Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation: District of Columbia
THE FIRM This benefits boutique is the largest group of its kind in the country, and maintains a reputation as one of the most recognizable brands in the market. The practice is divided into nine specialty subsets, including – but not limited to – plan funding and restructuring, policy and legislation, and multiemployer/Taft-Hartley plans. International benefits has also been an area of interest for the firm of late, particularly with respect to Puerto Rico plans, including ERISA and US tax issues. This combination of subject experts and unique expertise appeals to clients ranging from large Fortune 500 companies to smaller local employers.
Sources say: "Groom is certainly outstanding – a leader in the DC community."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Gary Ford has enjoyed an "illustrious career" as a member of the firm's plan funding and restructuring group. He has recently represented several employers in negotiations with the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) regarding Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. As the head of the firm's plan design and taxation group, Louis Mazawey is unquestionably a leader in this space. "He's fabulous," sources say. David Levine is another principal contact at Groom. As a member of its governmental plans practice, he specializes in qualified and nonqualified retirement plans and tax-exempt retirement programs. John McGuiness heads the executive compensation group while Stephen Saxon manages the firm's fiduciary responsibility team. Andrée St Martin also focuses on ERISA Title 1 issues, including fiduciary responsibility and prohibited transactions, and is an increasingly visible player in this industry.
THE FIRM Covington & Burling remains a leader in this field, and is noted especially for its high-end offering. Its ERISA litigation practice garners continued recognition, and sources also point to the firm's tremendous talent in the area of cash balance plan guidance. The team acts for a number of noteworthy organizations, including the ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC), GE, the National Geographic Society and the NFL.
Sources say: "I always have a superlative experience with Covington – it really has terrific knowledge."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Senior partner Richard Shea is noted for his command of tax law with respect to benefit design strategies. He is also recognized for his involvement in high-profile litigation relating to pension plans for clients such as Xerox and Dow Chemical. "He has a broader sense of corporate law than many ERISA lawyers," said one client. Sources describe fellow partner Amy Moore as "considered and measured in her approach." She continues to direct the group in its work for ERIC. John Vine is a longstanding member of the firm and a former head of its employee benefits group. He is acknowledged for his contributions to the practice area in DC. "He's a fabulous lawyer," say sources.
THE FIRM This top-quality tax boutique is acclaimed for its employee benefits practice, which comprises 12 dedicated partners. Advice covers fringe benefits, health and welfare plans, and plan and compensation issues in M&A environments. The team is supported by the firm's other 18 partners who concentrate on corporate and international tax, tax accounting, controversies, trusts and estates. Recent highlights include work for Xerox, Barclays, GE and Middle Aircraft Systems. Other well-known clients are Heinz, Coca-Cola and AIG.
Sources say: "It's the most professional, dependable and friendly law firm I have had the privilege to work with in my career." "It has its finger on the pulse in Washington, DC."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Rosina Barker has emerged as a highly respected practitioner in this market, and is a well-regarded writer and speaker on tax law issues in the benefits area. "She's very pleasant, extremely responsive and very thorough with analysis."
THE FIRM This full-service benefits practice earns praise for its broad offering and thoughtful, well-researched advice. Formerly a tax boutique, the firm continues to stand out for its fringe benefits practice, although it is making a concerted effort to expand into other areas; these include ERISA and fiduciary litigation, health and welfare plans, and health reform implementation. The partners have been representing a number of insurance, health plan and other employer clients on issues surrounding the new healthcare law.
Sources say: "Miller & Chevalier has made the commitment to build client relationships – it's made a really good impression on our team."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Marianna Dyson is firm managing partner and its resident specialist in the fringe benefit and employment tax area. "She has a sense of humor and personal strength that is quite admirable," said a source. "She's a great face for the firm." Fred Oliphant chairs the employee benefits department and has more than 30 years' experience of representing clients in the health, defense and financial services sectors, among others. "He has forgotten more about the tax code than I will ever know," one client remarked. Gary Quintiere continues to uphold his reputation as "a wonderful adviser" to clients, who view him as an invaluable resource.
THE FIRM This group's claim to fame is its ERISA practice, which is acclaimed for both its advisory and contentious capabilities. Sources note that the team is peerless in its work concerning swaps, derivatives and prime brokerage. They also comment on the firm's fiduciary counseling expertise and experience of working with unions. An enviable list of clients includes SIFMA and Credit Suisse.
Sources say: "In the work it does, no-one else comes close – it's indispensable."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Star turn Melanie Nussdorf is one of the leaders in the area of fiduciary issues within the financial sector. "Her knowledge of the law and its history is unparalleled, and her judgment is impeccable," clients note; "we love Melanie." Anne Moran is also a top-level benefits and compensation attorney, considered by sources to be "one of the highest regarded experts in the field." Group head Paul Ondrasik is applauded for being "extremely knowledgeable in the ERISA arena," particularly in respect of litigation. Junior partner Patrick Menasco is commended for his work in DC and New York. "He is thoughtful, bright and very detail-focused," sources note.
THE FIRM Gibson Dunn once again receives an honorable mention for its leading ERISA practice, although sources also note the firm's strong executive compensation practice. Other specialized capabilities include underfunded pension plans and retiree medical liabilities. Active clients include Aetna, Dow Jones and Weight Watchers.
Sources say: "Overall, I think the culture is very collegial – we love working with Gibson Dunn!"
KEY INDIVIDUALS Michael Collins cochairs the national practice alongside Palo Alo partner Stephen Fackler. "He is one of the most practical ERISA attorneys I deal with," said one source, while another describes him as "a highly competent, technical lawyer." William Kilberg is a senior partner in the firm's labor and employment group, best known for his prowess in ERISA litigation. He is currently representing Boeing in two ERISA matters in the US District Court for Kansas, and also advises the NFL Players' Association on collective bargaining with the NFL regarding benefits matters.
THE FIRM This DC stalwart has invested heavily in its ERISA litigation practice, and rises through the ranks as a result. Recent highlights include representing JohnsonDiversey in ERISA class action litigation involving cash balance pension plans. The firm is also well known for its vibrant labor practice and its expertise in ERISA fiduciary counseling.
Sources say: "These are really great, well-respected lawyers."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Evan Miller cochairs the firm's national ERISA litigation practice, and recently successfully represented the trustees of the New York State Nurses Association Pension Fund in an arbitration with respect to pension plan design. Steven Sacher is another well-regarded member of the group. He recently had a significant win representing the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan in defense of ERISA class action litigation involving an allegation of fiduciary misconduct.
Since publication, Steven J Sacher has retired from this practice.
THE FIRM This admirable 22-member group comprises a distinguished executive compensation team and a growing ERISA fiduciary responsibility practice. Its clients are primarily based within the financial services sector, but the team also assists a variety of other patrons, including the Commonwealth of Virginia, George Washington University, and Seagate Technology LLC.
Sources say: "It has a big practice and is really strong on executive compensation."
KEY INDIVIDUALS "Mr. 409a" Daniel Hogans is highly rated by market sources. "He is fascinating," one source said. "Right now, he is definitely one of the go-to names for that topic." Donald Myers "wrote the book" on prohibited transactions, acting for clients such as Federated Investors and JPMorgan Chase. New entrant Mary Hevener has an excellent reputation for fringe benefit issues, with one client stating: "I don't think there's anyone better in the whole country." Hevener is the firm's practice contact for clients such as Pitney Bowes, Sara Lee and Google.
THE FIRM This Atlanta-based firm has made a concerted investment and rapidly expanded its influence in the benefits arena in Washington, DC. The team focuses on tax-qualified plans, executive compensation, and health and welfare. Clients include Delta Air Lines.
KEY INDIVIDUALS David Godofsky is the practice group head.
THE FIRM Davis & Harman is traditionally known for its advocacy work in Washington, DC, and is an increasingly visible player in the employee benefits and tax law fields. It is also commended for its legislative expertise in connection with ERISA and fiduciary matters.
Sources say: "A real fine policy shop."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Sources say Kent Mason has been "a leader in the DC community for many years." As a key group contact he is seen as "one of the smartest employee benefits lawyers in town."
THE FIRM This team is best known for its executive compensation practice within the corporate sphere. It recently acted as lead international compensation and benefits counsel to Ford with respect to the divestiture of Volvo, and continues to provide advice in connection with post-transaction compliance issues. The firm is also known for its leading educational law practice and is frequently involved in university compensation matters. Other notable clients include the American National Red Cross, The McClatchy Company and Coldwater Creek.
Sources say: "We consider Hogan Lovells a true partner, not just a law firm we work with."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Kurt Lawson is a partner in the firm's executive compensation, employee benefits and share incentives practice, and is also the immediate past chair of the employee benefits committee of the ABA's tax section. His recent work highlights include advising the National Association of Dental Plans and the American Hospital Association on the impacts of the new health reform legislation.
THE FIRM This firm is increasingly active in work surrounding health and welfare reform, and advises a number of public, private and nonprofit clients on the structure, design and operation of employer-sponsored compensation plans. Other specialties include ERISA litigation and pension asset management.
KEY INDIVIDUALS Mark Wincek is a well-known member of the Washington, DC legal community and a primary contact for the practice. He is recognized for his work in the areas of qualified retirement plans, welfare benefits and executive compensation.
THE FIRM McDermott's DC benefits team retains a steady stream of work despite some recent personnel changes. It continues to impress clients such as the Saint Barnabas Health Care System, Sallie Mae and Royal Caribbean Cruises, and recently won the mandate to advise the New York Port Authority in connection with its government retirement plans.
Sources say: "It is running on all cylinders – in an area of consistent change it is up to speed."
KEY INDIVIDUALS David Rogers is the practice group leader and co-head of McDermott's Washington, DC office.
THE FIRM The team here earns praise for its high-quality, efficiently delivered work product. It provides compensation advice to a roster of notable Washington, DC-based organizations, and is recognized for its expertise with respect to retirement plans and multiemployer pension plans. Sources commend the nine-lawyer team for its value-added offering and effective interpersonal skills.
Sources say: "It is uncommonly pragmatic and client-oriented in the way it provides its service."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Andrea O'Brien chairs Venable's employee benefits and executive compensation group, dividing her time between Washington, DC and the firm's Rockville, Maryland office.
continues to excel in his new role as department head at Proskauer Rose LLP, where he maintains his reputation as "an ERISA god."
Recent work includes conducting a comprehensive review of all employee benefits plans on behalf of Becton, Dickinson and Company. William Schmidt
of K&L Gates is renowned for his expertise in the area of ERISA fiduciary counseling. His clients include banks, insurance companies, and large employee benefit plans. Scott Kilgore
of WilmerHale is credited for his efficiency and for the breadth of his practice. "He is extremely knowledgeable,"
sources say. He represents both domestic and multinational clients, including Danaher and Discovery Communications. New to the tables this year, Adam Cohen
comes highly recommended as a benefits and compensation-focused member of the tax group at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP. He is singled out for his wide-ranging practice and "measured style,"
and has recently been advising a number of Fortune 500 companies on the executive compensation provisions under Dodd-Frank. Clients cannot say enough good things about Quana Jew
, a member of the employee benefits practice at Arent Fox LLP, as well as its nonprofit team. "She stands out as an exemplar of the legal profession,"
one client said. "Excellence, precision and responsibility are the overall impressions one is left with when working with Quana."
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