Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation
As today's workforce grows increasingly diverse and mobile, employers are faced with greater international competition and a heightened regulatory environment. Under these conditions, choices regarding employee benefits and executive compensation plans can have significant short- and long-term consequences.
From the employee's perspective, benefits are often as important as wages in deciding whether to work for or stay with a company. From the employer's perspective, benefit plans and compensation packages are crucial to attracting and retaining top-quality employees, and are a major component of the cost of doing business. For closely held businesses, benefit structure is also an element of financial and succession planning. Furthermore, employers that sponsor and administer plans, as well as trustees of multiemployer plans, need to fully understand their fiduciary duties.
For all these reasons, getting sound advice on the optimal design and implementation of compensation packages and benefit plans pays dividends to all parties involved: employers, employees and plan fiduciaries. With the goal of tailoring our services to the specific needs of each client, we work closely with plan sponsors to custom design employee benefits plans that maximize the desired benefits. We have also developed a variety of off-the-shelf products—such as pre-approved plans and plan compliance audits. Furthermore, we regularly assist employers in designing overall compensation packages.
We regularly assist employers in designing executive compensation packages and frequently advise clients on the issues and responsibilities associated with Code Section 409A.
Industry Knowledge and Connections
The members of our employee benefits and executive compensation team have a deep understanding of the complex benefits landscape, as well as emerging issues of concern for our clients. In fact, our attorneys are active members of a number of industry organizations, including:
- American Bar Association’s Labor and Employment Section and its Subcommittee on Withdrawal Liability Chicago Bar Association’s Employee Benefits Committee and IRS Subcommittee
- American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries
- National Institute of Pension Administrators
Whether serving a publicly traded corporation, a tax-exempt academic institution or a privately held business, Much Shelist leverages our front-line business experience and client-oriented perspective to develop and implement targeted, innovative compensation and benefits solutions. Our attorneys regularly represent clients in employee benefits matters before the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Labor and other state and federal agencies.
We provide counsel with regard to:
- Deferred and executive compensation plans
- Dispute resolution and litigation
- Due diligence in mergers and acquisitions
- Health and welfare plans
- ERISA requirements
- Qualified and non-qualified retirement plans
- Stock options and equity incentive plans
- Transactional support
- Vendor selection
In the last several years, multiemployer pension and welfare plans have come under intense scrutiny by government regulators. In response, the employee benefits attorneys at Much Shelist have developed comprehensive plan design and operation review services so that multiemployer plans can evaluate their potential exposure to government investigation, litigation and penalties, and take steps to ensure compliance with complex federal and state requirements.
Our attorneys work closely with plan trustees and other fiduciaries to conduct comprehensive audits of multiemployer plans. Key areas of scrutiny include plan administration, documentation, employee communications and governmental filings. We also conduct stringent tests of operational and internal control procedures in order to identify potential failures that, left uncorrected, could trigger Internal Revenue Service or Department of Labor investigations and penalties.
Following a thorough audit, our attorneys prepare and present a full compliance report that identifies current strengths and potential risks. We provide point-by-point fiduciary guidance and specific recommendations for remedial action that help return plans to full compliance and minimize potential exposure to litigation and penalties.
In addition to these audit and compliance review services, our attorneys regularly serve as litigation counsel to single and multiemployer plans and their trustees, providing guidance and representation on a broad range of issues, including:
- ERISA fiduciary responsibilities
- HIPAA responsibilities
- Prohibited transactions
- Plan investments
- Negotiations with governmental entities
- Recovery of contributions due
- Breach of fiduciary duty and other litigation
- Withdrawal liability