Pharmaceutical, Medical Device and Healthcare Industry Team

Employee Benefits/ERISA Counseling and Litigation

Few areas of the law change as often or are fraught with as many pitfalls as employee benefits. Because this area involves a complex regulatory structure with thousands of provisions, exceptions and interpretations, clients need practitioners well-versed in the intricacies of the law. At the heart of Butler Snow’s Employee Benefits practice is a commitment to:

  • Be proactive and involved with the client and its other benefits advisors and providers.
  • Provide innovative solutions and practical advice.
  • Simplify benefit plan administration.
  • Help train staff so they can administer benefit plans with a minimum of legal counsel.
  • Assure that employee benefits serve their intended purposes and are not viewed simply as a charge on the bottom line.

Employee benefits problems are becoming more acute because of rapidly rising costs and efforts (through individual companies or regulatory bodies) to rein in those costs. Our practice helps clients meet those challenges.

Butler Snow developed an employee benefits practice in the mid 1960s through representation of clients with qualified retirement plans. As an outgrowth of its insurance regulatory practice, the firm expanded its employee benefits practice following the enactment of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 to include representation of clients with welfare benefit plans. With the enactment of numerous subsequent state and federal initiatives and mandates, this practice has evolved into representing large- and small-scale private sector employers, professional practices, fiduciaries, third-party plan administrators (TPAs), governmental entities, tax-exempt organizations and healthcare and financial institutions in all varieties of employee benefit matters.

Practice highlights
  • Attorneys in this group are listed in the Employee Benefits Law section of The Best Lawyers in America®.

Our Employee Benefits attorneys regularly:


  • Represent clients in matters involving plan design and administration, compliance, taxation, employee communications, fiduciary responsibility, and the defense of benefit claims and fiduciary litigation.

  • Draft plan documents and administrative forms and policies and assist sponsors and fiduciaries in administering benefit plans consistently with rapidly changing legal requirements.

  • Counsel plan sponsors on a range of welfare plans: health and medical plans (self-funded or self-insured and insured), flexible benefit (or Section 125 or cafeteria) plans, voluntary employee beneficiary associations (VEBAs), multiple employer welfare arrangements (MEWAs) and severance plans.

  • Represent clients before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) in examinations and ruling applications and correction program filings.

  • Assist plan sponsor until compliance under COBRA, HIPAA, ERISA and USERRA.

  • Assist clients with executive compensation and with nonqualified deferred compensation (“top hat”) plan matters, including structuring nonqualified plan arrangements, drafting plan documents, structuring “rabbi trusts” and other security mechanisms, and advising on tax and compliance issues raised by new Section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code and other issues.

  • Work closely with attorneys in other practice areas, including labor and employment, litigation, mergers and acquisitions and insurance regulation.
Representative experience

Among a wide variety of representations, our Employee Benefits practice has:

  • Represented plan sponsors of trustees of an employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) in the sale of the company by the ESOP and the other stockholders.

  • Represented independent trustee of an ESOP in a leveraged buyout of the plan sponsor to become a 100% employee-owned company.

  • Advised sponsors of 401(k) plans on fiduciary and tax compliance issues in numerous investment provider conversions.

  • Advised numerous clients in merger and acquisition transactions with due diligence and transition of employees to new benefit programs.

  • Represented two associational MEWAs in audits by the Employee Benefit Security Administration (EBSA) of the Department of Labor (DOL).

  • Represented two state-headquartered banks and a regional department store chain with self-funded medical and cafeteria plans and welfare plan administrative issues.

  • Advised third-party administrators (TPAs) of self-funded medical and cafeteria plans on numerous items affecting their client plans.

For additional information on Employee Benefits/ERISA Counseling and Litigation, please contact J. Paul Varner.

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