Employee Benefits

Employers sponsoring benefit plans must navigate a labyrinth of financial, legal, and fiduciary duties. We at Davis & Harman LLP recognize that employee benefits are an integral part of doing business and, for the past 25 years, we have helped clients find cost-effective and practical solutions to their employee benefits problems. We regularly advise financial institutions that supply products and services to employer-sponsored plans and IRAs about the rules that they encounter in that marketplace and changes on the regulatory and legislative horizons.

Our employee benefits attorneys generally are known nationally as experts in their field. They regularly speak at conferences across the country on legislative, regulatory, and compliance matters, and frequently provide conference call and webinar updates to hundreds of other advisors.

We work on a regular basis with Congress and the regulatory agencies in an effort to create a workable environment for employee benefit plans. Much of our compliance work consists of offering clients creative solutions, advising employers in understanding and complying with tax and ERISA laws and regulations, and implementing new strategies in response to the changing economic and legal environment. If a solution is not available under existing guidance, our frequent work with federal agency and legislative personnel enables us to seek regulatory and legislative solutions for our clients. We can provide knowledgeable counsel on a host of benefits issues, including retirement plan design, executive compensation, fiduciary responsibility, and employer-sponsored life, health, and other welfare benefit arrangements.

Retirement and Health Policy and Legislation
We regularly represent clients before the Treasury Department, the Department of Labor, and Congress on federal policy matters relating to retirement and health policy. These activities include commenting on proposed regulations, requesting IRS or DOL guidance, and lobbying for or against legislative initiatives before Congress. On behalf of individual corporate clients and client groups that we represent, we have participated in virtually every major regulatory and legislative effort affecting the federal income tax treatment or ERISA treatment of retirement and health plans in the past 25 years.

A key to our success – and that of our clients – is our combination of political experience in Washington and substantive expertise on tax and ERISA issues pertaining to employee benefit issues. This combination greatly enhances our credibility and effectiveness when advocating our clients' positions before government regulators and legislators. Through our extensive experience with such government offices, we also are able to carefully monitor developments in Washington that have the potential to affect our clients’ businesses and keep them well informed of those as developments as – or before – they occur.

Click here for more information on our Legislative practice.

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Treasury, IRS and DOL Practice
The attorneys in Davis & Harman’s employee benefits group have ongoing working relationships with key policymakers in Congress and at the IRS, Treasury, PBGC, and DOL. These relationships stem from many years of practicing benefits law in both the private and public sectors. Our relationships give us credibility in our dealings with the government. We regularly assist clients with respect to private letter ruling requests, determination and opinion letters, corrections of errors under EPCRS, and closing agreements.

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Qualified Employee Benefit Plans
The attorneys at Davis & Harman have significant experience in all aspects of qualified plans: from designing plans for all types of plan sponsors and service providers to ensuring that the plans remain compliant with Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Treasury Department (Treasury), Department of Labor (DOL), and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) guidance.

We advise financial institutions, Fortune 500 companies, trade associations, non-profit organizations, and governmental entities on plan design and compliance. We assist clients in addressing problems in plan administration and help our clients understand the complex investment products available from bank collective funds, mutual funds, and insurance companies.

Services we provide include:

  • Analysis of emerging legislation and regulations relevant to employee benefit plans.
  • Selection, design, and implementation of all types of qualified employee benefit plans.
  • Ongoing counsel on the day-to-day operation of all types of qualified employee benefit plans, including compliance audits of those plans.
  • Design and maintenance of equity and stock-based plans and all types of individual retirement arrangements and comparable individual savings vehicles.
  • Obtaining IRS private letter rulings and determination letters regarding plan design and administration issues.
  • Advice regarding bank collective trust funds, mutual funds, and variable insurance products.
  • Creation of customized insurance programs, including corporate and trust-owned life insurance and individual and group universal life insurance.
  • Evaluation of service provider contracts.
  • Solutions to problems in under-funded and over-funded pension plans.
  • Drafting of employee communications.
  • Counsel regarding correction of plan errors under the IRS correction procedure, EPCRS.
  • Advice on the use of qualified plans for workforce restructurings such as early retirement programs and downsizing.
  • Advice on products and services for qualified plans.

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Executive Compensation
At Davis & Harman, we recognize the importance for our clients of attracting and retaining top executive talent and the significant role that employment-based benefits can play in helping to meet both of those objectives.

Davis & Harman attorneys have substantial experience advising clients on all aspects of executive compensation, including both qualified and nonqualified deferred compensation arrangements. We regularly provide counsel on life, health, and other welfare benefits for executives and assist in structuring forms of elective and nonelective compensation and incentive programs. We help our clients design and implement executive compensation arrangements that not only satisfy corporate goals but are fully compliant with all applicable federal laws and regulations.

We have expertise regarding all aspects of executive compensation, including Code sections 162(m), 280G, 409A, 457, and 457A. We harness our firm’s substantial expertise in insurance to provide advice on insurance-based programs to fund executive compensation arrangements, including corporate-owned and bank-owned life insurance (COLI and BOLI), trust-owned life insurance, and annuities.

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Tax-Exempt & Governmental Plans
Davis & Harman attorneys understand the unique considerations that apply to both tax-exempt and governmental plan sponsors. We take these considerations into account when we counsel our tax-exempt and governmental clients with respect to their benefit arrangements.

Our attorneys have significant experience advising tax-exempt and governmental clients regarding both their retirement and welfare benefit plan issues. Thus, we are ready and able to provide effective counsel to our clients not just on “bread and butter” retirement and pension plans (such as 403(b), 457(b), and non-governmental 401(k) plans), but also with respect to executive compensation arrangements (such as 457(f) plans) and health and welfare plans, including retiree health arrangements and the use of medical savings accounts, such as FSAs, HRAs, and HSAs. Moreover, our attorneys regularly practice before IRS, Treasury, and DOL with respect to tax-exempt and governmental plan issues.

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Health and Welfare Plans
A large portion of America’s workforce relies on employer-sponsored health and welfare plans. The changes included in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have dramatically multiplied the number and importance of the issues employers face in providing compliant health plans. Because of the long history we have in dealing with health and welfare benefit matters, we are familiar with not only traditional health benefit programs, but also with cafeteria plans, post-retirement life benefits, consumer-directed health plans, and voluntary employees’ beneficiary association (VEBA) trusts. We assist with compliance with IRS requirements for flexible spending arrangements (FSA), health savings accounts (HSA), and health reimbursement arrangements (HRA). We also advise clients on plan documentation compliance, nondiscrimination testing concerns, and COBRA and HIPAA obligations.

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IRAs & Education Savings Plans
Because our clients include financial institutions that provide products in IRAs, the attorneys at Davis & Harman have extensive experience assisting clients with issues related to all types of Individual Retirement Accounts and Individual Retirement Annuities and other tax-advantaged savings vehicles such as Section 529 Qualified Tuition Programs and other education savings plans.

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ERISA Title IV and Plan Terminations
Davis & Harman attorneys have significant experience advising clients on issues pertaining to Title IV of ERISA, including PBGC premiums and plan terminations. Our attorneys regularly provide counsel to our clients regarding plan terminations, including on the use of individual and group annuity contracts to secure promised benefits, reportable events and plan spin-offs, and asset recapture. Additionally, our attorneys regularly counsel clients on issues with respect to PBGC flat-rate and variable-rate premium issues.

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Annuities, LTC & Other Insurance
Our attorneys have significant experience advising clients regarding the use of annuities, long-term care insurance (LTC) and other insurance arrangements in connection with employer-provided benefit programs. We provide extensive services to clients on federal income tax and ERISA issues relating to the use of annuity and life insurance contracts in connection with IRAs, section 403(b) plans, section 457 plans, and qualified retirement plans. These services include counseling on technical issues regarding product design, compliance with federal income tax and ERISA requirements, the treatment of distributions, the tax-free treatment of rollovers and transfers, and the application of federal income tax withholding and information reporting requirements.

Click here for more information on our Insurance Tax practice.

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The Willard
1455 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Suite 1200
Washington, DC 20004
Tel 202-347-2230
Fax 202-393-3310