Employee benefits law is a practice area for lawyers who counsel employers on different types of retirement and welfare benefit plans, with particular emphasis on benefits arrangements regulated by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (commonly known as “ERISA”).
Single-employer, multi-employer, and collectively bargained pension plans provide benefits to plan participants and beneficiaries through various arrangements, including pension, profit sharing, annuity, 401(k), and employee stock ownership plans, as well as through various group life insurance, medical, hospitalization, dental, severance, and other health and welfare benefit plans.
Employee benefits law encompasses a wide spectrum of matters, including planning, drafting, and updating qualified and nonqualified retirement plan documents, and assisting clients with ongoing compliance matters relating to new statutes and regulations. It also requires working with government agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Labor, and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, in connection with voluntary corrections, closing agreements, audits, and investigations.
Employee benefits law practitioners are called upon to identify special issues and potential problems in corporate and partnership reorganizations, mergers, acquisitions, and securities transactions. Lawyers work closely with public and private investment funds to counsel on fiduciary duties, prohibited transactions, and various tax issues related to plan asset investments.
Executive compensation matters are an important component of employee benefits law and involve advising clients on the tax and accounting concerns surrounding equity-based compensation, bonus arrangements, supplemental retirement and deferred compensation plans, executive employment and severance arrangements, and securities law compliance.
Employee benefits lawyers assist in ERISA litigation disputes to prosecute and defend a wide variety of fiduciary duty claims on behalf of employee benefit plans, plan trustees and plan service providers, including claims arising from significant plan investment losses, claims challenging plan amendments or terminations, and claims challenging plan restrictions on particular types of coverage.