Among the largest and most seasoned in the U.S., our Employee Benefits practice offers our clients substantial experience and proven judgment. As noted in Chambers and Partners USA 2010, our firm "excels in designing, drafting and implementing a variety of plans including stock option plans, 401(k) plans and welfare and fringe benefits plans."
Our group has addressed virtually every type of issue involving employee benefits, including:
- designing, drafting and counseling in the administration of all types of employee benefit plans, such as traditional defined benefit plans, cash balance plans, 401(k) plans, money purchase plans, ESOPs, employee stock purchase plans, stock option plans, non-qualified deferred compensation plans, SERPs, self-insured medical plans and other welfare and fringe benefit plans;
- advising on the application of complex tax rules to employee benefit plans, including the rules governing tax-qualified retirement plans and non-qualified deferred compensation plans;
- advising 401(k) plan committees, institutional trustees, boards of directors and other plan fiduciaries regarding their powers and responsibilities under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and other applicable law, including issues involving company stock funds;
- significant experience in advising clients regarding cash balance plan conversions and administration of cash balance plans with atypical design features;
- advising on and negotiating the employee benefit plan aspects of business combinations and divestitures, spin-offs, mergers and acquisitions and private equity investments, including issues relating to section 280G and due diligence analysis of potential liabilities;
- drafting and negotiating executive employment agreements, including employer and executive representations and, in so doing, acting as an integral part of the Executive Compensation practice, which takes a comprehensive, innovative approach to designing, drafting and negotiating executive compensation plans and agreements for both publicly and privately held corporations, such as stock option, restricted stock and phantom stock plans, including experience in section 409A and section 162(m) issues;
- review and negotiation of investment manager agreements and alternative investment products for large pension trusts;
- dealing with the Department of Labor, including obtaining prohibited transaction exemptions from the Department of Labor and responding to fiduciary audits by the Department of Labor;
- advising trustees, banks, investment managers and commodity pool operators regarding their compliance with ERISA in managing the assets of plans subject to ERISA, including in connection with the organization and operation of investment funds in which employee benefit plans invest;
- conducting plan compliance reviews, providing advice and supervision of corrective actions, and submitting corrective actions to Internal Revenue Service and Department of Labor;
- training plan fiduciaries regarding their fiduciary responsibilities, conducting fiduciary compliance reviews and drafting fiduciary compliance procedures;
- advising both publicly and privately held companies on issues arising with ESOPs during corporate acquisitions and leveraged buyouts;
- assisting plan sponsors in responding to benefit claims so as to reduce the likelihood of litigation;
- acting as an integral part of our ERISA Litigation practice, defending plan sponsors and service providers against a broad range of ERISA actions, including cash balance pension plan class action litigation, 401(k) plan fee class action litigation, plan investments in employer stock, appellate litigation, bankruptcy issues involving pension and welfare plans, retiree benefits class actions, contribution and indemnification issues, ERISA preemption, fiduciary duty litigation, plan document interpretation and prohibited transactions;
- advising clients in bankruptcy and reorganization proceedings regarding “controlled group” issues and the role of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC); and
- designing, drafting and counseling tax-exempt entities with respect to 403(b) retirement plans and deferred compensation plans intended to compliance with section 457 of the Internal Revenue Code.
Presently, our Employee Benefits practice consists of 20 full-time employee benefits lawyers. Many of our employee benefits lawyers are nationally recognized in the field. Sidley lawyers have contacts at the Treasury Department, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Labor and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
Our Employee Benefits practice includes representation of some of America’s largest companies, as well as a large number of small and medium-sized businesses employing between 20 to several hundred employees. Our lawyers also represent several of the largest private foundations in the country, as well as a number of other tax-exempt non-profit organizations, such as foundations, trade associations, civic and other public benefit organizations. In addition, Sidley serves as employee benefits counsel to the retirement plan offered to members of the American Bar Association.