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Employee Benefits

Attorneys in the Hodgson Russ Employee Benefits Practice provide a comprehensive array of counseling and advocacy services to assist clients in designing, establishing, maintaining, and operating a wide range of retirement, welfare, executive compensation and fringe benefit plans. Our representations include a diverse group of clients, from public to private sector, and include for-profit, not-for-profit, closely held and public entities.


Our attorneys have substantial experience with tax-qualified retirement plans, supplemental retirement benefits and other non-qualified deferred compensation arrangements, stock-based compensation programs, and specialized compensation programs for executives. We routinely advise clients regarding all aspects of welfare benefit plan design and compliance, including addressing complex issues related to the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Hodgson Russ employee benefits attorneys have exceptional experience and depth in all aspects of ERISA. Hodgson Russ has been awarded a prestigious "Best Law Firms" Metropolitan Tier 1 ranking by Best Lawyers/U.S. News & World Report in the Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law category.

Retirement Plans

A particular strength of Hodgson Russ’s Employee Benefits Practice is our knowledge of the laws of taxation related to qualified retirement plans and deferred compensation arrangements, such as 403(b) plans and Section 457 deferred compensation plans. Members of our practice authored the publication Taxation of Distributions from Qualified Plans, a 700-page guide and the seminal work in its field which may be accessed here.

Our attorneys assist with 401(k), profit sharing, defined benefit, cash balance, employee stock option plans (ESOP) and stock bonus plans, including:

  • Drafting and reviewing plan and trust documents, as well as plan description
  • Providing sponsors with advice on compliance with relevant laws and regulations
  • Developing appropriate plan procedures, employee communications and administrative forms
  • Reviewing and negotiating service agreements with plan professionals, including recordkeepers, trustees, investment advisors, investment managers and other retirement plan consultants

Our firm's employee benefits attorneys devote significant attention to the correction of qualification errors through guided self-correction or the submission of Voluntary Correction Program applications under the Internal Revenue Service's Employee Compliance Resolution System (EPCRS). We have successfully resolved defects in the design and operation of retirement plans through carefully crafted submissions and negotiations, resulting in the efficient and economical mitigation of substantial legal risks arising from such retirement plan failures. In addition, we have substantial experience correcting late remittances of participant contributions and other prohibited transactions through the Department of Labor's Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program, and avoiding penalties for untimely annual report Form 5500 filings through the Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance Program.

The attorneys in our employee benefits practice have abundant experience in multiemployer plan and multiple-employer retirement plan administration and compliance issues, including advocacy in withdrawal liability disputes.

Welfare and Fringe Benefit Plans

We help clients establish and maintain a wide variety of welfare and fringe benefit plans, including:

  • Group health plans for active employees and retirees, including plan designs using high-deductible health plans, HSAs, self-insured arrangements and an array of account-based health reimbursement arrangements
  • Group insurance plans (life, disability, etc.)
  • Cafeteria or flexible benefits plans
  • Voluntary employees beneficiary association (VEBA) trusts and other post-retirement benefit funding mechanisms

Hodgson Russ attorneys provide comprehensive legal counsel to our clients to maintain compliant welfare plan documents, plan descriptions, and negotiate the terms of complex service agreements with claims administrators and other welfare plan professionals. We have particular experience successfully defending clients from assessments under the employer mandate of the ACA, including mandatory tax filings and adopting plan design strategies to avoid exposure to penalty assessments. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HOW OUR TEAM CAN ADDRESS YOUR ORGANIZATION'S POTENTIAL EXPOSURE TO ACA EMPLOYER SHARED RESPONSIBILITY PAYMENTS.

Non-Qualified Plans & Executive Compensation Programs

The attorneys in our employee benefits practice assist clients in designing, drafting, and implementing supplemental retirement benefits and other non-qualified, deferred compensation arrangements for highly-compensated employees and senior executives. We design and implement a variety of stock-based compensation programs for both publicly traded and privately held businesses, including the use of stock options, stock appreciation rights, restricted stock and phantom equity.

Hodgson Russ attorneys develop other specialized compensation programs for executives and senior staff. In addition to deferred and stock-based compensation programs, our attorneys are experienced with the tax and other legal issues involved in employment, severance and change-in-control agreements (such as 409A and 280G golden parachute taxation), performance-based or incentive compensation arrangements and compliance with the 162(m) deduction limit and the 4960 compensation limits for executives of tax-exempt organizations.

Specific Employee Benefits Disciplines

ERISA and Fiduciary Compliance

The fiduciary landscape is changing fast. It is more important than ever for businesses and organizations sponsoring retirement plans and funded welfare plans to understand the various fiduciary roles, responsibilities and requirements that apply to ERISA plans. Liability for fiduciary breaches resides at the highest level of the organization, with directors and officers having potential personal exposure for resulting losses to employee benefit plans. The current regulatory environment, and lawsuits targeting benefit plan, makes conducting fiduciary compliance review an essential part of any organization's risk management and corporate compliance strategy. Our attorneys counsel ERISA plan fiduciaries regarding plan governance, fiduciary processes, and have developed a proactive approach to addressing fiduciary compliance issues. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT MITIGATING YOUR ORGANIZATION'S FIDUCIARY EXPOSURE THROUGH OUR FIDUCIARY COMPLIANCE REVIEW.

Our ERISA practice is comprehensive, encompassing all aspects of compliance, including:

  • Assisting with drafting and administering ERISA compliant claims procedures
  • Preparing and advising regarding ERISA reporting and disclosure requirements
  • Addressing prohibited transactions through corrective action and advocacy before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Department of Labor (DOL)

Employee Benefits Disputes

Contact any of our employee benefits attorneys to address IRS or DOL examinations or audits related to your organization's employee benefit plans. Our attorneys also handle benefits claims and claims for breach of fiduciary duty, and provide litigation exposure and avoidance counsel to plan sponsors. Although our employee benefits attorneys' attention to plan operations renders litigation situations less frequent, clients may rely on our respected team of litigators if and when a conflict arises.

Contact Us

Our attorneys have the experience and knowledge that you need to receive the best guidance and legal services for your employee benefits program.

Hodgson Russ proudly works with numerous companies and individuals to deliver top-quality employee benefits services and representation. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.

Peter Bradley

Michael Flanagan

Richard Kaiser

Ryan Murphy

Amy Walters


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