Benefit Plans

The BakerHostetler Employee Benefits practice group counsels and represents employers in connection with the development, design, and oversight of the full range of tax-qualified retirement plans (defined benefit pension, 401(k), ESOP, cash balance and hybrid plans). We have extensive experience assisting not-for-profit and governmental employers with the implementation of 403(b) annuity plans and 457(b) deferred compensation plans which reflect those employers’ unique structure and objectives. Our attorneys assist employers in the design and implementation of retirement plans—from preparing plan documents to obtaining favorable Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) rulings.

Our team works with the plan sponsors, administrators, and fiduciaries of existing retirement plans on day-to-day administrative and compliance matters. We monitor statutory and regulatory changes which impact benefit plans and prepare plan amendments to conform plans to those changes. We counsel plan administrators, HR executives, and retirement committees with regard to their fiduciary and plan oversight responsibilities. Our team can assist clients with corrective actions for plan operational errors and can shepherd those plans through filings under the IRS Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (including the Voluntary Correction Program), when appropriate. We assist clients with securities law compliance related to retirement plans either independently or in conjunction with attorneys from the firm’s Securities practice team.

We have a robust defined benefit pension plan practice. This includes all types of defined benefit plans, including cash balance and hybrid plans. Since the Pension Protection Act of 2006 became effective in 2008, we have actively consulted with clients in developing pension funding strategies and liability containment alternatives in a variety of different settings. We represent employer clients in connection with their participation in collectively bargained Taft-Hartley multi-employer pension plans and our team members have broad experience dealing with funding and withdrawal liability issues which can arise from that participation. 

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When retirement plans need to be terminated or merged—whether that need results from a discrete business transaction or from a strategic decision to mitigate financial risks and expenses—we have the ability to make the multitude of required or advisable government filings. Our attorneys have also developed client-specific termination strategies to enhance the financial benefits for employees or to decrease termination costs for the sponsor.

We are actively engaged when representing clients in corporate merger and acquisition activities. However, our involvement merely begins with diligence review of benefit plan arrangements to assess financial and compliance risks. Our value to clients extends beyond the closing of a particular transaction as our team is recognized for its national leadership in designing Qualified Separate Lines of Business (QSLOB) plans to give large corporate clients maximum flexibility with regard to plan design and administration. When transaction activities result in workforce restructurings, our benefits attorneys can counsel on the strategic usage of plan spin-offs or voluntary separation incentive windows.

Select Experience

  • Provided counsel in connection with major integration of academic medical center faculty plans into a newly-formed entity. Advised entity regarding the design and implementation of a comprehensive benefits program involving retirement, health and welfare, and executive compensation plans. Developed a comprehensive set of benefit plans incorporating varying levels of benefits to reflect preexisting benefit offerings.
  • Worked with client’s corporate administrative committee on oversight of plan investment managers, third-party administrators and independent fiduciaries to assure compliance with fiduciary obligations under ERISA.
  • Represented clients in structuring plans to take advantage of, or avoid, single employer treatment under the controlled group and affiliated service group rules applicable to tax-qualified retirement plans.
  • Provided sophisticated and continuing advice to a larger employer following a large complex corporate spin-off utilizing the Qualified Separate Lines of Business (QSLOB) rules to satisfy retirement nondiscrimination and coverage requirements.
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Experience

  • Provided counsel in connection with major integration of academic medical center faculty plans into a newly-formed entity. Advised entity regarding the design and implementation of a comprehensive benefits program involving retirement, health and welfare, and executive compensation plans. Developed a comprehensive set of benefit plans incorporating varying levels of benefits to reflect preexisting benefit offerings.
  • Worked with client’s corporate administrative committee on oversight of plan investment managers, third-party administrators and independent fiduciaries to assure compliance with fiduciary obligations under ERISA.
  • Represented clients in structuring plans to take advantage of, or avoid, single employer treatment under the controlled group and affiliated service group rules applicable to tax-qualified retirement plans.
  • Provided sophisticated and continuing advice to a larger employer following a large complex corporate spin-off utilizing the Qualified Separate Lines of Business (QSLOB) rules to satisfy retirement nondiscrimination and coverage requirements.
  • Represented a large European-based private company in a $250 million transaction which involved unwinding an ESOP, dealing with ‘golden parachute’ issues, and satisfying extensive obligations under numerous foreign and domestic incentive plans and employment agreements.
  • Helped a global client respond to and survive a Department of Labor audit of the Company’s ESOP in connection with a stock-drop valuation issue arising following a corporate acquisition.

Recognition

  • Baker HostetlerChambers USA 2013 ranks BakerHostetler’s Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Band 1 in Ohio.
  • Chambers USA 2013 ranks three BakerHostetler employee benefits and executive compensation partners in Bands 1 and 2.
  • BakerHostetler received 2014 “Best Law Firms” National rankings in the areas of Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law and Litigation  ERISA from U.S. News – Best Lawyers®.
    • Regional Tier 1 and 2 rankings were earned in Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law and Litigation – ERISA in Cleveland and Orlando.
  • Four partners were selected by their peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© 2014 in various employee benefits and executive compensation-related fields.
    Copyright 2013 by Woodward/White, Inc., of Aiken, SC.