Pierce Atwood advises clients on a comprehensive range of employee benefits and executive compensation matters. We provide legal and strategic advice to employers regarding health and welfare  plans, retirement plans, executive compensation, and ERISA fiduciary rules, and represent plan sponsors and insurers in ERISA litigation and government audit matters. 

Areas of Expertise

Executive Compensation

We provide extensive experience with the structure of executive compensation plans and the interface between those plans and raising capital in public and private capital markets. We advise public companies on compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and SEC reporting requirements, and advise nonprofits on the structure of their plans to comply with the unique rules applicable to them.  We assist clients with the analysis, design, and implementation of executive compensation arrangements in:

  • Senior management groups
  • Emerging growth companies
  • Public companies
  • Owner-manager companies
  • Traditional middle-market companies
  • Nonprofit organizations

Our capabilities include the design and implementation of individual equity-based compensation arrangements, such as statutory and non-statutory stock option plans, stock appreciation rights, restricted stock, and phantom stock arrangements. We also develop short-term and long-term incentive plans, non-qualified deferred compensation arrangements, and supplemental executive retirement plans.

Fiduciary Rules

We provide guidance to employers, fiduciaries, and plan service providers on ERISA fiduciary duties and prohibited transactions.

Health & Welfare Benefit Plans

We advise plan sponsors and fiduciaries on the design, implementation, administration, and termination of all types of health and welfare benefit plans, including medical, dental, cafeteria plans, flexible spending accounts, life insurance, short and long term disability, tuition reimbursement plans, and voluntary employees' beneficiary associations (VEBAs). We provide a unique and balanced perspective on providing affordable yet strategic benefit packages that maintain employee morale while complying with myriad federal and state laws, including COBRA, HIPAA, GINA, ERISA, the Affordable Care Act, tax laws, and anti-discrimination laws.  We also advise sponsors of self-insured health plans and wellness programs on plan design using innovative, data-driven approaches to drive value and improve population health.   

Life, Health, Disability & ERISA Litigation

We represent plan fiduciaries and insurers in ERISA benefit disputes, including pension, health, life, and disability plans, throughout the northeastern United States. We defend benefit claims as well as claims for breaches of fiduciary duty, both in single-plaintiff cases and class actions. Our expertise runs the gamut of benefits issues including disputes over entitlement to benefits and associated removal/ERISA preemption issues, prohibited transaction claims, subrogation actions, bad faith and rescission suits, and complex class actions in both ERISA and non-ERISA contexts. We also represent employers in the defense of withdrawal liability claims by multiple employer pension plans.

We have assumed a lead counsel role in both routine and complex benefits cases in courts throughout the nation, and have represented clients in connection with several important U.S. Supreme Court ERISA cases. We have argued benefits cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and the First, Second, Third, Fifth, Sixth and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeals. We have litigated benefits cases in every federal judicial circuit and Canada.

Our team includes the editor and co-authors of the ABA book, ERISA Survey of Federal Circuits, as well as authors of articles and book chapters addressing a range of benefits issues. We are also actively involved in the DRI Life Health & Disability Committee, with group members having served as its chair and program chair. Our team members are also frequent speakers on benefits litigation topics at national meetings and forums, including the annual DRI Life, Health, Disability & ERISA Litigation Seminar.

Mergers & Acquisitions in Employee Benefits

We provide clients with a variety of transactional support whether they are involved in buying or selling a business.  We provide analysis, due diligence, establishment of new plans and/or freezing existing plans, and post-closing implementation to foster a smooth transition.

Retirement Plans

We advise employers on pension, profit-sharing, cash balance and other hybrid plans, 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, and ESOPs, from plan design and administration to implementation and plan terminations as well as ERISA compliance.

Workforce Reductions

Difficult economic times require difficult benefits decisions. We counsel and assist businesses with respect to employee benefit and other human resource issues associated with plant shutdowns, voluntary and involuntary work force reductions and "outsourcing." We have helped businesses to design "early out" programs providing extended health coverage and enhanced severance pay benefits.

Catalyst Program for Start-ups

Entrepreneurs turn to our Catalyst Program to get an idea off the ground, access funding sources, address basic legal requirements for running a business, and more. We welcome clients with creative ideas and disruptive new technologies. We tailor our legal services and advice according to your particular vision and near term objectives. Our Catalyst team members are experienced business advisers who know the challenges and triumphs that lie ahead of you, and how to prepare for them.

Jon Gelchinsky and Matt Stein discuss the importance of having trademark paperwork in order, because undoing the damage of not doing so can be costly.

Andrea Suter and Matt Stein share a cautionary tale of a company receiving less value in its acquisition due to unclear IP agreements.

Click here to learn more about how our Catalyst program can help your start-up or emerging business.