As employee benefits legislation and regulation grow in complexity and the global workforce becomes more interconnected, the demands placed on employers and employee benefit plan administrators are increasing in intensity. Plan sponsors and fiduciaries must continually reexamine and redesign employee benefit programs in light of the latest government guidance, case law and emerging industry best practices, domestically and internationally.
The Legal 500 has named our employee benefits and executive compensation team and individual lawyers among the top providers in the country, and US News-Best Lawyers honored us as the first-ever “Law Firm of the Year” in Employee Benefits in 2011-2012. Chambers USA has also named McDermott “Law Firm of the Year” in Employee Benefits, and has singled out many of our lawyers for individual recognition.
As pioneers in the field of employee benefits and executive compensation, McDermott’s lawyers have advised clients on virtually every form of benefit plan created. Rather than offering adjunct or add-on counsel in this area, we are focused on employee benefits issues above all else. We provide ongoing employee benefits counsel to more than 60 Fortune 500 companies and one-fifth of Fortune 100 companies. We also advise service providers for employee benefit plans maintained by other employers, including trustees, recordkeepers and insurers. Our broad client base allows us to help clients recognize new trends in the field and quickly identify and address potential legal hurdles.
Our lawyers handle the full range of issues that affect 401(k) plans, profit sharing plans, employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), pension plans (including cash balance and other hybrid pension plans), non-qualified deferred compensation and executive compensation plans, health and welfare benefit plans, employment agreements and fringe benefit plans. To help minimize potential risks, we regularly conduct compliance reviews in various areas, such as tax qualification, COBRA compliance and fiduciary compliance matters. We also provide privacy and data security advice to help ensure that plan compliance obligations are met when regulated personal data is made accessible to plan service providers.
We wrote the law, we changed the law, we wrote the book. Our group is the largest and most-skilled ESOP practice in the United States, with coverage in all legal disciplines necessary to effectuate a successful ESOP transaction: corporate, tax, employee benefits, securities, labor, litigation and antitrust. Our experience emanates from having drafted most of the ESOP provisions in the original ERISA legislation, along with lobbying for the far-reaching changes enacted in the Tax Reform Act of 1984. We have obtained precedent-setting IRS and Department of Labor rulings and exemptions and been involved in landmark ESOP litigation matters. We provide ongoing counsel to the leading independent fiduciaries, public and private company sponsors, business owners, union and employee groups, and also advise lending institutions on the development of innovative financing techniques for utilizing the ESOP structure more fully.
Tax-exempt organizations face strict requirements and increased regulatory scrutiny with regard to executive compensation, taxable and non-taxable fringe benefits, and qualified and non-qualified retirement and welfare plans. We advise clients on issues the IRS is likely to consider in audits and inquiries, including board review of compensation, board members’ degree of independence, proper reporting of compensation and benefits on Form 990, and options for establishing the “rebuttable presumption of reasonableness” under the intermediate sanctions rules. We also identify and address key questions that should be considered before IRS contact occurs, including preparation and assembly of appropriate documentation to disclose, the valuing and reporting of deferred compensation arrangements, and information that is protected from disclosure by the attorney-client privilege.
We work with a broad range of multinational and domestic employers in designing, amending, spinning off, merging, administering and terminating 401(k) plans, ESOPs, cash balance and other defined benefit plans, and other qualified retirement plans. We regularly represent clients before the IRS, DOL and the PBGC on retirement plan matters, including determination letter requests, correction of plan defects, private letter rulings, advisory opinions and prohibited transaction exemptions. We help our clients negotiate service provider agreements, counsel plan sponsors on fiduciary and committee governance best practices, draft plan amendments and employee communications, and advise buyers and sellers in transactions involving retirement plans. We have extensive experience with cutting-edge issues such as de-risking techniques for defined benefit plans, ERISA requirements for employer securities in qualified plans, and sophisticated plan investment strategies.