John J. McGowan Jr.

He | Him | His

Partner

Cleveland
T +1.216.861.7475
F +1.216.696.0740

"He [John J. McGowan] is a full-service employee benefits partner and a real star...He is a creative thinker, a hard worker and an expert in the field. He advocates for his clients and finds a practical solution."

— Chambers USA 2021

Overview

John McGowan has almost 40 years of Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and related employment, tax, healthcare and securities law experience, representing benefit plans (and plan-covered individuals), plan sponsors, plan fiduciaries and executives.

He is particularly adept at handling the challenges and disputes that plan sponsors, plan fiduciaries and other stakeholders face when things go wrong, regardless of the root cause, including private litigation, and regulatory inquiries and enforcement actions. John considers all aspects of matters facing his clients and crafts practical, long-term solutions that can withstand challenge. Particular areas of experience include multiemployer plan disputes (both plan disputes and disputes with others over responsibility for plan-related liabilities), health care reform (including the Affordable Care Act) and related tax sanctions, worker misclassification matters, high stakes ERISA litigation and executive compensation arrangements.

John is routinely ranked in Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business in Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation (Band 1; highest ranking) and in The Best Lawyers in America® (in which he has been named “Lawyer of the Year” three times: in 2014, 2015 and 2020).

John is regularly ranked in Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business in Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation (Band 1; highest ranking) and in The Best Lawyers in America® (in which he has been named "Lawyer of the Year" three times: in 2014, 2015 and 2020).

Select Experience

  • In litigation spanning eight years, was a key member of a team representing a business owner who sold his family's business to the business's employees by setting up an employee stock ownership plan. The owner was then sued by a class consisting of current and former employees claiming the terms of the sale were unfair. Contentious litigation ensued, with three separate employee groups taking extreme positions. Following a series of strategic victories on key motions, including one forcing a division of the class into separate classes and the appointment of separate counsel and one involving the realignment of fiduciaries, the case was settled on terms economically favorable to the client.
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Experience

  • In litigation spanning eight years, was a key member of a team representing a business owner who sold his family's business to the business's employees by setting up an employee stock ownership plan. The owner was then sued by a class consisting of current and former employees claiming the terms of the sale were unfair. Contentious litigation ensued, with three separate employee groups taking extreme positions. Following a series of strategic victories on key motions, including one forcing a division of the class into separate classes and the appointment of separate counsel and one involving the realignment of fiduciaries, the case was settled on terms economically favorable to the client.
  • For the past 35 years, has regularly advised and represented nonprofit organizations, ranging from tax-exempt pension and welfare trust funds and tax-exempt trade associations, co-ops, educational institutions and public charities to taxable nonprofit mutual insurance companies, in connection with a variety of executive compensation, pension investment, and health and welfare plan regulatory matters.  
  • In litigation spanning eight years and involving two Ohio Supreme Court decisions, changed the laws in Ohio for dividing public employees’ benefits in a divorce or dissolution.
  • Helped an international manufacturer restructure its commitments following the strategic acquisition of a failing business with substantial legacy costs. To facilitate the restructuring, represented the client in three class action lawsuits brought by retirees – a certified class action involving collectively bargained retirees, a putative class action involving management retirees and an enforcement action brought to enforce a consent decree the client was alleged to have violated. Appeared in the Second and Sixth U.S. Courts of Appeals and in U.S. district courts in Ohio, Connecticut and Alabama to overcome the three lawsuits.

Recognitions and Memberships

Recognitions

  • Chambers USA: Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation in Ohio (2006 to present)
    • Band 1 (2008 to 2021)
  • The Best Lawyers in America® (2008 to Present)
    • Ohio: Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law
      • Best Lawyers® "Lawyer of the Year" (2014)
    • Ohio: Litigation - ERISA
      • Best Lawyers® "Lawyer of the Year" (2015, 2020)
  • Ohio "Super Lawyer" (2005 to 2006, 2008 to 2016)

Memberships

  • American Bar Association 
    • Tax Law Section 
    • Labor and Employment Law Section (Employee Benefits Committee)
    • Tort and Insurance Law Section
  • Ohio State Bar Association
  • Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association
  • Internal Revenue Service: TEGE Advisory Council, Great Lakes Region

News

News

Press Releases

Admissions

  • U.S. Supreme Court, 1999
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, 1994
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, 1986
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit, 1996
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, 1994
  • U.S. Tax Court, 1986
  • U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio, 2004
  • U.S. District Court, District of Arizona, 1994
  • U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio, 1984
  • Ohio

Education

  • J.D., University of Toledo College of Law, 1983
  • B.B.A., Accounting, University of Toledo, 1978