The planning and administration of employee benefits and executive compensation packages can be a challenging but worthwhile undertaking. The advantages to businesses and their employees of well-structured programs can be significant. Employers use these to attract, retain, and motivate valued employees by creating important financial and other incentives. Employees derive the financial and other benefits provided under workplace-sponsored retirement, health, and other benefit plans. Properly designed benefits strategies also provide valuable tax benefits to both employers and employees.
Our Employee Benefits Practice Team enables our clients to meet strategic human resources and compensation objectives in a cost-effective and prudent manner. Because the employee benefits and executive compensation areas are complex and ever-changing, we constantly monitor legal developments in this area and provide expertise and perspective on a wide variety of legal and tax issues. On a daily basis, our attorneys interact with Business owners, Executives, HR Directors, Benefits managers, Accountants, Third-party Plan administrators, and Insurers to provide expertise on plan design, legal compliance, document drafting, legislative and regulatory changes, fiduciary protection, plan investments, and vendor negotiations.
We also work collaboratively with our business transactions, employment and other attorneys to provide clients with the highest quality service, including keeping them abreast of the latest trends and developments in the specialized employee benefits area.
Our Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation services include:
Design, Implementation, and Compliance of Retirement Plans
- Counsel on the legal and operational issues for qualified plans (including traditional pension, 401(k), profit-sharing, and other defined contribution plans).
- Practical advice regarding violations of the Internal Revenue Code (Code) and/or ERISA requirements, and appropriate methods to correct these violations under the federal amnesty programs.
- Counsel regarding fiduciary liability, reporting and disclosure, distribution issues, and excise taxes.
- Assistance with responses to complex law changes, including cost-effective alternatives and updated plan documents.
- Guidance on qualified domestic relations orders (QDROs), including preparation of numerous model domestic relations orders for complex retirement plans.
Affordable Care Act (ACA)
- Provide consultation to ensure compliance with the large employer Pay-or-Play Rules and Employer Reporting Requirements.
- Technical assistance in assessing ACA design opportunities, options, and the impact of ACA rules on other company benefit programs.
- Continually monitor developments to remain responsive to clients’ evolving ACA needs.
Design, Implementation, and Compliance of Health Insurance and Welfare Benefits
- Assistance with Affordable Care Act (ACA) compliance.
- Advice regarding COBRA, HIPAA, ADA, ADEA, Medicare, and numerous other federal and state laws affecting employer-provided health insurance and other benefit plans.
- Third-party service provider selection process, negotiation of vendor contracts, and resolution of disputes with those providers.
- Work with clients to strategize cost-containment strategies, including consideration of healthcare reform options, HRAs, HSAs, and FSAs.
Guidance Related to Corporate Transactions
- Evaluate the financial and potential liability impact of retirement, health, and welfare plans in corporate mergers, acquisitions, and sales.
- Guidance regarding the benefits aspects of corporate transactions and related negotiation of the terms of underlying agreements.
- Advice regarding the assimilation, implementation, or termination of acquired benefits programs.
Equity-Based Compensation and Nonqualified Deferred Compensation Agreements
- Design, implementation, and operation of equity-based compensation arrangements, including stock options, stock appreciation rights, restricted stock units, phantom stock, and performance unit plans, taking into account the applicable tax, accounting, payroll reporting, and securities law considerations.
- Able to partner with client’s investment or insurance advisors to provide counsel regarding executive compensation tax and funding issues.
- Advise regarding Code Section 409A requirements to ensure legally compliant top-hat, excess benefit, make-up/mirror, and a variety of bonus incentive and other nonqualified deferred compensation arrangements.
Executive Employment and Severance Provisions
- We partner with attorneys in our firm’s Corporate and Labor & Employment Practice Areas to fully address the benefits and tax aspects of executive employment agreements and severance agreements, including compensation arrangements, fringe benefits, change-in-control protection, current industry practices, golden handcuffs, golden parachute, and severance-period benefit coverage issues.
Employee Benefits Enforcement and Litigation
- Defend clients against U.S. Department of Labor and Internal Revenue Service audits, investigations, and assessments.
- Litigation defense on matters involving pension and welfare plans and fiduciary duty issues.
Public Sector and Other Tax-Exempt Organizations
- Extensive familiarity with public sector plans, including experience with school district plans and statewide systems.
- Provide Wisconsin Retirement Systems (WRS) compliance counsel.
- Advise employers regarding Social Security coverage and Section 218 Agreement matters.
- Counsel and design for Code Section 457(b), 457(f), and 403(b) retirement plans
- Analyze and advise on compliance with the tax laws newly applicable to employee benefits and other post-employment benefits (OPEB) funding vehicles in the post-Act 10 environment.
- Evaluate, design, and ensure compliance of benefit plan arrangements in a manner sensitive to the unique legal considerations associated with government, tax-exempt, and church-affiliated employers.
Employee Benefits Team
Bruce B. Deadman, Hugo P. Rojas, Katharine G. Shaw