Practices & Industries

Employee Benefits

Emmet's Employee Benefits Group has a broad and diversified practice representing both domestic and international employers and other institutional clients.

One key part of our work is the representation of employers in establishing and maintaining a variety of retirement plans.  We work with our clients in the design, drafting, upkeep and administration of defined benefit and defined contribution plans, both tax-qualified plans and non-qualified supplemental executive retirement plans.  Separate from the plan documents themselves, we draft and negotiate related trust agreements, investment advisory and management agreements, third party recordkeeper agreements, and similar arrangements.  In addition to retirement plans, we advise on many different types of welfare benefit plans.

We also assist employers in the implementation of executive compensation arrangements, including incentive compensation plans of many different types, stock option and appreciation rights plans, and restricted stock plans.  In addition, we have extensive experience with funding devices for executive compensation plans, including "rabbi" trusts.

Our advice in connection with all of these plans involves the entire gamut of ERISA, SEC, labor and tax law issues.

We are frequently asked to represent employers in negotiations relating to employment and termination of key personnel.  On the hiring side, we formulate agreements that meet the financial, family and other needs of the incoming executives, while insuring inclusion of provisions needed by the employer, such as strict integrity and performance standards and confidentiality provisions.  In some cases these agreements entail complicated structures to take advantage of tax provisions in the executive's home country.  On the termination side, we formulate agreements that end the employment arrangement as amicably as possible, while still insisting on such important employer protections as non-disparagement, non-competition and non-solicitation by the terminated employee.

Two areas of particular expertise are the comprehensive rules on non-qualified deferred compensation under Sections 409A and 457A of the Internal Revenue Code and the harmonization of equity based and other incentive plans maintained on a worldwide basis by a foreign parent corporation with U.S. tax and regulatory requirements.

Employer provided healthcare is an area of growing complexity, and we advise clients on all aspects of their healthcare plans, including the impact of the new healthcare reform legislation.

We advise boards of directors, as well as compensation and other board committees, on matters involving the plans offered executives and other employees and on general compensation practices.  We also advise retirement plan administrative and investment committees on their fiduciary responsibilities.  We are thoroughly familiar with the relevant ERISA and trust law principles governing these responsibilities.  We also advise on prohibited transactions and other compliance issues.

We have an active practice representing employers in connection with participant benefit claims and disputes.  We represent employers and retirement plan committees throughout the administrative claims procedure and, if a dispute cannot be resolved at the administrative level, we handle whatever litigation arises.  We also represent employers in connection with claims they may have against institutional trustees, custodians, investment managers and other plan service providers.

We frequently interact with officials in the IRS, the Department of Labor, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation and the SEC.  Our familiarity with the personnel and work of the regulatory agencies often proves useful in providing practical advice to our clients.