Covington has one of the country’s leading employee benefits and executive compensation practices. Our senior lawyers have served in senior positions in the Departments of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services, the SEC, and the Senate Finance Committee. Our clients cover the spectrum from emerging companies to the nation’s largest employers, in such diverse fields as communications, financial services, health care, manufacturing, media, transportation, technology, and sports.
We advise on all areas of the law relevant to employee benefits and executive compensation, including ERISA, taxation, fiduciary responsibility, plan investments, labor relations, employment discrimination, securities regulation, and health care. Our practice covers a full range of services, including the following:
- Advisory. Since the passage of ERISA, we have helped clients design and administer innovative compensation and benefit programs that cover a diverse and dynamic workforce. We help clients make difficult decisions, and we find practical and creative solutions to complex problems.
- Litigation and Other Controversies. We handle a wide variety of employee benefits litigation and contested agency proceedings, ranging from cases brought by individuals to class actions involving billions of dollars. We have won ground-breaking decisions in the U.S. Supreme Court and federal courts of appeal. We have successfully represented clients in agency audits, investigations, and enforcement proceedings, and in challenges to plans’ tax-qualified status in U.S. Tax Court.
- Public Policy and Government Affairs. As counsel to The ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC), the voice for over 80 large public companies, we are directly involved in the most significant legislative, regulatory, and public policy issues affecting employee benefits and executive compensation. We also obtain rulings and advisory opinions to resolve issues that affect our clients’ benefit programs.
- Transactions. We regularly handle employee benefits and executive compensation aspects of complex business transactions. We have extensive experience with transactions of all kinds, including public and private acquisitions and divestitures, IPOs, joint ventures, corporate finance, and outsourcing arrangements.
Our lawyers also maintain a blog, InsideCompensation, on which we share insights on important developments affecting employee benefits and executive compensation.
The variety of our practice distinguishes Covington from other firms. By working seamlessly across disciplines, we develop creative, “outside-the-box” solutions to difficult problems. Our perspective and insight into new developments helps our clients stay ahead of the curve.
- Representing Verizon Communications with respect to its pension plan’s $7.5 billion annuity purchase (one of the largest pension annuitization transactions in US history), and successfully defending Verizon against an attempt by retirees to block the transaction in court.
- Successfully handling important ERISA litigation in the Supreme Court, including Conkright v. Frommert, 130 S. Ct. 1640 (2010) (requiring deference to the plan administrator’s interpretation of a plan, even though the administrator had previously relied on provisions that were not properly added to the plan), and Kennedy v. Plan Adm’r for Dupont Sav. & Invt. Plan, 129 S. Ct. 865 (2009) (applying ERISA’s “plan document” rule to affirm unanimously a plan administrator’s decision to follow a beneficiary designation that gave rights to a participant’s former spouse, even though a divorce decree had stated that the former spouse gave up her rights).
- Successfully handling ground-breaking litigation in lower courts, including Young v. Verizon’s Bell Atlantic Cash Balance Plan, 615 F.3d 808 (7th Cir. 2010), cert. denied (2011) (first court order correcting a scrivener’s error in an ERISA plan, favorably correcting a $1.7 billion drafting error); Taylor v. United Techs. Corp., 2009 WL 4255159 (2d Cir. 2009 (affirming summary judgment in a 401(k) plan expense class action suit, rejecting claims for which plaintiffs had calculated alleged damages of $230 million); and Cooper v. IBM Personal Pension Plan, 457 F.3d 636 (7th Cir. 2006) (first appellate ruling to reject the claim that cash balance plans are age discriminatory, avoiding $1.4 billion in damages).
- Assisting a Fortune 50 company in a ground-breaking transaction to add a guaranteed minimum withdrawal investment option to its $15 billion section 401(k) plan.
- Advising large pension funds on the structure and documentation of investments in swaps, index options, and other derivatives, including fiduciary and prohibited transaction issues related to Dodd-Frank clearing and margin requirements.
Covington’s Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation practice, and individual partners in the practice, are recognized in the following publications:
- The Best Lawyers in America
- Chambers USA - America’s Leading Business Lawyers
- Legal 500 US
- U.S. News and World Report
- Super Lawyers
- Lawdragon and Human Resources Executive, Nation’s Most Powerful Employment Attorneys
- PLC Which Lawyer?