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Employee Benefits

The laws governing employee benefits have grown in complexity and the incidence of benefits-based litigation is on the rise. Both these trends seem certain to continue, which leaves employers facing constantly changing, highly technical laws, with the cost of a misstep increasingly expensive. More than ever before, employers need a knowledgeable, collaborative team of attorneys whose collective expertise covers the range of employee benefit issues.

Davis Wright Tremaine has one of the largest and most experienced employee benefits teams in the Pacific Northwest. We have worked with companies of all sizes and dealt with virtually every conceivable benefits issue. We also recognize that each client may have unique needs that require a customized approach.

Our team has deep experience in these areas:

General employee benefits compliance

  • Compliance counsel – advising on how best to satisfy tax, labor, employment, PBGC, SEC and ERISA rules, including ERISA reporting and disclosure requirements
  • Plan administration and correction – helping clients interpret and administer plans and, if necessary, correcting problems using IRS and DOL correction programs
  • Fiduciary counseling and plan termination guidance – counseling employers, plan trustees and others about fiduciary responsibility, prohibited transactions, unrelated business income, mergers and transfers of plan assets, plan termination and multi-employer plan issues, including withdrawal liability

Retirement plans

  • Benefit program design – identifying the greatest tax advantages, taking advantage of cross-testing and integration with Social Security, analyzing the compatibility of different plans
  • Plan drafting – creating both individually designed and IRS-pre-approved plan documents that satisfy requirements for qualified retirement plans
  • Plan qualification – overseeing and managing the process of obtaining IRS favorable determination letters for qualified retirement plans

Health & Welfare plans

  • Flexible benefit and group health plans – designing flexible benefit (cafeteria) and group health plans and helping clients administer them, including compliance with ERISA, COBRA, HIPAA, and Health Care Reform rules
  • Plan drafting – creating individually designed plans and associated documents (such as summary plan descriptions, etc.) to achieve the plan sponsor’s aims and satisfying legal requirements 

Executive compensation

  • Equity compensation – drafting and advising on stock-based plans that provide for both incentive and nonstatutory (nonqualified) stock options, stock appreciation rights plans and outright stock bonus grants; as well as similar plans for non-corporate entities; analyzing and advising on tax consequences; submitting related state or federal securities law filings
  • Nonqualified deferred compensation – drafting and advising on the structure and tax ramifications of arrangements that defer compensation; analyzing compliance under the ERISA and the Tax Code (particularly Section 409A)
  • Severance plans – drafting and advising on ERISA and Tax Code Section 409A compliance

Litigation and benefit claims disputes

  • ERISA litigation – defending (and occasionally initiating) ERISA litigation
  • Benefit claim disputes – advising clients on litigation risks and assisting with the proper handling of the plan’s administrative claims review procedure