Practice Areas & Industries: Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP


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Practice/Industry Group Overview

When ERISA disputes lead to litigation, top companies turn to Sutherland for knowledgeable, skilled attorneys with real courtroom experience.

A struggling economy and an aging workforce have raised the stakes for disputes arising under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). Plan sponsors and administrators must navigate difficult economic conditions and an increasingly complex landscape of statutory and regulatory requirements, while plan participants grow more anxious, and litigious, whenever they perceive a threat to their benefits. For more than 30 years, Sutherland has helped clients find cost-effective solutions to employee benefits disputes, whether by litigation or negotiation.

Sutherland offers a deep bench of litigators, many of whom have handled significant ERISA matters, along with an experienced team of ERISA practitioners who routinely advise plan sponsors, administrators and fiduciaries. Whenever necessary, our ERISA litigators can draw on the knowledge of attorneys in our well-known tax, insurance and retirement products and services practices. The result is a multidisciplinary approach to major matters that combines both ERISA litigation experience with a deep working knowledge and understanding of ERISA-related tax statutes and regulations, as well as the underlying investment products that are often at issue in such matters. We represent employers, other types of plan sponsors, insurers, administrators and alleged fiduciaries in the full range of ERISA litigation matters and related tax controversies, including complex class actions. We defend ERISA class actions in jurisdictions around the country.

While we never hesitate to go to trial when that makes the most sense for our clients, we are extremely proficient at resolving matters by agreement. We develop a trial and/or settlement strategy early in the life of a case that is informed by the client’s goals and our assessment of the merits.

Why Sutherland
Class action experience.
Our attorneys have achieved success with all types of ERISA litigation, and we are particularly strong in class action matters.

Breadth. ERISA litigation often intersects with other legal areas, and Sutherland has demonstrated leadership in the tax, insurance and retirement products and services sectors.

Wide client base. We represent the full spectrum of organizations involved with ERISA disputes, including employers, other types of plan sponsors, insurers and alleged fiduciaries, in a large range of ERISA litigation matters. Our clients include several Fortune 100 companies.

Agency experience. Many of our attorneys served with government agencies, including the Office of the Solicitor for the U.S. Department of Labor.

Amicus advice. We have acted as counsel for amicus curiae in several tax and ERISA cases to raise employee benefits issues.

Risk avoidance. We closely monitor changing laws and regulations to ensure that our clients proactively avoid situations that could lead to litigation.

Crisis management. We guide clients through high-profile events, including handling challenges posed by media, mitigating exposure and reputational risk.

Efficiency. We understand the financial and time strains that litigation brings. When appropriate, we use staff attorneys and streamlined processes to provide better value to our client.

Experience across jurisdictions. Our attorneys have tried ERISA cases in state and federal court and through appeals all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Range. Our experience encompasses a wide range of ERISA claims, including individual life, disability and AD&D benefits, class actions, fiduciary obligations, revenue sharing, retained asset accounts, health plans, stock drop cases, pension funds, severance benefits, plan administration, cost of living adjustments, IRA plans, incentive compensation and annuity contract premiums, among many others.

Nuts and Bolts
We represent clients with the complete range of ERISA disputes, including:

  • Allegations of ERISA fiduciary or nonfiduciary liability
  • Available remedies against fiduciaries and nonfiduciaries
  • Applicability of ERISA to various compensatory arrangements
  • Benefits eligibility
  • COBRA rights and duties
  • Valuation of employer stock
  • Preemption
  • Tax Issues
  • Fiduciary liability insurance coverage

Take Action
Our comprehensive ERISA litigation services range from proactive risk assessment and strategy analysis to alternative dispute resolution and determined representation in court.

Selected Experience
Sutherland handles ERISA litigation for Fortune 100 company.
Sutherland handles the ERISA litigation for a Fortune 100 company, including ERISA and state-based claims involving individual disability or accidental death benefits and fiduciary obligations. This litigation primarily involves cases brought in federal courts in Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Sutherland successfully defends annuity issuer in national class action.
Sutherland successfully defended a major issuer of IRC 403(b) annuity products in a national class action.

Sutherland wins dismissal of ERISA fiduciary breach claims.
Sutherland successfully moved to dismiss ERISA breach of fiduciary duty claims on the grounds that the conduct at issue involved plan design rather than a fiduciary function, and the dismissal was affirmed on appeal.