The rules and requirements facing administrators and sponsors of tax-qualified retirement plans, including 401(k), pension, cash balance, and ESOP plans, are constantly changing and complicated. Failure to comply with these complex rules can put employers and service providers at risk of significant penalties and litigation. You need experts on your side when navigating these issues, and our benefits lawyers at Alston & Bird are there to help.
We have nationally recognized lawyers who have many years of experience exclusively focused on retirement plan issues. We provide day-to-day advice in the details, as well as advice on high-stakes and costly benefits issues that can affect a company’s future. When our clients are looking for a reliable team focused on the technical benefits of their M&A transactions, they come to us.
Clients rely on us because of our:
Technical focus: We stay up-to-the-minute on important benefits issues, trends, and innovations to help clients understand how new developments affect their business.
Broad cross section of clients: Fortune 100 firms, as well as many large, private corporations, count on us to assist them with a wide range of retirement plan matters. We also have strong relationships with nonprofit corporations, universities, churches, and charitable foundations nationwide. The breadth of our client base means our team members are deeply knowledgeable about the technical issues that affect different industries and employers, and we capitalize on best practices to benefit our clients.
Agency interaction: We have relationships with several key regulatory agencies (e.g., IRS, DOL, PBGC, and SEC), and many of our team members formerly worked for these agencies and currently maintain regular contact with relevant government officials. We build on prior experience to maintain positive, constructive relationships with the agencies that are important to our clients. Our relationships with these agencies permit us to raise important client issues to the very highest levels.
Because we communicate the complicated requirements facing qualified retirement plans in an understandable way, we can help you in an efficient and cost-effective manner – no matter what issue you face.
Tax-Qualified Retirement and Savings Plans
Pension, 401(k), cash balance, and ESOP plans are some of the most important benefits companies offer to their employees, but they can be extremely challenging to administer and keep compliant with the many tax and ERISA requirements. Our team understands your challenges and provides practical and responsive counsel. We guide you through every type of issue you face with your retirement plans.
We use a team approach to staffing to ensure that our clients receive the highest quality work while maintaining appropriate efficiencies. We are able to draw on our attorneys who can provide valued assistance in discrete areas affecting our clients’ qualified plans, such as public policy and litigation. We advise our clients daily on qualified retirement plans with the following:
- Qualified plan design and compliance, including advice on 401(k) plans (including safe-harbor plans), money purchase plans, ESOPs, traditional pension plans, and cash balance or pension equity plans.
- Advising plan fiduciary and administrative/investment committees, both in person and telephonically, on trends, upcoming legislation, recent litigation, and other matters affecting both fiduciary and settlor functions of the design and operation of qualified plans.
- Fiduciary advice, including plan investment-related advice to plan sponsors, assistance with DOL-prohibited transaction exemptions, and advice related to company stock funds within qualified plans.
- Plan design services, including drafting plan documents, preparing amendments, review of master and prototype documents, compiling both regular and periodic plan restatements, and drafting or reviewing trust agreements.
- Regular and periodic filings with government agencies, including determination letter applications and annual Form 5500 disclosures.
- Complex audits and self-audits, including IRS, DOL, or PBGC audits, compliance self-reviews, and CAP, VCP, and SCP filings.
- Annual and periodic disclosures to participants, including disclosures related to plan fees and expenses, changes in investment options, correction of plan errors, distributions and rollovers, and other significant communications.
- Corrections for plan operational errors, including self-correction and formal correction filings with the Internal Revenue Service and Department of Labor.
- Nonqualified deferred compensation arrangements, including compliance with key tax regulations such as Section 457 and Section 409A requirements.
- Mergers and acquisitions, including due diligence, structuring covenants, and solving complex benefits integration and transitions.
- Represented a major regional financial services company in a merger of equals, including the design and implementation of dozens of employee benefits plans for the combined entity.
- Special counsel in a multibillion-dollar pension matter incident to the bankruptcy of a major airline where Alston & Bird was not the bankruptcy counsel.
- Filed with the IRS the largest single “self-compliance” filing ever received by the IRS National Office.
- Worked with our capital markets attorneys in conducting due diligence and structuring transitions in hundreds of purchase, sale, merger, and spin-off transactions in the last five years.
- Designed and drafted, in the late 1980s, one of the first cash balance pension plans in the country and have since defended class action challenges to several clients’ cash balance plans.
- Structured and implemented a $125 million leveraged ESOP, including creation of convertible preferred stock issued to the ESOP.
- Created a unique software program that allows a client with multiple qualified plans to quickly try “what if” scenarios for separate line of business (SLOB) testing.
- Advised a major client on fiduciary implications in the purchase of a pension annuity contract for several hundred million dollars.
- Advising venture capital funds on “plan asset” rules, including VCOC exemptions.
- Advising real estate funds and pension funds on fiduciary and UBIT aspects of real estate investments.
- Representing a national nonprofit client using a master plan format for its individual national chapters.
- Representing a for-profit, industry-centric client with multiple independent legal entities participating in the same plan nationwide.
- Representing a large, geographically centered client with multiple individual employers performing work under the same plan on the same worksite.
- Representing several master trust clients, each with thousands of employees and several hundred million dollars and even billions of dollars.