Practice Areas & Industries: Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

 





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Practice/Industry Group Overview

Ogletree Deakins has one of the largest teams of employee benefits and executive compensation practitioners in the United States.  As part of a firm that focuses on labor and employment law, our Employee Benefits Practice Group has a special ability to relate technical experience to the client’s “big picture” issues.  Our goal is to provide practical advice that allows an employer’s benefits strategy to work in harmony with the employer’s overall personnel, financial, and business objectives.

Employers nationwide have come to depend on Ogletree Deakins for their employee benefits regulatory and compliance advice, both on a day-to-day basis and for unique projects involving corporate restructurings, acquisitions, Section 409A-compliant executive compensation arrangements, or benefits plan redesign.

Our highly trained employee benefits practitioners advise clients regarding the full array of retirement plans and welfare plans, sponsored by employers in the private, not-for-profit, and public sectors.  These include tax-qualified retirement plans, executive compensation arrangements, welfare and fringe benefits programs, incentive and other bonus arrangements, cafeteria plans, severance pay plans, stock option and other equity-based compensation plans, and defined contribution/consumer-directed health plans implementing cost-containment strategies, such as health savings account plans (HSAs) or health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs).

We have helped clients with benefits arrangements for employees during international assignments, planning and implementation of early retirement and severance programs, the benefits aspects of mergers and acquisitions, and negotiating and drafting executive consulting and phased retirement arrangements. We also advise clients on such matters as health portability, privacy, and nondiscrimination (HIPAA) requirements, continuation coverage (COBRA) rules, reporting and disclosure obligations to the Department of Labor and to the Internal Revenue Service, retirement and welfare plan nondiscrimination requirements, and fiduciary compliance.

Our employee benefits attorneys routinely assist clients in dealings with government agencies regarding plan operations, including advance approvals of qualified plans (ranging from simple to often complex designs), exemptions from various regulatory requirements, rulings on disputed questions, and audits.  In this capacity we have successfully represented clients in audits or civil investigations conducted by the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Labor, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, and the Justice Department.

New and established clients often turn to members of Ogletree Deakins' employee benefits group for assistance in litigation involving employee pension or welfare benefits plans – sometimes brought on behalf of a single individual, but often brought on behalf of a class of plan participants – including claims under ERISA alleging breaches of fiduciary duties or violations of ERISA's substantive requirements. Our capabilities in defending employers, plans, and fiduciaries in benefits-related controversies set our employee benefits practice apart from the benefits departments of most firms.

What distinguishes us in this regard is that our employee benefits practice group includes seasoned litigators who also have a sound working knowledge of the complex tax and regulatory issues involved in employee benefit plan design and administration. The ERISA litigators in our practice group are an integral part of the overall benefits practice. They routinely draft plan documents and related instruments for qualified and nonqualified retirement plans, welfare plans, and fringe benefit plans; advise clients regarding the employee benefits aspects of corporate mergers, acquisitions, and restructurings; or counsel clients regarding other aspects of tax or regulatory compliance. Because our benefits litigators speak the language of employee benefits plan design and administration, they are able to communicate directly and effectively with the client's human resources personnel, actuaries, and other professionals to quickly recognize and marshal the facts essential to the defense.