Few areas of the law change as often, or are fraught with as many pitfalls, as employee benefits. Butler Snow’s Employee Benefits attorneys are well-versed in this complex regulatory structure, which includes, at a minimum, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Such regulatory structure is changed with thousands of provisions, exceptions and interpretations that control employee benefits matters.
Our Employee Benefits practice has grown significantly over the years, beginning with primarily representing clients with qualified retirement plans, to also representing clients with welfare benefits plans and executive compensation plans and/or arrangement. With the enactment of numerous subsequent state and federal initiatives and mandates, our client base has extended to include 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.
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. At the heart of our Employee Benefits practice is a commitment to provide innovative solutions and practical advice to our clients and their other benefits advisors and providers; simplify benefit plan administration; assure that employee benefits serve their intended purposes and not serve merely as a charge on the bottom line; and, help train staff to administer benefit plans with minimum legal counsel involvement.
Our 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. We draft plan documents and administrative forms and policies and assist sponsors and fiduciaries in administering benefit plans consistently with rapidly changing legal requirements. Our group counsels plan sponsors on a range of welfare plans, including 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. We work with plan sponsors to comply under COBRA, HIPAA, ERISA, ACA and USERRA. We advise clients on matters concerning executive compensation and nonqualified deferred compensation (“top hat”) plan matters, including structuring nonqualified plan arrangements, drafting plan documents, structuring “rabbi trusts” and other security mechanisms, and offer advice on tax and compliance issues raised by Section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code and other issues. Our attorneys are adept at representing clients before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in examinations and ruling applications, and correction program filings.
- Represented plan sponsors of trustees of an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) in the sale of the company by the ESOP and the other stockholders.
- Represented the 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.
- Represented numerous clients with respect to IRS and DOL audits of retirement and welfare plans.
- Represented numerous clients with respect to plan administration and operational error corrections under IRS and DOL correction programs.