The firm's Employee Benefits group assists numerous public and private employers (including many Fortune 500 corporations) with all aspects of their compensation and benefit plans and programs, from design and implementation through termination. Our experience and expertise allows us to advise employers and others regarding all types of qualified and non-qualified retirement and deferred compensation plans, health and other welfare benefit plans, fringe benefit programs, executive compensation plans and agreements, and related matters. We represent employers, plans, insurers and others in courts throughout the country in litigation involving ERISA and other benefit issues. We also work with the attorneys in the firm's other practice groups when, as often happens, compensation and benefit issues arise in connection with other types of matters.
ERISA Litigation. FordHarrison has assembled a team of seasoned ERISA litigators to complement its multidisciplinary employee benefits practice group. This team represents employers, retirement plans, defined contribution plans, and welfare plans, insurers, managed healthcare organizations and other entities in an array of ERISA–related matters, including:
- Complex preemption issues;
- Coverage and benefit determinations;
- Compliance with ERISA's notice, reporting, disclosure and claim administration requirements;
- Claims for breach of fiduciary duties and for engaging in transactions prohibited by ERISA;
- Claims for benefits discrimination, retaliation and wrongful interference with benefits;
- Claims for reimbursement and subrogation under ERISA;
- Withdrawal liability and delinquent contribution claims;
- Claims involving employer stock ownership plans and multiple employer arrangements, including MEWAs;
- Claims based on nondisclosure of revenue sharing and 401(k) excessive fees;
- Claims regarding investment options, including annuities;
- Disputes between ERISA plans and their service providers; and
- Matters arising under COBRA, HIPAA, ADA, ADEA, and FMLA.
Our team litigates in courts across the country, and represents clients before the IRS, the DOL and state Departments of Insurance. The team also provides valuable claim avoidance and risk assessment services.
Executive Compensation. FordHarrison's executive compensation attorneys focus on the sophisticated compensation and benefit issues that affect senior executives and other management employees in public and private companies. Among the various areas in which we concentrate are:
- Representation of both employers and senior executives in the negotiation of employment and separation agreements, including post-employment restrictions such as non-competition, non-solicitation and benefit forfeiture;
- Counseling clients on broadly based severance programs;
- Design and implementation of annual and long-term bonus arrangements to enable employers to recruit and retain executive and management employees;
- Design and implementation of all types of equity and quasi-equity based compensation arrangements, including restricted stock, stock option, stock purchase, stock appreciation, performance share or unit, and phantom share plans;
- Design and implementation of deferred compensation arrangements, including supplemental executive retirement plans, such as excess benefit plans that supplement tax-qualified plans and "top-hat" plans, as well as "rabbi" trusts and other funding arrangements used with these plans;
- Design and implementation of compensation arrangement for non-employee directors;
- Design and implementation of arrangements unique to tax exempt organizations, with particular attention to the effects of both §457 and §409A of the Internal Revenue Code, the limits on excess compensation and the "intermediate sanction" regulations; and
- Strategic counseling on issues relating to mergers and acquisitions including the design and formulation of "golden parachutes," change in control arrangements and the performance of due diligence on the entire range of qualified and non-qualified compensation and benefit plans.
Health and Welfare Plans. FordHarrison's health and welfare plan attorneys counsel public and private companies, plan administrators and plan fiduciaries in all aspects of compliance and design for health and welfare plans. We regularly assist with health and welfare matters such as:
- Design and drafting of all types of health and welfare benefit plans and summary plan descriptions;
- Drafting, reviewing and counseling on the various filing and notice requirements including rules for electronic distribution of health and welfare plan documents;
- COBRA, HIPAA, ADA, ADEA and FMLA compliance for plans and the frequent overlap and interplay of employment and health and welfare plan issues;
- Drafting, reviewing and negotiating service provider agreements, including administrative services agreements and contracts with insurers and business associates;
- Cafeteria plan drafting, review, design, and counsel, including compliance issues for flexible benefits plans, health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs);
- Regulatory requirements and design concerns for wellness programs and retiree health plans;
- Internal Revenue Service and Labor Department audits and examinations;
- Due diligence for mergers, acquisitions and other corporate transactions including consolidation or termination of health and welfare plans following acquisition;
- Plan compliance audits and eligibility audits; and
- Litigation avoidance strategies.
Retirement Plans. FordHarrison's retirement plan attorneys counsel public and private companies (including Fortune 500 corporations) with respect to their retirement plans. Among the various matters on which we regularly advise and assist these companies, plan administrators and fiduciaries are:
- Design and drafting of retirement plans for both for-profit and tax-exempt employers, including IRC 401(k) plans, tax-deferred annuity plans (IRC 403(b) plans) and IRC 457 plans;
- Retirement plan regulatory compliance issues, including IRC 401(a) and 457(b) plan compliance issues for public-sector employers;
- Tax consequences to employers and employees arising in connection with retirement plans;
- Governmental voluntary compliance and correction programs applicable to qualified plan operational and document failures, reporting and disclosure failures, and breaches of fiduciary duty;
- Employee benefit plan administration, including supporting clients' benefits personnel with matters involving participant communications, qualified domestic relations orders, plan investment policies and plan loan policies, and contract negotiations with service providers;
- Terminations of pension and other retirement plans, including Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) and Internal Revenue Service filings;
- ERISA reporting and disclosure, including preparation or review of annual reports, summary plan descriptions and other employee materials;
- Applications for Internal Revenue Service determination letters and other rulings, and Labor Department exemptions and advisory opinions;
- Internal Revenue Service and Labor Department audits and examinations;
- Employee benefit plan issues in mergers and other corporate transactions; and
- Multiemployer plan compliance, including employer withdrawal liability issues, and multiple employer plan compliance.