Our Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Group practices in all areas of employee benefits law and executive compensation. We assist clients, ranging from multinational corporations to closely held businesses, with employee benefit design, implementation and compliance, and dispute resolution.
Employee benefits law is an increasingly complex area in which inadequate planning can be costly. Effective benefits and compensation strategies can yield significant competitive advantages in developing a quality workforce and superior management team. Bingham’s Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Group can collaborate in virtually every aspect of our clients’ benefits and compensation programs.
Benefit Plan Design and Operation
We provide design, implementation and ongoing administrative guidance on the full range of benefit programs and arrangements. Our retirement benefit experience spans cash balance and traditional pension plans, profit sharing and 401(k) plans, employee stock ownership plans and stock purchase plans. In our welfare benefits practice we regularly advise on benefit arrangements such as health, dental and vision plans; life insurance programs; flexible spending account (“cafeteria”) plans; short- and long-term disability plans; and severance programs. We also advise on associated funding and ancillary arrangements such as pension trusts, “rabbi” trusts, VEBA trusts and third-party administrator and investment management agreements.
Working with related practices within the firm, employee benefits lawyers regularly address complicated issues, synthesizing information and presenting our clients with a range of options. We frequently encounter employee benefit issues arising out of mergers, acquisitions and other business restructurings. In advance of business changes, we assist in the design, review and revision of benefits such as early retirement plans and other “window” programs, special severance packages and “parachute” arrangements. Our colleagues in the Corporate Area often call on us to assist with analyzing and addressing such issues as underfunded pension plans, multi-employer plan withdrawal liabilities, partial pension plan termination issues, curtailment of post-retirement medical and life insurance obligations, severance obligations, COBRA/HIPAA coverage compliance and 60-day plant closing (WARN) notice requirements. We work with our clients in establishing, amending, terminating, merging or spinning off employee benefits plans as necessary, remembering that our mission is to communicate complex issues in understandable terms.
Executives rely on our lawyers for advice on negotiating employment and severance agreements, bonus and long-term incentive plans, stock option and other equity-based compensation plans. Working with our colleagues in a variety of practice areas, we provide comprehensive guidance relating to federal and local tax, securities and employment aspects of the executive employment relationship.
Investing or soliciting for investment the assets of employee benefit programs presents special challenges. Whether in the areas of the “plan asset” rules, fiduciary conduct or the prohibited transactions rules, we regularly advise a range of clients on structuring arrangements in light of those requirements, and on compliance with those rules. These clients may include sponsors and trustees of trusts for the collective investment of pension assets (such as bank commingled investment funds), investment managers and advisers establishing and operating limited partnership investment funds that may include employee benefit plan investors, and real estate developers and operators seeking equity capital from employee benefit plan investors.
Employee Benefits Dispute Resolution
From time to time, our clients face issues and disputes arising from mergers, acquisitions and other business changes; withdrawal liabilities; bankruptcies; terminations; IRS/DOL/PBGC audits; and post-retirement medical and life insurance liabilities. Partnering with our Litigation and Employment Practice Groups, we offer a comprehensive foundation for strategic advice focused on dispute resolution.
Our lawyers have obtained million-dollar reductions in multi-employer plan withdrawal liability assessments through negotiation, arbitration and litigation. Our teams have litigated benefits denials, fiduciary duty issues and claims arising out of corporate acquisitions, divestitures and executive compensation agreements. We also apply extensive experience dealing with the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Labor and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation on compliance audits, underfunded pension plans, partial pension plan termination claims, fiduciary liabilities and prohibited transactions.