Employee benefits, executive compensation and retirement plans: design in United States
Being the 'premier' benefits boutique in the US, Groom Law Group enjoys a solid reputation across the full spectrum of services for plan sponsors, healthcare service providers and pension plan investment platforms. Jon Breyfogle and Allison Ullman are stand-out names for developing wellness and healthcare plan solutions, while Daniel Hogans, Jeffrey Kroh, Louis Mazawey and J. Rose Zaklad lead the way on implementing tax-advantageous executive compensation plans. Brigen Winters recently worked on a high-stakes redesign of a distressed defined benefit plan, and on this note, professionals such as Jennifer Eller, David Levine, Mark Lofgren and Elizabeth Dold routinely cover innovative de-risking strategies and the associated IRS or PBCG compliance issues. Title 1 issues pertaining to 401(k) investment services are regularly handled by Stephen Saxon. As a go-to firm for providing policy advice to lawmakers, clients of the firm can take advantage of cutting-edge knowledge of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, changes to the IRS determination letter program, and developments with the Affordable Care Act. The firm is based in Washington DC.
Stephen Saxon; Seth Perretta; Jon Breyfogle; Brigen Winters; Jennifer Eller
Other key lawyers:
‘Groom Law Group is the premier law firm for ERISA matters. The bench strength is deep and the knowledge shared among the firm is only to the benefit of their clients. I have deep respect for the knowledge, team approach and ability to provide a consistently excellent service.‘
‘Jeff Witt is outstanding. He partners with me and my team in order to provide clear and timely information and strong support. If he doesn’t know the answer, he is transparent and finds a resource within Groom Law Group to assist us. He follows up on matters or even routine questions that we’ve raised to ensure that we’re in a good position and have what we need to make our decisions. I value his ethics and abilities.‘
American Benefits Council
Blue Cross Blue Shield Association
Ohio Public Employees Retirement System
- Assisting multiple US state retirement systems with determining employee members and independent contractors as permissible under tax-qualified plans, following increased IRS scrutiny.
- Assisting a financially distressed defined benefit fund comprising 400,000 participants with reorganizing the fund in order to protect participants’ retirement benefits. Legislative and regulatory solutions have been required.
- Assisting a Fortune 500 company with the development of a certification program (through legislative means) which would allow its clients (typically small businesses) to provide better human resources services to their employees.
- Obtained a favorable IRS ruling for a plan sponsor whose objective was to improve funding of its defined benefit plan using its own debt securities.
- Designed and implemented a large-scale revision to a client’s defined benefit and defined contribution plan’s governance structure, including a revision of fiduciary standards.
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP fields an extensive team of experts spanning the breadth of employee benefits and executive compensation services. New York-based practice head Craig Bitman is the go-to name for fiduciary assistance with plan investments, while also providing ongoing support on welfare plan administration and deferred compensation arrangements, public pension plans, financial services or life insurance companies, and other multinational plan sponsors. Althea Day and Daniel Salemi head up the multiemployer plan offering, with clients including defined benefit multiemployer plans, contributing sponsors, tax-exempt entities and governmental employers. Philadelphia-based deputy practice head Amy Pocino Kelly, Pittsburgh-based John Ferreira and Matthew Hawes (also based in Pittsburgh) routinely advise high-profile public companies on the design and governance of qualified and non-qualified retirement plans. Washington DC-based Rosina Barker and Pittsburgh-based associate Elizabeth Goldberg bring expertise on assisting with DOL investigations, including the recent uptick in missing participant issues. Assistance with de-risking strategy is also offerd by the team.
Craig Bitman; Amy Pocino Kelly
Other key lawyers:
Guardian Life Insurance Company of America
Honeywell International, Inc.
Madison Square Garden
Toyota Motor North America
- Assisting mining company Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. with compliance and governance matters for its retirement and welfare plans, including amendments, assisting with a private letter ruling for a pension plan and advising on the restructuring of benefits for a joint venture.
- Advising Radian Group on executive contracts, deferred compensation issues and equity compensation matters arrangements.
- Advising Toyota Motor North America on the full range of benefits issues, including retirement plans, health programs and executive compensation planning.
- Advising Talen Energy on all employee benefit matters, including regulatory compliance and governance matters for retirement and welfare plans.
- Assisting a suite of high-profile clients with DoL investigations into their defined benefit plans.
Proskauer Rose LLP maintains a market-leading employee benefits and executive compensation offering under the leadership of Paul Hamburger and Myron Rumeld, despite former practice head Rory Albert’s recent retirement. Household-name employers retain the team to handle the administration and design of 401(k) retirement plans, tax-exempt plans, equity and cash-based compensation strategy, and health and welfare programs – with Seth Safra being a key name for the latter. ERISA fiduciary compliance and advice on prohibited transactions for fund formation mandates are also strong points for the team. Large-scale defined benefit plan terminations are covered by Robert Projansky, while Andrea Rattner handles all securities and tax-related issues. On the multiemployer plan front, newly-promoted partner Anthony Cacace and Neal Schelberg act as fund counsel to some of the country’s largest multiemployer plan funds and fiduciaries; significant ongoing issues involve high-stakes withdrawal liabilities. The team is based in New York, with Hamburger being the main Washington DC contact.
Paul Hamburger; Myron Rumeld
Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico
The Metropolitan Opera Association
Church & Dwight Co.
Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) Health Plan
Screen Actors Guild-Producers Pension Plan
American Federation of Musicians & Employers’ Pension Fund
Los Angeles 2028 (LA28)
Ascena Retail Group
NEDC of the OPCMIA
Philip Morris International
Union Labor Life Insurance Company
Cross Country Healthcare
- Advising the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico on the restructuring of its pensions liabilities.
- Advising the Metropolitan Opera Association on its 403(b) tax-exempt retirement plan.
- Advising Citigroup on its 401(k) plan investment strategy.
- Advising the Board of Trustees of the Screen Actors Guild – Producers Health Plan on benefits-related advice, including complex withdrawal liability matters.
- Assisting the American Federation of Musicians & Employers’ Pension Fund with its funding strategy.
Seyfarth Shaw LLP’s benefits practice has a sizeable portfolio of healthcare clients – including non-profit entities – for which New York-based defined contribution expert Richard Schwartz advises on 403(b) retirement plan integrations and restructurings, plan governance, fiduciary rule guidance, and IRS or DOL audits. Private and publicly-listed companies across the breadth of sectors approach practice head Diane Dygert, New York-based Howard Pianko, senior counsel Joy Sellstrom, and associates Chelsea McCue and Benjamin Conley for health and welfare plan design, Affordable Care Act or HIPAA compliance, 401(k) plan administration, fiduciary risk training and plan terminations. Jon Karelitz brings experience on large-scale pension de-risking projects, while Jake Downing leads on executive compensation issues, non-qualified retirement plans and ESOP negotiations. Unless otherwise stated, the team is based in Chicago.
Other key lawyers:
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
David Yurman Enterprise LLC
Mitsui & Co.
Montefiore Medical Center
Open Society Institute
Quest Diagnostics Incorporated
University Hospitals Health Systems, Inc.
- Advising not-for-profit healthcare system Northwell Health on the design and implementation of its 403(b), 401(k) and 457(b) plans, including submissions to the IRS and DoL.
- Advising University Hospitals Health System on retirement and executive compensation plans, health and welfare programs and de-risking strategy for its defined benefit plan.
- Assisted Japanese conglomerate Mitsui & Co. with the drafting and amending of the documents, summary plan descriptions, investment policy statements, benefit handbooks and polices for its retirement and welfare plans.
- Providing ERISA fiduciary and retirement plan compliance advice for a global not-for-profit charity.
- Advising on the coordination of qualified and non-qualified retirement programs for Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, including a recent lump-sum window program and de-risking exercise.
Predominantly based in Chicago, Winston & Strawn LLP acts as primary benefits counsel to a host of publicly-listed companies, private equity funds and investment firms. Professionals such as practice head Nancy Gerrie, Steve Flores and David Rogers (managing partner of the Washington DC office) advise on Title 1 investment advice, ESOP implementation, retirement plan and executive compensation governance, and SEC reporting guidance. Stand-out associate Ariane Andrade is currently assisting with de-risking strategies for defined benefit plans, while Susan Nash leads on health and welfare strategy with a comprehensive knowledge of the Affordable Care Act and HIPAA policies. Joe Adams is also a peer-recommended member of the team, who alongside Anne Becker, secured landmark IRS rulings concerning matching student loan contributions in 401(k) plans; he is now heavily involved in the roll-out process. The Winston Employee Benefits Compliance Center gives a value-add for clients by providing assistance with routine compliance and administrative tasks.
‘David Rogers’ record-keeping is superb and he always thinks outside the box.‘
Federal Signal Corporation
Carnival Cruise Lines
Embraer Aircraft Holding
Restaurant Brands International
Global Brass & Copper
Holland America Group
- Assisted Dana Incorporated with the transfer of liabilities under the Dana Retirement Plan.
- Acting as benefits counsel to Restaurant Brands International, covering qualified and non-qualified retirement plans, health and welfare plans and equity compensation.
- Acting as benefits counsel to Carnival Corporation, advising on equity compensation plans, retirement plans, fringe benefits and healthcare issues.
- Benefits counsel to UnityPoint Heath for its qualified plan and health and welfare programs.
- Advised the ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC) and a consortium of large companies regarding student loan debt and retirement plans.
Arent Fox LLP
Practice head Quana Jew and William Charyk of Arent Fox LLP act as trusted benefits counsel to a client roster of public and private companies in the media, consumer goods, sporting, leisure, fashion and hospitality sectors. Particular expertise on fixing broken employee benefits plans is cited, alongside general administrative support for deferred compensation plans, ESOPs, defined benefits plans, and health and welfare plans. A number of significant non-profit organizations are also retained, such as retirement watchdog AARP, for which the team advises on sensitive retirement and healthcare policy advice. The practice operates from Washington DC.
Other key lawyers:
‘This team offers practical advice. When negotiating on our behalf, they’re cognizant that it doesn’t always make sense to negotiate every point tooth and nail. Instead, they work closely not just with our in-house legal team, but our business teams too, in order to get things done.‘
‘The team is incredibly responsive and provides very practical and reasonable legal advice. The attorneys are very easy to work with.‘
‘This practice is top-notch. The attorneys are very knowledgeable, pragmatic, and solutions-driven. They are extremely good at deconstructing complex issues and translating them into actionable decision alternatives that meet us where we’re at. They’re always very responsive and are trusted advisors on matters both large and small.‘
‘The depth of knowledge we receive from Arent Fox is above and beyond what I’ve received from other firms. There is no question that they have dealt with similar situations or have at least completed extensive research before answering questions posed to them. There’s not much doubt when receiving advice.‘
‘Quana Jew and Caroline English are terrific- very straightforward and efficient. Quana, in particular, is always wiling to go the extra mile. The business team/HR also very much likes working with her.‘
‘I’ve worked with Quana Jew and William Charyk for a number of years- both at my current employer and with my previous one. In all of these years, they’ve been caring professionals who listened closely, explored new ideas and unique solutions without a lot of ego, and then buttressed their advice or guidance with clear thinking, good research, and balanced pro/con arguments for whichever path we chose.‘
American Bankersb Association
Choice Hotels International
Monumental Sports & Entertainment
Panda Restaurant Group
- Advising American Bankers Association on all retirement, health and welfare, retiree benefits and fringe benefit matters.
- Advising Vox Media on all of its employee benefits plans, including retirement, health and welfare and fringe benefits.
- Acting as outside benefits counsel to non-profit organization AARP.
- Advising Lavazza Professional North America on its tax-qualified and executive deferred compensation plans.
- Advising Carl Zeiss on the tax and regulatory elements of its employee benefits plans.
A substantial portfolio of multinational plan sponsors utilizes Baker McKenzie LLP’s employee benefit and executive compensation practice for the full breadth of issues. Chicago-based practice head Maura Ann McBreen assists with single and multiemployer benefit plans, global retirement plan implementation, tax-exempt benefit plan wind-downs and de-risking strategies. Robust knowledge of 208G, 409A and 162(m) provisions is applied to the implementation and design of executive compensation packages for tech-focused clients on the West Coast, with practice head Barbara Klementz and Denise Glagau – both based in San Francisco – being leading names. The firm provides a knowledge-base of global incentive plan precedents and tax laws compiled through its significant international footprint.
Barbara Klementz; Maura Ann McBreen
Other key lawyers:
‘Baker McKenzie is a clear leader in the global equity space. All of their attorneys are sought-after experts and very well respected in the global equity space.‘
The team at Ballard Spahr LLP provides expert advice on all avenues of employee benefits and executive compensation governance, and compliance, for a stand-alone client base of employers, fiduciaries and plan administrators. Of note on the client roster is the extensive list of tax-exempt organizations including churches, universities, colleges and public-sector bodies, for which Philadelphia-based Brian Pinheiro provides 403(b) plan administration guidance, including compliance with the Affordable Care Act. Also in Philadelphia, Edward Leeds advises on the structuring of health and welfare plans, including negotiations with insurers and third party administrators, while deferred compensation and ESOP plan structuring mandates are handled by Los Angeles-based Diane Thompson and Minneapolis-based Robert Hartman.
‘They have top-notch experts in the areas that we use their services and are very detailed in their analyses and responses to issues that we request opinions on. They understand us as a client and our market landscape.’
‘Edward Leeds is an absolute pleasure to work with. He understands his clients and their needs and he is very responsive and flexible. He is an expert in his field and very knowledgeable in other areas. We can depend on his expertise and responses and are very comfortable with the guidance he provides on all issues.‘
The Chemours Company
NRG Energy Inc.
Temple University/Temple University Health System
Republic Services, Inc.
American Red Cross
Capital Health System
CSL Behring LLC
Ricoh USA, Inc.
Union Pacific Corporation
- Advised Capital Health System on setting executive salaries, bonuses and deferred compensation.
- Advising retail chain Wawa on its ESOP, 401(k) plan and health benefit arrangements.
- Providing ERISA fiduciary advice to CVSL Behring’s Investment Committee.
- Advised The Chemours Company on a range of benefit plan issues.
Covington & Burling LLP
Noteworthy fields of expertise for Covington & Burling LLP's employee benefits and executive compensation practice include pension de-risking programs, fiduciary governance, wellness program design and Affordable Care Act compliance. Washington DC-based Michael Francese and senior counsel Richard Shea are the key contacts.
Headed up by Chicago-based Les Klein and New York-based Jeffrey Mamorsky, Greenberg Traurig LLP’s employee benefits and executive compensation team advises on defined benefit plan redesign and terminations, group health plans, IRS and DoL audits, and ERISA fiduciary compliance. Silicon Valley-based Magan P Ray acts as outside benefits counsel to household-name technology clients – Twitter, Google and Amazon being representative examples – on all issues pertaining to health and welfare programs, deferred compensation strategy, retirement plan redesign and the establishment of on-site clinics. Denver-based Renee O’Rouke also provides expertise on these mandates.
Les Klein; Jeffrey Mamorsky
Other key lawyers:
Magan P Ray; Renee O’Rourke
- Acting as benefits counsel to Amazon, including the structuring of its on-site clinics and workers compensation programs.
- Long-serving benefits counsel to Google for matters spanning the design of health, welfare and fringe benefits plans, deferred compensation plans and the structuring of on-site medical clinics.
- Outside ERISA counsel to Snap (owner of Snapchat, Spectacles, and Bitmoji), recently handling a DoL investigation of its 401(k) plan.
- Providing operational guidance on online retailer Intuit’s 401(k) plan, deferred compensation plans and health and welfare plans.
- Conducted a full review of Twitter’s retirement and health and welfare plans.
McDermott Will & Emery LLP’s Chicago-based benefits experts, including practice head Todd Solomon and Lisa Loesel, provide expertise on pension plan terminations, health and welfare benefits for tax-exempt entities, and ERISA-compliant plan investments. Boston-based Andrew Liazos is the leading name on executive compensation issues, having recently handled compensation program redesigns for clients in the gig economy and also advised on Dodd-Frank hedging rule issues. The team acts for public and tax-exempt companies as well as high-profile senior executives, with a substantial list of healthcare providers counted on the client roster; recent highlights concerned innovative de-risking programs and defined benefit plan redesigns.
‘A very thoughtful team that outlines points and issues clearly and has a depth of knowledge.‘
‘We have been working with Steven Eckhaus for nearly 4 years. He is a very knowledgeable and experienced attorney who always stands in his client’s shoes and figures out the best solution to the client’s challenges.‘
Crate & Barrel
Keurig Dr Pepper
- Conducting a redesign of Crate & Barrel’s retirement plan investment platform.
- Engaged by Deliveroo to design its executive compensation program, with a particular emphasis on tax-liability issues.
- Advising an airline client on the impact of Dodd-Frank hedging rules on executive compensation arrangements, including recent issues concerning disclosure requirements in proxy statements.
- Assisting Darden Restaurants with the termination of its defined benefit plan.
- Assisting Presbyterian Healthcare Services with an “annuity lift out” designed to reduce the client’s defined benefit plan obligations.
Premier names in the TMT, insurance and banking sectors retain Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP’s employee benefits and executive compensation team to advise on 401(k) administrative and corporate governance issues. The San Francisco-based practice includes Jonathan Ocker, who is noted for his expertise in proxy disclosure guidance, including advising on ‘pay-on-say’ votes for executive remuneration. Christine Richardson often provides advice or training on ERISA fiduciary matters including the implementation of investment management arrangements. Peter Hunt is the key contact in New York and department head Cindy Schlaefer is based in Silicone Valley.
‘The Pillsbury team is exceptional. They provide superior service, have exceptional expertise, and are trusted advisors to management and the Compensation Committee. Pillsbury sees themselves as partners with management, working together to get the best solutions for the company.‘
‘Jonathan Ocker and Jeremy Erickson’s expertise is exceptional across many disciplines. They effectively help us navigate complex challenges both internally and externally. They are always willing to jump on a call to discuss any topic and help us navigate internal and external politics all while ensuring superior results.‘
‘Jonathan Ocker’s relationship with and ability to influence the Compensation Committee is exceptional and would be very hard to replace. He also has tremendous connections and relationships with other external advisors and is able to bring them into discussions to ensure the highest quality results.‘
BancWest Holding Inc. (subsidiary of BNP Paribas)
BNY Mellon Corporation
Irvine Ranch Water District
MUFG Union Bank, N.A.
The Estée Lauder Companies, Inc.
Clearwater Paper Corporation
General Reinsurance Corporation
Rabbit Hole Spirits, LLC
NTT Data, Inc.
- Providing administrative support on The Estée Lauder Companies’ defined benefit and 401(k) plans, including drafting plan amendments and assisting with audits.
- Assisting Clearwater Paper Corporation with compliance advice for its deferred compensation and 401(k) plans, including the drafting of plan amendments.
- Advising General Reinsurance Corporation on the expansion of its ESOP.
- Advising biopharmaceuticals company Incyte Corporation on proxy disclosure reporting, fiduciary responsibility and amendments to its various equity-incentive plans.
- Advising Cisco Systems on a range of executive compensation matters, including proxy reporting requirements.
Steptoe & Johnson LLP
A particularly strong Title 1 offering at Steptoe & Johnson LLP’s employee benefits and executive compensation practice sees Melanie Nussdorf and Paul Ondrasik – who co-head the practice – and Eric Serron advising a suite of broker-dealers, actuaries, insurance firms, financial institutions, investment funds and trade associations on fiduciary or prohibited transaction governance. The team offers considerable expertise in dealing with DOL investigations, most recently for healthcare service providers in unprecedented post-healthcare reform investigations. Clients in the financial services space also employ the team for general 401(k) management and administration advice. The practice is based in Washington DC.
Melanie Nussdorf; Paul Ondrasik
Other key lawyers:
Masters, Mates & Pilots Benefit Plans
Teamsters Joint Council No. 83 of Virginia Pension and Health & Welfare Funds
- Assisting a financial institution with the administration of several 401(k) plans, a cash-balance plan and the termination of a money purchase plan.
- Providing ERISA fiduciary guidance to a host of investment advisors, insurance companies, broker-dealers and trade associations.
- Assisting numerous financial institutions with gaining prohibited transaction exemption status from the DoL.
- Assisting a number of health and welfare service providers with DoL investigations.
- Advising a range of banks and asset managers on developing fee disclosures required under new ERISA regulations.
Baker & Hostetler LLP’s employee benefits and executive compensation team has considerable expertise in the field of multiemployer plans, advising on defined benefit withdrawal liabilities and de-risking exercises for clients in the unionized sectors. Tax-exempt employers, including government and church plan sponsors, often approach practice heads Raymond Malone and Georgeann Peters for advice on retirement plan restructuring. Ann Caresani handles the operation of bespoke multiemployer welfare plan arrangements for trustee clients, while Jennifer Mills, another of the team’s health and welfare experts, oversees all matters pertaining to Affordable Care Act HIPAA compliance. The team is based across offices in Cleveland and Columbus.
Raymond Malone; Georgeann Peters
ZF Active Safety and Electronics US
The Boston Herald
Health Transformation Alliance
Parker Hannifin Corporation
Huntington National Bank
The E.W. Scripps Company
Medical Mutual of Ohio
Trinity Health Corporation (Novi, MI)
Kaiser Permanente/Kaiser Foundation Health Plan
Gannett Company, Inc.
Chesapeake Utilities Corporation
TRW Automotive U.S. LLC
American Automobile Association
- Represented The Boston Herald in negotiations with the PBGC and several multiemployer plans concerning pension liabilities subsequent to the client’s bankruptcy filing.
- Assisting The E.W. Scripps Company with the restructuring of pension liabilities, including a de-risking exercise to reduce liabilities by 30%.
- Advised a publicly traded media company on negotiations with unions and multiemployer plans for the withdrawal of certain pension plans.
- Advising TRW Automotive and ZF Active Safety with the consolidations of their 401(k) plans.
- Assisted Land O’Lakes Cooperative Group Benefits Plan with securing and updating certificates of authority to operate in Ohio and Indiana.
Dechert LLP has a nationally-renowned Title 1 offering spearheaded by practice co-head Andrew Oringer and Steven Rabitz, which provides fiduciary guidance to global investment banks, broker-dealers, mutual funds and trust companies on the management of their pension plan assets. Asset managers also entrust the team to advise on the structuring and implementation of financial products to retirement plan clients, as well the DOL’s ongoing changes to (and repeal of) the fiduciary rule.
Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC and Credit Suisse Asset Management
Numerous financial institutions
Court Square Capital Partners
US Ecology, Inc.
- Advising Credit Suisse Securities and Credit Suisse Asset Management on its investment and asset management strategy for their pension plan clients.
- Advising a suite of global financial institutions on the introduction and subsequent repeal of the DoL fiduciary rule.
As chair of Dentons’ Kansas-based employee benefits and executive compensation practice, Martin Moderson advises fiduciary committees of publicly-traded companies on ERISA-governed plan investment strategy and administration. Katharina Babich fields expertise in designing and implementing health and welfare plans, and Michael Maryn is a go-to name for devising partnership-interest structures, deferred compensation plans or equity-compensation plans. Also in the executive compensation space, Margo Soulé regularly advises on cross-border employee stock purchase plans and ESOPs. De-risking strategies, insurance buyouts and defined benefit terminations are also handled by the team.
Veraction Holding Corporation
- Implemented a global equity plan through multiple jurisdictions for cybersecurity firm Double Verify.
- Advised water bottling company Quincepol on a phantom stock plan for the US management team.
Epstein Becker & Green, P.C.
Although boutique firm Epstein Becker & Green, P.C. is known for its healthcare and life sciences focus, the employee benefits and executive compensation team also fields stand-alone clients in the financial services, retail, hospitality, media and telecoms sectors. Chicago-based Christopher McMican has recently handled defined benefit plan integrations and terminations, 401(k) plan audits conducted by the DOL, and non-qualified plan redesign procedures driven by 162(m) code changes. New York-based Michelle Capezza and Newark-based Tzvia Feiertag routinely advise startups and public and private companies on ERISA fiduciary obligations, deferred compensation agreements, health and welfare plan design, and compliance with the Affordable Care Act or HIPAA.
‘Very responsive, good at thinking outside the box, very good at watching the bottom line and is able to find other partners within the firm who can answer ancillary questions that arise.‘
‘Tzvia Feiertag has been an excellent partner for our company. She really helps us in any way possible- she is consistently available for consultation, able to provide out-of-the-box thinking, excellent at identifying other company resources that can help and great at cost effective service.‘
As the head of Eversheds Sutherland's benefits practice, Adam Cohen advises a global client base on all aspects of qualified and non-qualified retirement plans, fringe benefits and equity compensation, with Paul Lang and Atlanta-based Brenna Clark also being key contacts. Alongside acting as ERISA fiduciary advisor to a roster of financial institutions, Vanessa Scott is the team’s go-to health and welfare plan expert for multinational plan sponsors. A noteworthy recent mandate involved developing an innovate Health Savings Account (HSA) platform. Robert Neis applies his experience as in-house benefits counsel at the Department of Treasury to the complex tax questions of executive remuneration, including Section 409A compliance. The team is based in Washington DC unless otherwise stated.
HR Policy Association
US Chamber of Commerce
- Primary outside health and welfare plan counsel to the HR Policy Association.
- Advising the US Chamber of Commerce on retirement plan issues and general regulatory and legislative changes in the employee benefits and executive compensation area.
Goodwin’s benefits practice focuses on executive compensation matters, with clients in the technology, life sciences, financial services and private equity companies counted on the client roster. Advisory services encompass the implementation and operation of equity-based plans, 409(a) and 457(b) deferred compensation plans, and other non-qualified arrangements. Additionally, Washington DC-based Patrick Menasco and Boston-based practice head Scott Webster’s solid Title 1 knowledge sees them advising a suite of financial institutions on pension plan investments, prohibited transaction exemptions and dealings with the DOL.
Scott Webster; Lynda Galligan
Other key lawyers:
Monotype Imaging Holdings Inc. No
Guggenheim Capital LLC
TIER REIT, Inc.
- Advising Blueprint Medicines on the establishment of European stock incentive sub plans in connection with the establishment of a European commercial organization.
Ivins, Phillips & Barker
Working solely on the employer side in sectors ranging from energy to manufacturing and software, Ivins, Phillips & Barker ’s employee benefits and executive compensation practice boasts an expansive Washington DC-based team headed up by Kevin O’Brien. Retained clients engage the team – which also includes Robin Solomon and Jodi Epstein – to advise on ERISA fiduciary matters, plan design (from 401(k) to health and welfare benefits) and deferred compensation arrangements. Ben Grosz recently advised on an innovative environmentally-focused plan investment strategy along with a defined benefit freezing and exit strategy.
‘Ivins, Phillips & Barker is a fabulous firm.‘
‘The team takes time to know and understand our business and helps to make sure all aspects are considered.‘
General Motors Y
LA Philharmonic N
US Golf Association N
Nissan North America
Middle River Aerostructure Systems
- Primary outside to IBM for its 189,000-participant 401(k) plan.
- Benefits counsel for petrochemicals company SABIC’s $575m 401(k) plan, executive compensation plans and various health and welfare programs.
- Acted as outside counsel to a Fortune 500 utilities company in its ‘request for proposal’ for a new trustee and custodian for its $10bn pension master trust and multiple VEBA trusts.
- Advising Dresser Industries on fiduciary and 401(k) plan investment matters.
Jackson Lewis P.C.
Headed by Baltimore-based Joy Napier-Joyce, Jackson Lewis P.C.’s employee benefits group provides solid knowledge on defined benefit plans – with ongoing issues spanning the freezing and termination of plans, plan amendments, IRS filings and annuity provider selections for clients in retail, hospitality, healthcare, logistics and other industrial sectors. New York-based Keith Dropkin recently advised a number of clients holding multiemployer plans on withdrawal liability issues, while Kansas City-based Brian Johnston handles the implementation and administration of self-funded health plans, 401(k) plans and ESOPs. ERISA fiduciary guidance is also provided by San Francisco-based Yana Johnson. The team is undergoing considerable expansion, particularly on the West Coast, adding strength to its executive compensation knowledge for growth companies.
‘Very responsive and helpful.‘
‘Yana Johnson and Joy Napier-Joyce are excellent.‘
‘In-house counsel will be spoiled if they retain Melissa Ostrower at Jackson Lewis. She is brilliant, always positive and an exceptional subject matter expert who is able to explain it comfortably to others who don’t have her depth of knowledge.‘
Jacob Javits Convention Center
Lomma Construction Corporation
- Providing ongoing benefits advice — including compliance issues with its health and welfare, qualified and deferred compensation plans — to a national landscaping business.
- Advising a utilities company on retirement plan consolidations, defined benefit plan terminations and fiduciary responsibilities.
- Assisted with the freezing of a defined benefit pension plan, including plan amendments and participant communications, for a retail chain.
- Provided advice on the termination of a defined benefit pension plan, including drafting plan amendments, IRS and PGBC filings, participant communications and the selection of an annuity provider.
- Advised healthcare client Sutter Health on all aspects of its multiemployer pension plan.
Maureen Gorman heads up Mayer Brown’s employee benefits and executive compensation practice from Palo Alto, where she advises on DOL audits, de-risking exercises and qualified plan terminations for large-scale global clients. Chicago-based Ryan Liebel lends his tax expertise to 409(a) deferred compensation issues. The team has also attracted significant public pension fund clients seeking innovative tax-advantageous retirement programs. An extensive de-risking practice is cited, while on the ERISA fiduciary side, Lennine Occhino recently devised complex investment vehicles involving target-date funds for private equity funds, hedge funds and other AIFs.
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce
The Hartford Financial Group, Inc.
Rose Packing Company Inc.
- Advised a global private equity fund manager on structuring an investment vehicle involving target-date funds for defined contribution plan investors.
- Advising the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce on its qualified plans and health and welfare programs.
- Acting as primary ERISA counsel to a fund-of-funds manager, advising on investment strategy and general ERISA compliance policies.
- Assisting a global financial institution with obtaining relief from the DoL from a criminal conviction in France, which would disqualify the client from acting as a professional asset manager for ERISA-qualified plans.
Miller & Chevalier Chartered
The Cincinnati-based team at Thompson Hine LLP is retained by a diverse roster of clients – including notable names in healthcare and financial services – to offer administrative support on the full range of benefits plans. Laura Ryan, Kim Wilcoxon, David Whaley and Timothy Brown advise on group health and wellness programs (including compliance with the Affordable Care Acts and HIPAA), 401(k), defined benefit retirement plans and executive deferred compensation packages. The team also provides fiduciary risk-management training. Julia Ann Love now leads the employee benefits practice group.
Julia Ann Love
‘In-depth knowledge of practice areas, highly responsive and forward thinking.‘
‘Deep and broad subject expertise on qualified retirement plans, non-qualified deferred compensation plans, Sarbanes Oxley compliance and health and welfare compliance.‘
‘They understand the business context and don’t just state the legal requirements. They are flexible and innovative in helping clients meet their goal with employee benefit plans while always maintaining compliance with applicable regulations.‘
‘Very responsive, with a reasonable approach to balancing legal issues with business needs.‘
‘Timothy Brown is first-rate, even tempered and knowledgeable.‘
‘Laura Ryan is well versed in all facets of executive compensation, can interact with the C-suite and boards of directors as well as draft plans that are suited for rank and file employees. She takes the time to understand the business needs of her clients and then develops solutions to fit within the applicable regulations.‘
‘Kim Wilcoxson is an expert in the health and welfare benefit arena. She gives very sound advice in terms of compliance from HIPAA to the Affordable Care Act.‘
Nouryon Chemicals LLC
GCP Applied Technologies
Fifth Third Bank
Kelly Services, Inc.
- Providing support to Cardinal Health’s group health plan, including negotiations of service provider agreements and Affordable Care Act compliance.
- Advising Fifth Third Bank on its 401(k) plan, frozen pension plan and group health and welfare plans.
- Assisting GCP Technologies with its 401(k) plan, four defined benefit plans and health and welfare programs.
- Assisting Haier US Appliance Solutions with the design of defined benefit plans and the administration of health and welfare programs.
- Providing benefits advice to News Corp., including welfare plan restructuring procedures and 401(k) plan administration.
Key names at Vedder Price’s Chicago-based executive compensation practice include practice head Christopher Collins and Kelly Starr, who provide support on severance agreements, change-in-control programs, and equity-compensation or deferred compensation arrangements. The client list spans public companies, management teams and individual executives in the healthcare, manufacturing, consumer electronics and financial services sectors. Daniel Lange is noted for representing ESOP-held companies, while administrative support on 401(k) plans and health or welfare programs is routinely provided by Thomas Hancuch.
‘The team at Vedder Price is thoughtful and well reasoned in their analysis of issues and practical in terms of guidance and recommendations.‘
‘Thomas Hancuch is simply put a great attorney. He has the subject matter expertise, is accessible, responsive, and considerate. He truly feels like part of the team in the way he provides counsel and keeps the end goals of his client in mind at all times.‘
Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company
ArcelorMittal USA LLC
Coaching Right Now
Thompson Pipe Group
Huron Consulting Group
- Advising Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company (via its Human Resources and Compensation Committee) on all elements of its executive compensation program.
- Advising Top Line Communications on executive compensation, employee benefits, independent contractor and contingent workforce issues.
- Providing daily advice to ArcelorMittal USA on its executive compensation strategy, including specialized training programs, supplemental dependent care programs and other unique benefits.
- Advising Follett Corporation on short and long-term incentive plans, executive deferred compensation plans and executive employment and separation agreements.
At Venable LLP's employee benefits and executive compensations practice, Baltimore-based Harry Atlas and Washington DC-based Kenneth Hoffman provide ongoing assistance to long-standing clients in the not-for-profit and staffing sectors, with executive compensation planning and tax-advantaged (403(b) and 457) plan advice, as well as 401(k) plan governance. Clients in the retail and wholesale sectors take advantage of the team’s multiemployer plan expertise. Thora Johnson leads the practice out of Baltimore with a focus on health and welfare plan administration including compliance with the Affordable Care Act, HIPPA and ERISA. Also noteworthy is Johnson’s experience in setting up onsite wellness programs and medical centers.
Caplin & Drysdale, Chartered
The employee benefits offering at Caplin & Drysdale, Chartered advises on qualified plan design and administration, ERISA Title 1 compliance, deferred compensation arrangements, and the structuring of health and welfare benefits plans. Tax-exempt organizations and publicly-listed companies are counted on the client list. The key contact is Washington DC-based Richard W. Skillman, who also has a focus on federal tax law.
DLA Piper LLP (US)’s Chicago-based benefits experts – including practice co-head Richard Ashley, of counsel Kerry Eason and Ian Kopelman – provide a host of public companies with advice on qualified and non-qualified plan design, reporting and disclosure obligations, and tax-related advice. Ashley also advises asset managers and investment advisors on ERISA Title 1 compliance. Startups and growth clients in the life sciences and media sectors enlist San Francisco-based Mark Boxer and Silicon Valley-based Cisco Palao-Ricketts for fiduciary counseling, equity-compensation arrangements, retention strategy, and advice on employee stock purchase plans. Washington DC-based practice co-head Rita Patel recently assisted with an IRS audit into a client’s 401(k) plan.
Richard Ashley; Cisco Palao-Ricketts; Rita Patel
Other key lawyers:
Station Casinos (Red Rock Casinos)
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS)
Verizon Communications Inc.
New York University
Crown Corr, Inc
The Amynta Group
- Developed and implemented a 100% ESOP transaction for real estate company Crown Corr.
- Outside benefits counsel to a healthcare company, advising on its 401(k) plan, health and welfare plans and severance packages.
- Represented a gaming industry client in an audit by the IRS into its 401(k) plan.
- Assisted Montgomery County Public Schools with the review and revision of its pension plan’s ethics and fiduciary policies.
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP’s benefits experts provide administrative and compliance support to a client roster of public and private companies, boards of directors and private equity funds. Practice heads Michael Collins and Stephen Fackler (based in Washington DC and Palo Alto, respectively) advise on executive and director compensation, qualified and deferred compensation retirement plans, collective bargaining of welfare benefits, and funding issues associated with defined benefit plans. The team’s former ERISA fiduciary expert Eugene Scalia has now been appointed by President Trump as the Secretary of Labor.
Michael Collins; Stephen Fackler
The Clorox Company
The First American Corporation
Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings
- Providing advice to software company Intuit on executive severance plans, stock compensations plans and deferred compensation agreements.
- Advising Amazon on matters relating to its equity-based compensation program.
- Assisting Gilead Sciences with its qualified and non-qualified retirement plans.
- Providing advice to The Chlorox Company on executive severance plans, stock compensations plans and deferred compensation agreements.
- Representing the NFL Players Association in collective bargaining negotiations with the NFL concerning the provision of health benefits for cognitive disabilities.
Dallas-based Scott Austin and Washington DC-based David Mustone at Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP handle defined benefit plan terminations, plan corrections and executive compensation arrangements for clients in the energy, financial services and investment funds sectors. On the health and welfare front, Mustone and newly-promoted partner Jessica Agostino – based in Washington DC – are assisting a suite of companies with benefit plan updates concerning new compliance requirements (the Affordable Care Act in particular), as well as health reimbursement arrangements and health savings account implementation.
Anthony Eppert; Scott Austin; David Mustone
Other key lawyers:
Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners
South Plains Financial
- Designed and implemented all compensation arrangements for South Plains Financial.
- Designed and implemented all compensation arrangements for Nationwide Postal.
- Assisting an international manufacturing client with correcting late payment errors on multiple retirement plans.
- Advised an insurance company on health reimbursement and health savings account compliance issues.
Matthew Renaud heads up Jenner & Block LLP’s Chicago-based employee benefits and executive practice, advising public and tax-exempt companies on complex plan corrections, ERISA fiduciary compliance, pension de-risking strategy and securities filings. Sarah Haddy is noted for her health and welfare plan expertise, including compliance issues with the Affordable Care Act, while Raymond Sinnappan is retained by big-ticket plan sponsors to handle executive compensation plans and agreements – ranging from equity compensation programs to 409A tax issues. A suite of senior management teams also engages the team on plan negotiations.
General Dynamics Corporation
Budd E&A VEBA Retiree Committee
- Outside counsel to General Dynamics Corporation for the range of employee benefits matters including fiduciary duties, compliance, administration, claims and appeals.
- Advising Olin Corporation on employee benefit matters including compliance, administration, communication and fiduciary matters.
- Advising Hertz Corporation on its equity incentive compensation program, including Section 409A and other tax matters.
- Advising the Budd E&A VEBA Retiree Committee on all aspects of the plan’s ERISA issues.
- Outside counsel to SPX Corporation for all employee benefit matters including compliance, administration, claims and appeals of the company’s retirement plans.
K&L Gates has a strong ESOP advisory practice under Pittsburgh-based Charles Smith, who also advises on ERISA fiduciary risk alongside de-risking exercises. San Francisco-based Rikki Alexis Goff Sapolich-Krol handles the range of employee benefits matters including equity-based incentives, as well as advising on the scope of employee benefits plans for plan sponsors.
Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C.
Alongside a core offering of 401(k) plan advice and executive compensation design and development, Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. assists a suite of clients in the staffing industry with the novel benefits issues of temporary workforces. Boston-based practice head Alden Bianchi provides cutting-edge advice on the emerging field of association health plans; also on the health plan front, Bianchi and Boston-based of counsel Patricia Moran are regularly engaged to handle fringe benefits and compliance issues under the Affordable Care Act. Further cited fields of expertise include advising on hybrid plans and defined benefit cash-balance plans for clients in the medical services industry.
Other key lawyers:
Clarion Capital Partners
American Staffing Association
Marsh & McLennan Agency
New England Institute of Technology
Auven Therapeutics Management
Brooks Automation, Inc.
Partners Benefit Group
- Advising Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (and numerous other universities) on deferred compensation plans and IRS filings.
- Advising Marsh & McLennan Agency on health and welfare plan compliance and compliance with the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act.
- Advising Citigroup on Affordable Care Act compliance, including design, maintenance and operation.
- Advised the New England Institute of Technology’s Compensation Committee of the Board of Directors on executive compensation matters.
- Advised the American Staffing Association on the impact of the Congressional efforts to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act.
Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP
Patricia Cain and Jeffrey Bakker head up Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP’s Chicago-based employee benefits and executive compensation practice. A client roster of publicly-listed and private plan sponsors engages the team on issues spanning defined benefit cash-balance plans (including terminations), withdrawal liability assessments, equity and deferred compensation arrangements, and 401(k) plan governance. It also advises private funds clients on ERISA fiduciary compliance, while Linda Hoseman is the go-to name for health and welfare plan governance, including further compliance issues under the Affordable Care Act and other fast-changing legislative codes.
Patricia Cain; Jeffrey Bakker
Other key lawyers:
National Credit Union Administration
Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital
- Advised an insurance company on the redesign of equity awards for directors, employee stock purchase plans, revisions of severance plans and a merger of two 401(k) plans.
- Advised a national grocery chain on its ERISA fiduciary requirements for investments by a multiemployer plan.
- Advised a newspaper business on its liabilities for withdrawal from a multiemployer pension plan.
- Provided benefit plan administration advice and fiduciary guidance to a media client.
Reed Smith LLP
Reed Smith LLP has increased its stand-alone employee benefits and executive compensation offering owing to a substantial internal restructuring, which saw the addition of Chicago-based Andrew Douglass from Polsinelli PC. The team, headed by Allison Sizemore in Pittsburgh, advises on the design and implementation of qualified retirement plans, deferred compensation plans, and health and welfare programs. A number of tax-exempt organizations and foundations are counted on the client list; Pittsburgh-based counsel Jennifer Gardner is noted for assisting with pension plan wind-downs in this sector.
‘Has depth of practical experience and judgement that is brought to bear on client problems and a focus on client objectives which makes the team more of a business partner than simply counsel.‘
Sullivan & Worcester LLP
Sullivan & Worcester LLP provides advisory services on the breadth of employee benefits and executive compensation to REITs, broker-dealers, public companies and financial services clients. Ongoing matters for practice head David Guadagnoli and Amy Sheridan involve designing and implementing deferred compensation arrangements (including compliance with 409A and 457A), assisting with DoL audits, ERISA fiduciary advice on REIT structuring, welfare plan structuring, along with severance and change-in-control negotiations for senior executives. The team is based in Boston.
Other key lawyers:
‘Always 100% accessible, very solution oriented and no question is too big or too small to tackle.‘
‘The team I work with is extremely approachable and treats me with respect no matter how trivial my inquiries are.‘
‘David Guadagnoli is our main contact and he is a great partner to our firm. He always keeps us up to date on current issues and is extremely detail oriented and thorough in every analysis. He really puts his clients first and is always mindful of deadlines. He is very competent and I have never doubted his advice or recommendations.‘
‘David Guadagnoli has hands-on experience in the areas I have reached out to him for. He offers a common-sense approach and does not try to sell services that aren’t necessary. He is not an alarmist, but is certainly on top of his game.‘
Iron Mountain Incorporated
Five Star Quality Care
ING Financial Services LLC
The RMR Group LLC Approximately
Sonesta International Hotels Corporation
Neighborhood House Charter School
College Bound Dorchester
TravelCenters of America LLC
Thompson & Knight LLP
With a substantial footprint in Texas, Thompson & Knight LLP has a long-standing roster of clients from the energy, oil and gas, manufacturing and retail sectors. The team is retained for advice on the breadth of employee benefits and executive compensations matters. Professionals including practice head Neely Munnerlyn, senior counsel Russell Gully, Jason Patrick Loden and newly-promoted partner Jessica Morrison advise on long-term equity and cash incentive programs, 280G golden parachute rules, severance plans, 401(k) plan design, ERISA fiduciary guidance, ESOPs, and tax-related issues. The practice is primarily based in Dallas, though Morrison is the key contact in Fort Worth. Additionally, the firm maintains a Mexico City presence, facilitating cross-border workplace issues.
‘Knowledgeable and responsive.‘
‘Jason Patrick Loden is very knowledgeable on the tax and structuring side. He helped us design a very sophisticated plan with many different elements that accommodates a complicated corporate structure and many competing interests.‘
CNOOC Petroleum USA
Mary Kay Inc.
Dallas Symphony Orchestra
Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children
USA Compression Partners
- Acting as US counsel to CNOOC Petroleum USA for tax, executive compensation and employee benefits issues concerning US employees.
- Advising beauty products and marketing company Mary Kay on the tax issues concerning compensation and employee benefits plans.
- Advising the Dallas Symphony Orchestra on its compensation and employee benefits plans.
- Advising USA Compression Partners on employee benefits plans.
- Advising Noble Corporation on employee benefits plans.
As the leader of Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP’s ERISA fiduciary practice, New York-based Peter Haller retains a solid client list of asset managers, investment banks, investment funds and private wealth advisers. Haller is routinely engaged to advise on fiduciary obligations, prohibited transaction rules and dealings with the DOL. Additionally, the team provides advice on the structuring of investment products for pension plans.
Michael Katz; Jordan Messinger
Other key lawyers:
Take Two Interactive Corp.
W. R. Berkley Corporation
Aspen Insurance Holdings
Hudson’s Bay Company
Aquiline Capital Partners