize in withdrawal liability issues and multi-employer plans respectively. Other key names include Washington DC-based Seth Safra as well as Andrea Rattner, Rory Albert and the ‘proactive’ Katrina McCann. Named attorneys are based in New York unless otherwise stated.

The ‘overall service is excellent’ at Steptoe & Johnson LLP, where the employee benefits and executive compensation lawyers are trusted ‘with the most significant matters in the field’. Clients such as trade associations, insurance companies and financial advisers appointed the group to advise on the regulatory landscape surrounding the term ‘fiduciary’, while health and welfare plan service providers engaged Melanie Nussdorf and Paul Ondrasik in Washington DC to respond to DOL investigations. Eric Serron, Edward Mackiewicz and Patrick Menasco are other names to note in the Washington DC office, as is ‘superb lawyer’ Morgan Hodgson. Public sector pension plan sub-team leader Don Wellington joined Reed Smith LLP in April 2018.

Winston & Strawn LLP’s practice is led by Nancy Gerrie and the New York-based Scott Landau, who is ‘the best employment lawyer for private equity-backed companies in the market today’ and ‘an invaluable extension of any team’. The group was recently bolstered by the arrival of ten partners and a portion of their established clients from McDermott Will & Emery LLP - including Gerrie. In recent highlights, Susan Nash led the advice to Starbucks with regards to its adoption of a private healthcare exchange, and Washington DC’s David Rogers counseled Carnival Control Group on its non-qualified plan compliance with the ACA and incoming legislative changes. Amy Gordon and Joe Adams are also key names. Named attorneys are based in Chicago unless otherwise stated.

The ‘service provided is at the highest level on every relevant scale’ at Baker McKenzie LLP, where the employee benefits and executive compensation experts are known for their ‘fast response times, deep knowledge of the area and outstanding efficiency’. Clients recommend Chicago-based practice head Maura Ann McBreen for her ‘broad expertise and broad experience’; she recently teamed up with the ‘extremely knowledgeable’ Sinead Kelly in San Francisco to advise heavyweight corporate clients on plan design, tax regulations and proxy disclosure obligations. San Francisco-based Valerie Diamond and Victor Flores are part of the team assisting a multinational technology company with the design and administration of its equity incentive, cash bonus plans and deferred compensation arrangements. Christopher Guldberg is also a name to note in the Chicago office.

Leslie Klein and Jeffrey Mamorsky head Greenberg Traurig, LLP’s employee benefits and compensation practice from the Phoenix and New York offices, respectively. In Silicon Valley, Magan Ray continues to serve as outside benefits counsel to Western Digital - namely with respects to tax issues and healthcare plan administration - while the Denver-based Renée O’Rourke oversaw the implementation of two lump sum window benefits to a large pension plan. Collective Health also appointed the group to advise on ERISA, ACA and HIPAA-related issues pertaining to self-insured healthcare plans. Other noteworthy clients include Twitter, Xilinx and Intuit.

At McDermott Will & Emery LLP, ‘there is always someone available who knows the area well and can respond in a timely fashion and without need for a lot of research’. The employee benefits lawyers are ‘very thorough, thoughtful and look for cost-saving alternatives’ and operate under the leadership of Todd Solomon in Chicago. In recent highlights, Boston-based Andrew Liazos obtained a prohibited transaction exemption from the DOL on behalf of a well-known insurer and secured a closing agreement from the IRS allowing a large 401(k) plan to maintain its tax-qualified status. Steven Eckhaus is a key name to note in New York, while Judith Wethall and Finn Pressly recently joined the Chicago office from Littler Mendelson, P.C..

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.

Miller & Chevalier Chartered's main strength lies in regulatory compliance advice, particularly with regard to the ACA and the HIPAA. The team regularly works alongside health insurance carriers to ensure the products they provide to clients and their own staff are compliant with the latest regulatory obligations and requirements. The Washington DC-based practice is chaired by Tess Gee and includes 401(k) and pension plan de-risking expert Elizabeth Drake and ERISA litigation head Anthony Shelley.

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP recently advised Chevron on securities registration, foreign exchange and data privacy issues in connection with its global long-term incentive plan, and Estée Lauder engaged the group to handle defined benefit pension plan and 401(k) compliance matters and to represent the company in DOL audits. Peter Hunt is a key name in the practice, as is Susan Serota, who recently acted for a reinsurance company in ESOP qualification, compliance issues and IRS discussions. In San Francisco, the name to note is Christine Richardson; recent work includes negotiating a vendor agreement on behalf of a retail chain. Named attorneys are based in New York unless otherwise stated.

Seyfarth Shaw LLP advises clients on vendor procurement, pension plan investment issues and tax regulations under the leadership of Robert Flanagan in Chicago. New York-based Richard Schwartz continues to assist David Yurman Enterprises with regard to the design of various retention agreements, while Randell Montellaro - who is also based in New York - is advising Northwell Health on the tax-qualified status of its cash balance, 403(b) and 401(k) plans as well as handling submissions to the DOL and IRS. Based in Chicago, Jake Downing, Adam Greetis and ACA expert associate Benjamin Conley represent Nike in all aspects of its retirement, health and welfare arrangements. Howard Pianko and senior counsel Richard Loebl are names to note in the New York office.

Described by one client as ‘absolutely peerless’ and ‘the best in the market without question’,

Caplin & Drysdale, Chartered’s Richard Skillman recently acted for the Kaiser Family Foundation in amendments to its qualified defined contribution and 403(b) plans and the regulatory compliance issues surrounding retiree medical plans. In the life insurance space, of counsel Ronald Cluett is currently advising VALIC on rule 409A compliance and a number of IRS approval letters. Also notable is Joanne Youn, who represents clients such as NASA Federal Credit Union, Middle East Broadcasting Networks and Teekay in matters pertaining to the merger of plans onto a single recordkeeping platform, tax regulations and the design of executive retirement plans. All named individuals are based in Washington DC.

Dentons assisted a government-owned healthcare system on the termination of its underfunded defined benefit plan, and implemented complex equity compensation arrangements on behalf of a private equity-backed Cayman Islands company. Kansas City-based Martin Moderson represented a 401(k) plan investment committee in the successful resolution of a DOL audit, while Michael Maryn in Washington DC guided an American citizen based in the UK through the cross-border tax issues arising from the grant of an equity interest in an affiliate of their employer. In Chicago, Pamela Baker and Frank VanderPloeg transitioned to the position of of counsel.

Goodwin has a strong record in ERISA fiduciary regulatory issues and vast experience in dealing with the DOL. Clients such as State Street regularly engage the firm to intervene in compliance matters, the administration of benefits and welfare plans, and IRS or DOL audits and investigations. In Boston, practice head Scott Webster has particular expertise in advising financial services clients and other fiduciaries on investment options in pension plans and prohibited transaction issues. Other notable contacts include financial industry partner John Cleary and Natascha George, who has substantial experience designing severance agreements and incentive structures.

Jackson Lewis P.C.’s team recently grew through the arrivals of Dorothy Parson McDermott from Ogletree Deakins and Brian Johnston from Polsinelli PC in the Indianapolis and Overland Park offices respectively. Practice head Joy Napier-Joyce is based in Baltimore and is currently advising DuPont on its offering of a lump sum window to deferred vested pension plan participants. In Omaha, Randal Limbeck assisted an industrial construction company with its pension fund liabilities and successfully obtained an agreement from the IRS pertaining to cash balance plan provision on behalf of a health system. Other key names include Chicago’s Natalie Nathanson and of counsel Raymond Turner in Dallas. Jewell Lim Esposito joined FisherBroyles, LLP in Washington DC.

Mayer Brown has a strong pension plan investment practice and a client roster which includes domestic and multinational companies across a vast range of industry sectors. A large retailer engaged a team led by New York-based practice head Maureen Gorman to oversee the restructuring of its existing pension arrangements to reduce cash flow, and Lennine Occhino represented a financial institution in its efforts to obtain DOL relief from a disqualifying criminal conviction in a foreign jurisdiction. Debra Hoffman is also a key contact and oversaw the implementation of employee stock purchase plans, deferred compensation plans and director compensation programs. Named individuals are based in Chicago unless otherwise indicated.

Thompson Hine LLP’s Kim Wilcoxon specializes in ACA regulations and group health plans, while practice head Laura Ryan leads the advice to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center with regard to its 403(b) and defined benefit pension plans. In Cleveland, Stephen Penrod and Julia Love counsel a global company and a public sector entity on the administration of all their employee benefits and executive compensation arrangements. Other key names include Timothy Brown - who splits his time between Cincinnati and Atlanta - and David Whaley. Named individuals are based in Cincinnati unless otherwise stated.

Vedder Price advised a client on the design and implementation of a severance benefits program in the context of a workforce restructuring and continues to assist longstanding clients such as ArcelorMittal with the day-to-day maintenance of all their health and benefits plans. Kelly Starr and Thomas Desmond jointly head the department from the Chicago office, where Christopher Collins, Thomas Hancuch and Patrick Spangler also play key roles. In other highlights, the team intervened in the implementation of an annuity lift out involving more than 10 pension plans. All named attorneys are based in Chicago.

Arent Fox LLPsets the bar for other firms’ timeliness, thoroughness and industry knowledge’. Clients describe Quana Jew’s communications skills as ‘second to none’; ‘the way she articulates the details of regulations and interprets them at different levels is admirable’. She sits in Washington DC alongside deferred compensation expert Bill Charyk, with whom she collaborates to counsel CEB on the full gamut of its fringe benefits, executive deferred compensation arrangements and retirement plans. Other law firms and their individual partners have also engaged the group to oversee their cash balance retirement plans and to design unique benefit plans.

Baker & Hostetler LLP provides a broad range of services, including advice on employee benefits, executive compensation, 409A compliance and welfare plans. Cleveland-based John Boyd and John McGowan assisted a nonprofit organization with the restructuring of its benefits distribution channels to ensure ACA compliance, and Columbus-based Susan Lubow has experience liaising between employers and governmental bodies such as the IRS. Practice heads Georgeanne Peters and Raymond Malone are based in Columbus and Cleveland respectively.

DLA Piper LLP (US)’s global platform provides for a multi-jurisdictional and multi-disciplinary team, which was further bolstered by the arrival of hedge fund and ERISA Title 1 expert Adrienne Scerbak in New York from an in-house position at Sony. In Washington DC, Rita Patel assisted a public telecoms company with the negotiation of a severance agreement pertaining to a CEO residing abroad, and Chicago’s Anne Pachciarek represented an ACA reporting provider in regulatory issues relating to its client base of large employers. A technology company also engaged the team to design and implement incentive structures and special purpose vehicles including employee benefits trusts. Patel heads the group with Silicon Valley-based Cisco Palao-Ricketts and Chicago-based Richard Ashley III.

Epstein Becker & Green, P.C. advises financial services clients on equity compensation schemes and incentive plans, and has recently been appointed to counsel on the implications of the fiduciary rule on a number of retirement plans. Gretchen Harders recently acted for BlackRock in matters regarding investments in proprietary funds under the client’s retirement savings and amendments to its corporate governance arrangements. Sharon Lippett assisted a client with the drafting of documents related to the restatement of its welfare and cafeteria plans following a DOL audit. The full-service offering is led by Michelle Capezza in New York, where all named attorneys are based.

The advice at Eversheds Sutherland is ‘always clear, concise and precise’, according to one client, who describes the ‘efficient and understanding’ Adam Cohen as ‘the best lawyer in the field of qualified plans, executive compensation and taxation’. In recent highlights, counsel Meredith O’Leary teamed up with Paul Lang and Michael Hepburn to counsel a longstanding client on all its design, administration and compliance issues. On the healthcare side, Vanessa Scott is currently advising on the ACA implications of some of its insurance lines. Some of the firm’s noteworthy clients include Cox Enterprises, the US Chamber of Commerce and the HR Policy Association. Brenna Clark and Carol McClarnon were made partner in the Atlanta and Washington DC offices, respectively. Named lawyers are based in Washington DC except where otherwise stated.

Among Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP’s recent highlights, Stephen Fackler (who splits his time between New York and Palo Alto) advised AECOM on the drafting and administration of executive and employee compensation programs and related SEC disclosure obligations. Also notable is Sean Feller, who sits in Century City and assists MGM Resorts and Korn Ferry with the full spectrum of employee benefits matters. Clients such as Parsons and Gilead Sciences also appointed the group to oversee their employee stock ownership plan and qualified and non-qualified benefits plans. Other notable clients include Amazon, Aurora Capital and Cast & Crew Entertainment.

Washington DC-based boutique Ivins, Phillips & Barker represents clients in DOL and IRS audits as well as advises on the design and administration of health and pension plans. The key names to note include of counsel Harry Gutman, who previously acted as chief of staff of the congressional joint taxation committee and now heads the firm's federal tax policy offering. Noteworthy clients include names such as Bayer, GE and IBM.

Jenner & Block LLP’s Matthew Renaud, Sarah Haddy and Tony Ling counsel General Dynamics on the full spectrum of employee benefits matters, including fiduciary duties, plan administration and incentive plans. Raymond Sinnappan led the advice to a supplier of infrastructure technology with regard to pension de-risking, while Renaud assisted a web hosting company with the design and implementation of executive compensation and equity compensation plans. Counsel Will Wilder joined the firm from Seyfarth Shaw LLP and sits in the Chicago office along with all other named individuals.

K&L Gates’s employee benefits and executive compensation offering was recently bolstered through the promotion to partner of George Barbatsuly in Newark, the promotion to of counsel of John Farrell in Dallas, and the hire of Spencer Hamer in Orange County from Michelman & Robinson, LLP. The Pittsburgh-based Michael Hart has substantial experience in de-risking transactions and pension plan management, while in Seattle Karrie Diaz has previously advised clients such as SSL and Zulily on their fiduciary obligations.

Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. has a strong track record assisting global and national clients with the ACA issues arising from their welfare and retirement plans. One of the main names to note is practice head Alden Bianchi, who advised the American Staffing Association on the congressional efforts to ‘repeal and replace’ the ACA. Of counsel Patricia Moran works alongside Bianchi to counsel clients such as Healey & Associates and Emerson College on their health and retirement plans, as well as compensation arrangements for senior management. Named individuals are based in Boston.

The Chicago-based team at Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP recently bolstered its ranks with the addition of Linda Hoseman from Thompson Coburn LLP. The group oversaw the revamping of retiree health plans, the negotiation of service agreements, and the design and implementation of a new deferred compensation scheme for key executives over the past year. Patricia Cain heads the group with Jeffrey Bakker, and the latter assisted a client with its non-qualified retirement plan for partners with respect to rule 409A.

Reinhart, Boerner, Van Deuren SC’s team is led by Milwaukee-based Steven Huff, who advises corporate entities, public plans, ESOPs and qualified plans on the full spectrum of ERISA matters, including compliance. The group also acts as fiduciary counsel to clients such Schreiber Foods as well as major investment consulting firms, their managers, record keepers and trustees. In other highlights, the group assisted a number of charities on a pro bono basis.

Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP has substantial ERISA expertise in highly regulated sectors, particularly financial services. In recent highlights, SIFMA and numerous other global financial service entities appointed the team to advise on the impact of the DOL’s changes to the ‘fiduciary’ rules on the capital markets, and a number of leading financial institutions engaged Steven Rabitz and Marissa Holob to assist on the design, operation and distribution of their products with regards to the regulations governing US private and public retirement plans. Other noteworthy names include special counsel Bruce Gallant. In May 2018, Michael Keats moved to Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP. All named attorneys are based in New York.

Sullivan & Worcester LLP’s practice is based in Boston and led by David Guadagnoli, who advised clients on prohibited transaction issues, fiduciary regulations and IRS filings with regards to tax-qualified status. Amy Sheridan continues to guide a number of clients through the regulatory landscape of the IRC’s rule 409A, and supported Guadagnoli in his work for a school pertaining to the correction of missed non-elective contributions in its 403(b) plan. Jonathan Dubitzky is now of counsel.

The ‘service is fantastic’ at Thompson & Knight LLP, where the employee benefits attorneys are ‘responsive, up to date on legal and industrial trends, and very practical’. Clients recommend the duo of ‘employment law expert’ Elizabeth Schartz and ‘tax expert’ Sharon Fountain, who together form ‘the perfect team for this field’. The team acts as primary counsel on employee benefits and executive compensation issues for clients such as Nexen Petroleum, Mary Kay and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Other key names include Jason Loden, Russell Gully, Neely Munnerlyn and the Los Angeles-based Shelly Youree. Named individuals are based in Dallas unless otherwise indicated.

Venable LLP provides day-to-day counsel on the administration of a large multinational software and data security company’s employee benefit plans, and has strong experience advising clients on multi-employer plan funding rules, contract negotiations and regulatory compliance. The names to note are Washington DC-based Kenneth Hoffman and Lisa Tavares, and practice head Thora Johnson and Harry Atlas in Baltimore.

The four-partner offering at Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP represents clients such as Citigroup, Level 3 Communications, Bloomberg and Credit Suisse. Peter Haller led a client’s submission to the DOL for a QPAM exemption, and guided Credit Suisse through the ERISA compliance requirements of its major business lines, such as investment banking, asset management and wealth management. Jordan Messinger is also a name to note. Both named attorneys are based in New York.

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