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Michael T. Graham

Chair, ERISA Litigation Practice


Michael has more than 20 years of experience counseling on employee benefits and Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) litigation and controversy matters. He advises plan administrators and employers on proper compliance with ERISA claims and appeals procedures, helping them avoid litigation and develop defenses to eliminate or minimize liability exposure should litigation arise.

Michael has successfully advised numerous clients on pension, disability, healthcare, and severance plan disputes, implementing properly administered claims review processes that have resulted in complete litigation avoidance, even in the face of threatened litigation.

When benefit matters result in litigation, Michael regularly litigates fiduciary breach, Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) valuation, and medical and pension benefit denial issues involving a wide variety of pension and welfare benefit plans in federal and state courts across the country. He has also litigated ERISA-based class actions and plan-wide fiduciary disputes for a variety of clients and plans.


Michael also advises plan administrators, fiduciaries, and sponsors on compliance issues related to Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) reporting requirements and withdrawal liability.  He represents pension plans, including ESOPs, before the U.S. Department of Labor, responding to audits and subpoenas and defending interview requests and administrative depositions.

Michael has been involved in precedent-setting cases that have created law in the areas of ERISA reimbursement rights, recovery of pension overpayments, ERISA estoppel, and ESOP valuation.


  • Obtained release of all liability sought by agency for employer in ERISA litigation suit and agency dispute. Potential damages valued at $100 million.
  • Obtained issuance of no suit letter for employer in Department of Labor ESOP and ERISA investigation. Potential damages valued at $25 million.
  • Successfully represented various plan administrators in multi-million dollar ERISA litigation lawsuits in federal court and before the U.S. Courts of Appeals.
  • Defended ESOP trustees in class action law suits challenging valuation issues.
  • Advised plan fiduciaries in fiduciary breach lawsuits challenging the benefit plan compliance and plan investment decisions.
  • Defended plan administrators in challenges to benefit claim determinations involving qualified and nonqualified plans.
  • Litigated several out-of-network healthcare provider lawsuits, defending self-funded medical plans in disputes involving benefit payment models and benefit decisions.
  • Defended plan sponsors in challenges related to reductions to retiree medical benefit plans.

Honors & Recognitions

  • Illinois Super Lawyers, ERISA/Employee Benefits, Super Lawyers Magazine, 2011-2013, 2016-2017
  • The Legal 500, Labor & Employment: ERISA Litigation, 2014

Professional Activities

  • American Bar Association, Joint Committee on Employee Benefits



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