Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation

Overview

An employer’s offering of employee benefits should strengthen the employment relationship, but the related financial and regulatory implications are more challenging today than ever before.

Michael Best’s Employee Benefits team embraces a practical approach that delivers real-world solutions to a diverse group of clients, including public and private companies, nonprofit organizations, and governmental entities. The team counsels employers as they evaluate and implement a wide variety of employee benefit arrangements, including health and welfare plans, qualified retirement plans, and executive compensation arrangements.

 

One of the many ways the Michael Best Employee Benefits team distinguishes itself is that our benefits professionals regularly collaborate with employment attorneys. This collaboration permits a dynamic and grounded approach to benefits, which is unlike the more traditional approach where a benefits group is largely composed of narrowly focused tax attorneys who rarely communicate with human resources personnel and who are unfamiliar with common employment problems.

Our benefits professionals pride themselves on mastering the constantly changing laws to help our clients expertly navigate the legal landscape, and execute a benefit and compensation package that serves the needs of employees and the organization. We have a wealth of experience with the litany of laws impacting benefit and compensation programs, including:

  • Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)
  • Internal Revenue Code (Code)
  • Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA)

Benefits are regulated by multiple governmental agencies at the federal level and otherwise, and our team regularly advises on compliance efforts and defends clients in inquiries and examinations initiated by federal agencies and multi-employer plans.

Our experience extends beyond established companies; we frequently help start-up clients vet and adopt effective employee benefit plans and policies, and advise them on the selection of appropriate benefits service providers.

Experience

Health and Welfare Plans

We provide comprehensive health and welfare plan counseling, including the drafting of benefit plans for health, dental, life, disability, severance, and other benefits and ensuring compliance with HIPAA, COBRA, the ACA, and other applicable laws. Our experience with health and welfare plans also encompasses preparation and review of government filings, defense of audits (e.g., DOL and HHS), and a wide range of other administrative counseling.

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

As a component of our Employee Benefits practice, we have developed a sub-practice concentrated specifically in the ACA. Since the ACA’s adoption, we have been helping employers understand and address the multifaceted challenges posed by this complex and evolving law. Working closely with clients to prioritize their needs, we establish the most cost-effective approach to healthcare benefits in a compliant manner.

Retirement Plans

Our clients understand that retirement savings and security are important to their workforce. Using this as our guide, we partner with our clients to assist them in adopting, implementing, and administering a wide variety of retirement plans, ranging from defined contribution plans (e.g., 401(k), 403(b), and 457(b)) to hybrid and defined benefit/pension plans. Our team also keeps abreast of regulatory changes and takes the lead in updating retirement plan documents.

When operational, documentary, or other compliance issues arise, we counsel our clients through administrative best practices as well as potential correction efforts and filings.

Given the heightened level of scrutiny on retirement plans and their fiduciaries, our team is also actively engaged in counseling on the investment of plan assets, helping to avoid prohibited transactions, and otherwise fulfilling fiduciary duties. We assist proactively, including by establishing strong fiduciary governance and providing fiduciary training.

Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs)

Our team has more than 30 years of experience with the many business and regulatory issues associated with ESOP design, implementation, and operation. We represent clients who are transitioning to full or partial ESOP ownership, as well as clients who have already made the shift.

Executive and Deferred Compensation

We help clients attract and retain key executives through the adoption of mutually advantageous compensation and incentive arrangements, such as:

  • Traditional non-qualified, executive deferred compensation arrangements
  • Supplemental executive retirement plans
  • Equity and equity-based plans (including stock option plans, stock appreciation rights plans, restricted stock agreements, restricted stock units, performance share, and performance unit plans)
  • Bonus plans, long-term incentive arrangements, and short-term incentive arrangements
  • The benefit aspects of employment and separation agreements

We appreciate that these arrangements are subject to strict regulation under various tax laws and, in many instances, the programs are only as valuable as their compliance with all potentially applicable laws, including Code sections 409A, 162(m), and 457(f). We help clients find creative and cost-effective solutions which consider the tax liability. We routinely counsel clients on drafting and administering these arrangements.

Risk Management

By providing regular program reviews and internal audits, we can spot potential issues and make recommendations that can limit the possibility of future benefit claims and costly administrative corrections and litigation.

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