Background - Practices (Details)

ERISA & Employee Benefits


The complex world of pension, executive compensation, health, stock-based, and other fringe benefits offered to employees is more highly regulated than perhaps any other area of organizational life. Almost every communication, negotiation or transaction regarding employee benefits is subject to some form of federal and state oversight, and there are a myriad of statutory and regulatory obligations that require timely government filings as well as frequent updates to plan documents. The experienced lawyers and litigators of Crowell & Moring LLP's ERISA and Employee Benefits practice help clients attract and retain top talent, ensure compliance with the complex laws and regulations that govern employee benefits and compensation, and resolve disputes with employees and regulators in this highly sensitive arena.

Our team of ERISA lawyers have developed the first-in-the U.S. employee benefit plan to help employers better combat and remedy the growing workplace and societal problem of sexual and other forms of harassment, with the added safeguards of federal law under ERISA. With anti-harassment training programs and other benefit plans failing to address this issue, Crowell & Moring’s “Workplace Harassment Prevention and Protection Plan” (WHiPP Plan) is designed to help employers direct resources to employees who are in need of support and to provide real solutions to workplace harassment. Matters are handled confidentially outside of the workplace at no cost or out-of-pocket expense to the employee, with effective avenues of resolution with the employer pursuant to the terms of the plan.

Our lawyers are among the top tier of employee benefits and Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) counselors and litigators. Members of our team have been profiled and featured in numerous legal journals as well as industry and legal publications such as BNA Pension and Benefits Reporter, Tax Notes, Bloomberg Government, BNA's Federal Contracts Report, Broker Dealer (BD) Week, Compliance Week, Employment Law360, Forbes, and The National Law Journal/Legal Times. One of our partners argued the landmark ERISA case LaRue before the U.S. Supreme Court, concerning the scope of ERISA's civil enforcement provisions, and our lawyers have successfully represented clients in federal and state district and appellate courts across the country.

Our lawyers are frequently asked to present at conferences and seminars nationwide, both online and in person, on topics relating to employee benefits, ERISA, retirement and tax issues. This includes conferences and seminars sponsored by American Benefits Council (ABC), National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU), the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO), Financial Executives International (FEI), American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries (ASPPA), Tax Executives Institute (TEI), and America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), to name just a few.  

We Have A True Washington Practice.

Our lawyers practice at the forefront of emerging regulatory issues. Our team includes practitioners who have extensive experience and are dedicated to ERISA and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) health care reform legislation, as well as a host of other employee benefits and ERISA-related matters.

We take full advantage of our location here in Washington, D.C. As a result, we are not only able to provide comprehensive knowledge of the complicated and technical rules governing our clients' products or plan offerings, but we are also able to utilize our well-developed relationships with the regulators at the Departments of Labor, Treasury/IRS, Health and Human Services, as well as with officials at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, Securities and Exchange Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, to help achieve the best results for our clients.

Many members of our Tax and ERISA practice have joined C&M following service at the IRS, Treasury, Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), and other branches of government, including on Capitol Hill.

We are retained outside health and ERISA counsel to several prominent employer and industry groups here in D.C. This allows members of our team to meet regularly with representatives from all of the relevant federal agencies, including those listed above. Our lawyers are not only able to help shape the law for our clients, but also have the best understanding of the regulators' thinking on the important issues-- so that we can best advise our clients as they plan for the future. 

Our Technical Knowledge Is Without Par.

As counselors, we have a deep and profound knowledge of the laws that affect employee benefit plans as well as service providers to such plans. This includes laws that affect qualified retirement and pension plans, health and welfare arrangements, stock-based equity plans, and executive compensation and nonqualified deferred compensation, among others. We provide in-depth compliance and governance reviews of retirement, health, and non-qualified plans and assist on DOL and IRS audits.

Regarding qualified retirement and pension plans, we counsel clients on all aspects of developing, documenting and operating retirement plans, including qualified pension, profit-sharing, ESOP, 401(k), 403(b) and 457(b) plan design, and trust and financing issues. We regularly provide guidance on issues arising under ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code, such as plan terminations, claims issues, fiduciary liability, prohibited transactions, and reporting and disclosure. In addition, we counsel clients who are service providers to ERISA retirement and pension plans, to help them navigate the complex area of doing business with an ERISA plan.

With respect to health and welfare plans, we advise public and private employers, financial institutions, insurance companies, trade associations, and public policy organizations on the full scope of employee health and welfare benefits such as cafeteria plans, medical savings accounts (MSAs), health savings accounts (HSAs), flexible spending arrangements (FSAs), health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), as well as voluntary employees' beneficiary associations (VEBAs) and other health-financing options. We are highly skilled and knowledgeable in how ERISA fiduciary and prohibited transaction rules apply to plan and issuer practices and compensation structures.

As noted above, many of our lawyers are recognized leaders on health care reform and the ACA. In this regard, we represent all of the various stakeholders on emerging regulatory issues, including health issuers, employers, service providers, and trade/industry associations.

In the area of executive compensation, we are adept in all of the rules that govern executive compensation, including Internal Revenue Code sections 162(m), 280G, 409A, 83, and 457A. In connection with our strong corporate transactional practice, we regularly assist employers in the design of equity compensation arrangements, including qualified and nonqualified stock options, stock appreciation rights (SARs), profits interests, and restricted stock agreements. Members of our team are also well-versed in the evolving rules and best practices under the Dodd-Frank Act and "say on pay."

Here at Crowell & Moring, we combine together our technical knowledge with a strong Washington-centered regulatory practice to bring to bear all available resources to achieve the best results for our clients.