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Pension Plan Investments 2020: Current Perspectives

Speaker(s): Adrienne A. Scerbak, Andrew L. Oringer, Beth J. Dickstein, Christina Y. Lee, David C. Olstein, David M. Cohen, Erika Gosker, Erin K. Cho, James S. Frazier, Jennifer A. Neilsson, Linda J. Haynes, Mary E. Alcock, Michael B. Richman, Michelle C. Yau, Patricia Anne Kuhn, Patrick S. Menasco, Shannon Barrett, Suzzanne Yao, Veronica M. Wissel, William E. Ryan III
Recorded on: Oct. 13, 2020
PLI Program #: 278990

Adrienne Scerbak is an experienced ERISA attorney whose practice is focused on Title I of ERISA and the investment and management of employee benefit plan assets.

She advises equity, real estate, and hedge funds, collective investment trusts and financial institutions on ERISA's fiduciary rules and the prohibited transaction rules under both ERISA and related regulations under Section 4975 of the Internal Revenue Code.

She counsels fund clients on achieving and maintaining "operating company" status under the plan assets regulation or restricting benefit plan investor interests so that funds are not deemed to be "plan assets" under ERISA. She has also advised pension plan fiduciaries on their duties under ERISA, particularly with respect to alternative investments.


Andrew L. Oringer is a partner and the co-chair of the Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Group at Dechert LLP.  He is the co-chair of the Employee Benefits Committee of the American Bar Association’s Business Section, Emerging Issues Coordinator of the Employee Benefits Committee of the American Bar Association’s Section of Taxation and chair of the New York State Bar Association Committee on Attorney Professionalism.  Mr. Oringer is a charter member of the Practical Law Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Advisory Board and was a long-standing member of the Advisory Board for the Bloomberg BNA Benefits Resource Practice Center and for the Tax Management Compensation Planning Journal.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel, a Senior Fellow from Practice for the Regulatory Compliance Association and an adjunct professor at the Maurice A. Deane Law School at Hofstra University.  He is co-editor of a leading treatise on ERISA fiduciary law and has authored two of its chapters, and has authored a chapter in a leading treatise on the taxation of nonqualified deferred compensation and.  Mr. Oringer is highly rated by a number of key ranking organizations, has been repeatedly included in a widely disseminated list of the Top 100 lawyers in New York City across all practice areas and is a member of The Legal 500 Hall of Fame.

Beth J. Dickstein is a partner in Sidley’s Chicago office and is co-leader of the firm’s global Employee Benefits practice area. Beth regularly advises pension plan investors, as well as investment managers, regarding legal issues relating to various investment products, including the product’s fee arrangements and related party transactions. This has involved significant analysis of the fiduciary duty and prohibited transaction provisions of ERISA. Beth focuses on assisting investment managers, insurance companies and other financial institutions with structuring different types of alternative investment vehicles to be offered to ERISA plans, including hedge funds, private equity funds, real estate funds and bank collective investment trusts. Beth has prepared ERISA compliance procedures for investment managers, has performed “mock” Department of Labor fiduciary audits and has trained investment managers and plan investment committees regarding their fiduciary responsibilities under ERISA. She has advised clients regarding the structuring of administrative and investment committees of pension, 401(k) and 403(b) plans and regularly assists pension investment staff and pension investment committees with legal review of proposed investments and the drafting and negotiation of investment management agreements, consulting agreements, recordkeeping agreements and other service provider contracts. In addition, Beth provides support to the firm’s litigators in ERISA fiduciary duty and 401(k) fee lawsuits.

Beth represents numerous companies in the establishment and administration of pension, profit sharing and 401(k) plans. She also advises clients with respect to multiemployer plan matters generally and in connection with plant shutdowns and audit requests. Her practice also focuses on employee benefit issues arising in connection with mergers, acquisitions and financings.

As a representative to the firm’s retirement plans committee, Beth is involved in the legal analysis relating to the evaluation and selection of investments made by the firm’s retirement plans committee. She is recognized as a leading lawyer in the 2010–2018 editions of Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business and is listed as “Lawyer of the Year" in The Best Lawyers in America 2014 for Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law. She is also recommended in The Legal 500 US 2013–2017 for employee benefits and executive compensation. Beth is a past chair of the Employee Benefits Committee of the Business Law Section of the American Bar Association and is co-author of the BNA Tax Management Portfolio titled “Qualified Plans – Investments.” She is active in the Business Law Section of the American Bar Association and is a representative to the American Bar Association Joint Committee on Employee Benefits. In the state of Illinois, Beth became a Certified Public Accountant in 1985.

Christina is lead ERISA counsel for the institutional broker dealer and the asset management businesses of Morgan Stanley.  Prior to joining Morgan Stanley in 2011, Ms. Lee was an attorney at Allen & Overy LLP, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP and Proskauer Rose LLP, representing clients in all aspects of employee benefits and executive compensation.  

Christina received her JD from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, where she was an editor of the Law Review and a Bachelor of Science, with distinction, from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Ms. Lee is admitted to practice in New York.

David C. Olstein is partner in the Employee Benefits, Executive Compensation and ERISA Group at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP.  His practice focuses on the fiduciary responsibility provisions of ERISA and the prohibited transaction excise tax provisions of the Internal Revenue Code. He has an extensive background advising financial institutions, plan sponsors, and investment committees on ERISA matters, including compliance with ERISA’s fiduciary duty and prohibited transaction rules in connection with the investment of pension plan assets.  He also advises high net worth individuals in connection with the investment of IRA assets.

David regularly advises fund sponsors on the application of ERISA’s “plan asset” rules as they relate to the establishment and operation of private investment funds. From representing issuers and underwriters in connection with marketing securities to investors, to advising plan sponsors and independent fiduciaries in connection with the selection of annuity providers, David offers substantial experience at the intersection of ERISA and fiduciary responsibility.

David is an active member of the American Bar Association’s Section of Taxation and the New York City Bar Association’s Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Committee. He is also a contributing author to the BNA treatise ERISA Fiduciary Law, and has authored or co-authored articles that have been published in the Employee Relations Law Journal, Employee Benefit News and Thompson Reuters Practitioner Insights.

David Cohen, a partner in the New York office of Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP (SRZ), specializes in matters related to fiduciary responsibility, ERISA and qualified plans.

David received his J.D. from The George Washington University Law School and his B.A. from Columbia University. Prior to joining SRZ, David held positions in both the private sector (as vice president and assistant general counsel of a major investment firm) and in government service (with the Department of Labor Employee Benefits Security Administration’s Divisions of Regulatory Coordination and Exemptions).

David speaks and writes widely on ERISA and benefit fund-related issues, including authoring ERISA compliance guides for broker-dealers for Practising Law Institute and presenting on “Handling ERISA Issues When Managing a Plan Asset Look-Through Fund” for a Financial Research Associates Hedge Fund Tax, Accounting and Administration Master Class and on “Fund Formation Issues,” “Current Topics in Private Equity and Alternative Investments” and “Current Fiduciary Issues” for recent Practising Law Institute Pension Plan Investments and ERISA Plans in the Financial Markets conferences. In recognition of his accomplishments, he was selected for inclusion in New York Super Lawyers, a listing of outstanding attorneys in the New York metro area, Chambers USA and The Best Lawyers in America.

Erika Gosker is a partner in Mayer Brown's Chicago office and a member of the ERISA Fiduciary and Fund Formation & Investment Management practices. She has a particular focus in the pension investment area, representing sponsors of private real estate funds that are offered to institutional investors.  In these matters she handles the ERISA aspects of the structuring and formation of the fund, including negotiating with the prospective investors regarding their ERISA-related comments to the fund documents. Erika also helps the fund sponsors to structure the underlying investments of the fund so that the fund may rely on these investments to qualify for exceptions to holding plan assets under ERISA.

Erika's other areas of ERISA counsel include assisting investment managers with ERISA fiduciary matters and compliance procedures, and advising clients on ERISA issues relating to securitizations.

Erika graduated magna cum laude from the University of Illinois College of Law in 1999.

Erin K. Cho is a partner in the Employment & Benefits Group at Mayer Brown focusing on ERISA Title I fiduciary matters. Erin has extensive experience advising financial institutions, asset managers, insurance companies and other retirement plan service providers with respect to the many and varied services and financial products (including complex structured products and derivatives) they offer to U.S. pension plans. She counsels hedge funds and private equity clients on the consequences of accepting investments by benefit plan investors, as well as plan assets and prohibited transaction concerns arising in connection with venture capital investments and corporate transactions.

She counsels plan sponsors on all aspects of ERISA fiduciary compliance, including plan governance, plan expense issues, and the selection and monitoring of plan investment options. Erin also represents clients in connection with audits and investigations as well as advisory opinion and exemption requests before the Department of Labor. Erin regularly writes on pension investment matters for a variety of publications. She is a frequent speaker on ERISA matters and is the co-chair of the Practising Law Institute’s annual conference, “ERISA: The Evolving World.”

Erin received her J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School and her B.A. Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude from Yale University.

James Frazier focuses his practice in the area of ERISA and employee benefits. A large part of his practice is devoted to advising clients with respect to the application of ERISA's fiduciary standards and prohibited transaction provisions to their activities in transactional and regulatory matters.

James regularly advises financial services firms with respect to the structuring of investment vehicles and other investment products, including complex structured products and derivatives, offered to employee benefit plans and entities deemed to hold the assets of such plans. He routinely advises financial services firms in connection with the provision of services, such as investment management and brokerage services, to such plans or entities. James also advises clients regarding issues that arise under ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code in the context of corporate transactions. He also routinely represents clients before the U.S. Department of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration.

Recognized by Chambers USA as a leading lawyer, James was praised for his ERISA experience and clients noted that he "is thoughtful, has a great practical approach and is very helpful in giving us a sense of where we are in the pack." James has also been recognized in Best Lawyers in America as one of the nation's leading lawyers in ERISA law.

Prior to entering private practice, James was a Pension Law Specialist with the U.S. Department of Labor, where he spent extensive time working with the fiduciary provisions found in, and prohibited transaction exemptions issued under, Title I of ERISA.

James received his J.D., cum laude, from the University of Arkansas School of Law, and an LL.M. in Taxation and Certificate in Employee Benefits Law, as well as an LL.M. in Labor Law, with distinction, from the Georgetown University Law Center. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina. He is admitted to practice in New York and North Carolina.

Jennifer Neilsson is Senior Counsel in the Firm’s New York office. Jennifer focuses her practice on assisting the Firm’s private fund clients with issues related to ERISA Title I. Specifically, she focuses on ERISA issues that arise in connection with the structuring and operation of private funds, investor negotiations in connection with fund raising activities, and ongoing compliance.  She has in-depth knowledge assisting private funds avoid being subject to the fiduciary obligations arising under ERISA by complying with the “venture capital operating companies”, “real estate operating companies”, or “25% test” exceptions under the plan asset regulation.

Additionally, Jennifer assists clients with identifying issues arising under, and in compliance with, the Internal Revenue Code, ERISA and applicable regulatory requirements related to retirement plans and executive compensation arrangements. She is well-versed in drafting plan documents, plan amendments, participant communication and helping clients navigate retirement plan corrections and Internal Revenue Service and Department of Labor audits.

Prior to joining Simpson Thacher, Jennifer was a partner at another international law firm. Jennifer received her LL.M. in taxation from New York University School of Law, her J.D. from Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law and her B.S. in Accounting from Butler University. She is admitted to practice in Illinois and Massachusetts. Jennifer is a frequent speaker at conferences and panels on ERISA Title I and private equity matters.

Mary E. Alcock is counsel based in the New York office.

Ms. Alcock’s practice focuses on employee benefits and executive compensation matters, including design and regulatory compliance. She regularly counsels financial institutions on the issues arising under pension and tax laws with respect to their many and varied interactions with pension funds. Ms. Alcock also advises clients on corporate governance issues as well as on disclosure issues relating to compensation matters.

Ms. Alcock is recognized as a leading employee benefits lawyer by Chambers USA, The Best Lawyers in America and The Legal 500 U.S.

Ms. Alcock joined the firm in 1993 and became counsel in 2002. She received a J.D. degree in 1993 from Yale Law School and an undergraduate degree, summa cum laude, in 1988 from Yale University.

Ms. Alcock is a member of the New York State Bar.

Michael B. Richman is a partner in Morgan Lewis's Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Practice. His principal focus is on matters under the ERISA fiduciary responsibility rules. He advises plan sponsors on investment matters for defined benefit and defined contribution plans, and also counsels banks, investment advisers and broker-dealers on ERISA compliance for ERISA plan separately managed accounts, collective investment funds, private funds and other arrangements. In addition, he counsels clients on fiduciary governance of ERISA plans, prohibited transaction issues in proposed transactions and transactions under government investigation, and preparing requests to the U.S. Department of Labor for prohibited transaction exemptions and advisory opinions.  His practice also includes advising IRA custodians on permissible IRA investments and investment restrictions.

Prior to joining Morgan Lewis, Mr. Richman was counsel in the employee benefits and investment management groups at Reed Smith LLP.

Mr. Richman earned his J.D. from Columbia University School of Law in 1988, where he was managing editor for the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law. He earned his A.B., magna cum laude, in history from Princeton University in 1985.

Mr. Richman has authored or co-authored a number of articles on ERISA issues. In addition, he is the co-author of the book ERISA Class Exemptions and of chapters on the ERISA class exemptions and trustee responsibility in the book ERISA Fiduciary Law.

Mr. Richman is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and Maryland and before the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

Michelle C. Yau is the Chair of the ERISA/Employee Benefits practice group at Cohen Milstein Sellers and Toll, PLLC.  Ms. Yau specializes in fiduciary breach cases involving complex financial transactions or products.  Ms. Yau has a passion for finance and its application to ERISA litigation.  She successfully represented a class of participants, in In re Beacon Assoc. Litig., 09 Civ. 0777 (S.D.N.Y.), which, along with other consolidated case, settled for $219 million, representing 70% of the Class members’ out-of-pocket losses.  Ms. Yau also represented ERISA participants in Thole v. U.S. Bank, which reached the United States Supreme Court.  She represents participants in BlackRock’s 401(k) Plan for ERISA violations of the Plan’s fiduciaries, by offering primarily BlackRock funds on the Plan’s fund menu.

Prior to joining the firm, Ms. Yau was in the Honors Program of the Department of Labor, where she was responsible for the enforcement and administration of a variety of labor statutes.  Before law school, Ms. Yau worked as a financial analyst at Goldman, Sachs & Co. in the Financial Institutions Group of the Investment Banking Division.  

Ms. Yau received a B.A. in Mathematics (with distinction, 1997) from the University of Virginia, where she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Mu Epsilon (mathematics honors).  Ms. Yau received her law degree from Harvard Law School in 2003, where she was awarded several public interest fellowships, including the Heyman Fellowship for academic excellence and a demonstrated commitment to federal public service. 

Mr. Ryan is President and Chief Fiduciary Officer of Newport Trust Company, and served as President and Chief Fiduciary Officer of Evercore Trust Company, N.A., prior to the acquisition of Evercore Trust’s institutional trustee and independent fiduciary business by Newport Trust in 2017. Prior to Evercore Trust, Mr. Ryan was with Morgan Stanley, where he was an Executive Director in the Legal and Compliance Division and Head of ERISA Law, responsible for coordinating ERISA and qualified tax issues for Morgan Stanley's Institutional Securities Group (Institutional Brokerage), Morgan Stanley Investment Management (Asset Management), and Morgan Stanley Smith Barney (Retail Brokerage). Prior to joining Morgan Stanley, Mr. Ryan was the Chief ERISA/Benefits Counsel for Prudential Financial, Inc. from 1995 through 2004, handling ERISA-related HR, compensation and product issues for Prudential Insurance, and was in private practice in New York from 1987 through 1995, specializing in ERISA issues. On behalf of various industry groups, Mr. Ryan has met with and testified before the U.S. Department of Labor, the Treasury Department, the White House, and various state regulators on fiduciary and other retirement issues. He has also served on various industry groups, including the SIFMA Retirement Committee (where he served as co-chair from 2010-2013). Mr. Ryan holds an A.B. Degree in History from Princeton University in 1984, a J.D. from Stanford Law School in 1987 (where he was an editor of the Stanford Law Review), and a Masters in Taxation (LL.M.) from New York University School of Law in 1995.

Ms. Wissel is a partner in Davis Polk’s Corporate Department, practicing in the Executive Compensation Group. She advises clients on a variety of compensation-related matters, including the design and implementation of equity, retention and incentive plans, compensation, disclosure and regulatory compliance, and employment negotiations with senior executives, with a particular emphasis on compensation and benefits issues relating to mergers and acquisitions transactions. Additionally, she advises clients with respect to the ERISA aspects of the investment and management of pension plan assets in private funds and other products and arrangements, including hedge funds and private equity funds, and she advises asset managers and broker dealers with respect to the financial products they offer to U.S. pension plans and compliance with ERISA’s fiduciary rules.

Patricia is a member of the bank’s Legal Department. She provides advice and guidance on ERISA, fiduciary and other employee benefit plan and retirement issues to the Global Wealth and Investment Management business.  Her responsibilities include supporting institutional and individual retirement programs and services and non-qualified deferred compensation and equity plans.

Prior to Bank of America, Ms. Kuhn was a Managing Director at BlackRock in Legal and Compliance and a counsel at Shearman & Sterling LLC in the Executive Compensation & Employee Benefits Group.  She advised clients on issues arising under the Title I and Title IV of ERISA and other employee benefit plan and employment issues.

Patricia received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the State University of New York, College at Purchase in 1983, and a Juris Doctor degree from Boston University, cum laude in 1989, and she was a member of law review.

Patrick Menasco is a nationally-recognized ERISA and public plan investment lawyer with 25 years of public and private sector experience.  He enjoys longstanding connections with regulators, a broad technical proficiency in ERISA and public plan regulation, and a gift for blending analysis with insight.  Patrick’s work focuses on investment funds (particularly real estate, transportation and stable value-related strategies), general asset management, bank/broker-dealer netting opinions, derivatives and other capital market transactions, prohibited transaction exemptions, government investigations, and adversarial proceedings.  His clients include major national and international financial institutions.

Patrick is also a frequent lecturer on employee benefit investment issues at the Practising Law Institute in New York and has served as an adjunct professor at the George Washington University Law School for ten years. He is regularly recognized by Chambers USA and The Legal 500 lists of top lawyers for employee benefits and executive compensation.

Shannon Barrett concentrates his practice on ERISA-related litigation and on providing advice relating to Title I of ERISA. He has been involved in litigating a broad range of ERISA matters at both the trial and appellate levels, with a particular focus on fiduciary issues. In addition to his litigation practice, Shannon has assisted clients in responding to regulatory investigations and has counseled clients, including financial institutions and plan sponsors, on ERISA issues such as fiduciary structure, fee disclosure, and compliance with ERISA’s prohibited transaction provisions. Shannon also has advised independent fiduciaries in their representation of employee benefit plans’ rights in connection with ERISA and securities settlements.

Shannon is a frequent thought leader on ERISA-related topics and serves as the co-editor of the ERISA Litigation Reporter. He is recognized by Chambers USA and Legal 500 in the ERISA Litigation (Nationwide) category.

Suzzanne is senior counsel and advises the firm on products and services to ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) plans. She joined Goldman Sachs in 2007 as a vice president in the ERISA and Benefits Group and was named managing director in 2013. Prior to joining the firm, Suzzanne was an associate in the Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Group at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP. Suzzanne earned a BA from Columbia University and a JD from Harvard Law School.

Employers who are responsible for operating large employee benefit plans (including investing the assets of those plans) are subject to constantly evolving, complex rules. Linda counsels clients on fiduciary and governance matters raised by operating such plans, including the formation and operation of plan fiduciary committees with respect to such plans, and assisting fiduciaries of such plans in complying with ERISA and effectively managing risk. She advises clients on the complex and ever-evolving ERISA fiduciary matters that are unfolding and impacting plan fiduciaries.

Linda counsels mid-size to Fortune 500 clients in all elements of employee benefit plans and executive compensation. She regularly counsels public and private clients in connection with the design, development, and ongoing compliance of their employee benefit programs, including qualified and nonqualified retirement plans, health plans, cafeteria plans, and other types of welfare plans.

She has substantial experience in advising employee benefit plan fiduciaries regarding their duties and responsibilities. Linda frequently conducts training for fiduciary committees, including training regarding general fiduciary duties under ERISA, prohibited transactions, and current developments. Linda regularly advises clients regarding fiduciary issues and obligations raised by proposed plan investments. In addition, she counsels clients regarding employee benefit plan investment policies, negotiates investment management agreements, and reviews alternative investment vehicles. Linda works closely with the firm's Employee Benefits Litigation group in cases involving complex ERISA issues, including fiduciary issues and hybrid defined benefit plan issues.

Linda has significant experience in advising clients concerning their defined benefit pension plans, including cash balance and pension equity plans. Linda's practice also includes advising clients on employee benefits and executive compensation issues raised in mergers, acquisitions, and dispositions.

Linda began her practice in employee benefits law as an employee benefit paralegal more than 30 years ago. Counseling clients in this area for that long has given her a detailed understanding of the multitude of real-world problems employer encounter daily when operating employee benefit plans, and how to craft practical solutions that satisfy the business needs of her clients.

At Seyfarth, Linda enjoys having the opportunity to work with the large group of attorneys who practice exclusively in employee benefits—and who enjoy it as much as she does.