“Few firms of any size can match the resources Ivins has dedicated to ERISA, executive compensation and other employee benefits”

- Chambers & Partners

Qualified Retirement Plans

The Basics. Our practice covers design, implementation, and compliance work for all forms of tax-qualified pension and savings plans, including 401(k), ESOPs, and cash balance plans. We advise a significant percentage of the Fortune 100 on qualified plan legal work. At least a dozen of our clients have plan assets well into the billions, many with over 100,000 active employees. Our clients cut across all industries, including automotive, aerospace and defense, oil and gas, manufacturing, retail, and technology.

One of our specialties is auditing clients’ qualified plans for operational compliance. We have performed compliance reviews on some of the largest plans in the country, with assets over $300 billion. We regularly assist all clients with self-corrections of operational “goofs”, as well as with more formal IRS and DOL corrections programs.

M&A. Few employee benefit firms can match our experience in helping clients with major acquisitions. During the last ten years we have worked on over a hundred transactions, many of which were multi-billion dollar deals. 

This M&A work involves everything from due diligence support, to negotiation of the applicable contracts, to intensive drafting to set up new plans and to coordinate with existing plans. We assist with the high-level plan design strategy, as well as the day-to-day vendor contracts and payroll conversions.

Cash Balance Plans. Our cash balance plan practice and expertise is unmatched. We set up one of the Fortune 100’s first cash balance plans. Nearly two dozen of our clients have cash balance plans today.

Our expert knowledge of cash balance plans is frequently tapped for lobbying, litigation support, and scholarly publications — even by other law firms, and by employers who use other counsel for their regular work. For example:

  • We were retained by IBM to provide expert press commentary and education on cash balance plans in the wake of Cooper v. IBM Personal Pension Plan.
  •  We were retained by numerous large companies to represent their cash balance interests before Treasury and Congress.
  • We were retained by American Benefits Council (ABC) to file an amicus brief on the case of Hirt v. The Equitable Retirement Plan in the Southern District of New York.
  • Kevin O’Brien is a contributing author to The Guide to Cash Balance Plans (Aspen Press), the leading treatise on the tax and ERISA issues raised by cash balance plans, and have written extensively on cash balance plans for the Benefits Law Journal.

ERISA Fiduciary Rules. The ERISA fiduciary area continues to expand because of the steady increase in ERISA litigation. We advise both boards of directors and plan administrative committees on their fiduciary duties and on ways to minimize liability. We also consult with clients more broadly on the impact of the fiduciary and prohibited transaction rules in plan administration, and obtain special prohibited transaction exemptions for clients from the Department of Labor.

International Issues. We have long experience advising clients that are U.S. and foreign multinationals. We have consulted with them on the special problems arising because of cross-border issues and employees transferring among different jurisdictions. We have developed particular expertise in 404A plans. We have also helped our clients set up plans in Canada and Puerto Rico.

Lobbying. We have an active and long-standing lobbying practice both on Capitol Hill and with the Treasury and Labor Departments. We were involved with the enactment of the cafeteria plan (section 125) and the 401(k) provisions of the Code, two of the most significant employee benefit changes since ERISA was passed. More recently, we formed the Cash Balance Alliance, an employers’ umbrella group to represent clients on their unique cash balance questions in front of Treasury, the IRS, and Congress.

Strategies & Opportunities