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


Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Return to Practice Areas & Industries

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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.

Articles Authored by Lawyers at this office:

Massachusetts Sick Leave Law-Full Compliance Deadline Looming
Mark H. Burak,Rachel Reingold Mandel, January 07, 2016
Readers are probably aware that last year, Massachusetts voters approved a new sick leave law that went into effect on July 1, 2015. Many employers with preexisting leave policies, however, took advantage of the so-called “safe harbor” provision in the law and its implementing...

IRS Notice 2015-43 Addresses Expatriate Health Coverage
Christina M. Crockett, July 15, 2015
New guidance from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) leaves in place the limited Affordable Care Act (ACA) exemptions set out in the Expatriate Health Coverage Clarification Act of 2014 (EHCCA). IRS Notice 2015-43 (Notice) permits a good faith interpretation of the EHCCA exemptions and attempts to...

The Same-Sex Marriage Ruling: Key Employee Benefits Take-Aways
Jeanne Ellen Floyd,Ann Carr Mackey,Stephen A. Riga, July 06, 2015
Last Friday, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its highly-anticipated decision in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, ruling that all 50 states must license marriages between two people of the same sex and must recognize a same-sex marriage lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state.

Ten Tips To Comply With California’s Upcoming Sick Pay Mandate
Christopher W. Olmsted, June 01, 2015
Mandatory sick pay is coming to California in less than 60 days. Beginning July 1, 2015, the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 (HWHFA) will obligate employers in California to offer sick pay to nearly every category of employee. The minimum obligation is to provide sick pay at the...

Set It and Forget It? Not so Fast, Says the Supreme Court in Tibble
Preston R. Burch,Timothy G. Verrall, May 29, 2015
On May 18, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States rendered a much anticipated (by ERISA attorneys, at least) decision in Tibble v. Edison International, clarifying a relatively narrow but still significant issue involving fiduciary responsibilities and retirement plan investments. Tibble v....

Two-Year Preapproved Defined Contribution Plan Window is Still Open
Christina M. Crockett, May 01, 2015
Retirement plan vendors sponsoring defined contribution plan documents approved by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have begun issuing packages containing the new IRS-approved version of those documents-reflecting the Pension Protection Act and other required regulatory updates-to employers that...

OFCCP’s Proposed Sex Bias Rules Continue Focus on Compensation, Pregnancy Accommodation, and Gender Identity
A. Craig Cleland,Dara L. DeHaven, April 01, 2015
On January 28, 2015, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to replace the current sex discrimination guidelines. This updated rule is intended to reflect legislative changes that have occurred since the guidelines were implemented...

Revisiting Rochow: The Sixth Circuit Rejects Earlier $3.8 Million Equitable Award in Recent En Banc Decision
Violet H. Borowski,Mark E. Schmidtke, March 24, 2015
Just over a year ago, a panel decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Rochow v. Life Insurance Company of North America, 737 F.3d 415 made big news when the court upheld the district court’s award of $3.8 million in equitable relief on a theory of unjust enrichment and held that an...

Congress Clarifies the Expatriate Health Coverage Exemption
Christina M. Crockett, March 19, 2015
For expatriate health plans issued or renewed on or after July 1, 2015, the Expatriate Health Coverage Clarification Act of 2014 (EHCCA) provides an exemption from various Affordable Care Act (ACA) provisions. Last December, Congress enacted the EHCCA as Division M of the Consolidated and Further...

Feb. 2 Deadline Looming to Implement Retroactive Increase in 2014 Mass Transit Benefit Limits
Vicki M. Nielsen, March 03, 2015
Affected employers must move quickly to take advantage of a special administrative procedure regarding a retroactive increase in excludable transit benefits enacted on December 19, 2014, under the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 (TIPA). Because affected Internal Revenue Service (IRS)...

Mandatory Retirement Plans in Illinois
Karen N. Brandon,Aimee E. Dreiss, March 03, 2015
Is Illinois the precursor to mandatory retirement savings programs across the country the way that Massachusetts was for mandatory health care? Illinois has become the first state to require that private-sector employers offer their employees retirement benefits. The Illinois Secure Choice Savings...

Supreme Court Rejects Analysis of Duration of Retiree Benefits As Contrary to Contract Law
Hera S. Arsen, March 03, 2015
On January 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States resolved a long-standing dispute between the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and the remainder of the federal judiciary in a case concerning the extent to which retiree health care benefits provided for in a collective bargaining agreement...