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ERISA 2021: The Evolving World


Speaker(s): Alan J. Yurowitz, Ali Khawar, Alicia C. McCarthy, Andrew L. Gaines, Andrew L. Oringer, Arthur H. Kohn, Brita C. Johnson, Christina Y. Lee, Christine L. Keller, Erin K. Cho, Erin Rose Miner, Garrett A. Fenton, Ian L. Levin, James O. Fleckner, Janet M. Lee, Judith R. Rom, Kendra Kosko Isaacson, Lisa J. Bleier, Lois H. Chang, Norma Drelich Mero, Paul R. Koppel, Richard E. Nowak, Sarah E. Downie, Sarah L. Burt, Sarah T. Kanter, Theresa Brunsman, Todd S. Hochman, Vicki D. Blanton, William E. Ryan III
Recorded on: Aug. 3, 2021
PLI Program #: 306764

Alan J. Yurowitz is an attorney in BlackRock’s Legal & Compliance Department and is responsible for ERISA legal and compliance matters.  Alan advises the firm with respect to ERISA’s fiduciary responsibility and prohibited transaction rules in connection with BlackRock’s asset management business.  Prior to joining BlackRock, Alan served as a Corporate Counsel for Prudential Financial where he advised on ERISA issues relating to its asset management business and on compensation and employee benefits matters.  Before Prudential, Alan worked as an associate in the Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation group at Debevoise & Plimpton, advising on the ERISA, tax and securities law aspects of executive compensation and employee benefits.  Alan received his J.D., cum laude, from Rutgers School of Law - Newark.


Alicia C. McCarthy is Counsel in the Executive Compensation and Benefits Department at Wachtell Lipton.  Ms. McCarthy advises clients with respect to executive compensation and employee benefit matters involving mergers and acquisitions, spin-offs, joint ventures, financings, litigation as well as plan compliance.  Her experience includes ERISA’s fiduciary rules and the investment of plan assets with an extensive background representing financial institutions, fund sponsors and ERISA investors.  She also advises on executive compensation matters including performance-based compensation plans, nonqualified pension plans, and employment, severance and change in control agreements.

Ms. McCarthy chairs the Committee of Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York.  She speaks frequently on executive compensation and ERISA topics for the Practicing Law Institute where she co-chairs the ERISA Investment Fiduciary Basics program.  She is the recipient of the Pro Bono Publico Award (2010, 2011 and 2014) for her services to The Legal Aid Society.  She is also recognized in Best Lawyers of America (2012-2021) in Employee Benefits (ERISA) law and New York Super Lawyers (2013-2021).  She recently co-authored the articles “DOL Proposes New Rules Regulating ESG,” The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation (July 7, 2020) and “Sun Capital Redux:  Private Equity and Pension Liability,” The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation (April 5, 2016).

Ms. McCarthy received her B.A. in 1981 from Georgetown University and her J.D. cum laude in 1984 from Brooklyn Law School, where she was a member of the Journal of International Law.


Andrew L. Gaines is a partner in the firm’s Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Group.

Andrew advises employers on all aspects of executive compensation and employee benefit plans and their treatment in corporate transactions and in bankruptcy. He also represents employers and executives in the negotiation of employment and severance agreements. Andrew counsels investment fund sponsors on ERISA issues associated with the formation of private investment funds and the structuring of underlying investments. Andrew also frequently counsels large institutional pension investors on fiduciary issues arising in connection with investing in private investment funds, as well as upper-tier arrangements for their partners and employees.

Andrew has been recognized as a leading individual in Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation by Chambers USA and the Legal 500 for the past seven consecutive years, with clients describing him as “an incredible subject matter expert who is also very practical.” Andrew was named the 2020 “Lawyer of the Year” for Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law (NY) by The Best Lawyers in America, and has been recognized in both the Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law and Tax Law (NY) categories since 2006.

Andrew frequently advises private funds clients and their portfolio companies, including representations of:

  • Apollo Global Management;
  • Ares Management;
  • Chatham Asset Management;
  • CI Capital Partners;
  • Crestview Partners;
  • General Atlantic;
  • KKR;
  • KPS Capital Partners;
  • Oak Hill Advisors;
  • Palladium Equity Partners;
  • PointState Capital;
  • Silver Point Capital; and
  • Wellspring Capital.

Andrew is a frequent writer and lecturer on executive compensation and employee benefits topics.


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.


Arthur Kohn is General Counsel – ERISA, Compensation and Benefits at Citigroup.  Prior to joining Citigroup, Arthur was a partner at Cleary Gottlieb Steen and Hamilton LLP. His practice focused on compensation and benefits matters, including executive compensation, pension compliance and investment, employment law and related matters.

He repeatedly has been recognized for his work on behalf of clients by the business and legal press, including Best Lawyers, which named him its 2014 New York Employee Benefits (ERISA) Lawyer of the Year. He has also been recognized for his work in employee benefits and executive compensation law by Chambers USA, The Legal 500, Super Lawyers of New York and others.

He is frequently invited to speak about executive compensation, taxation and corporate governance matters across the United States. Arthur is an adjunct professor at New York University School of Law and a regular guest lecturer at Columbia Law School.

Arthur received a B.A. from Columbia University and a J.D. from Columbia Law School, where he was admitted into the Accelerated Interdisciplinary Legal Education program, was appointed a Harlan Fiske Scholar and received Phi Beta Kappa honors.


Brita Johnson is the Director of the Office of Ethics and Compliance and Senior Managing Counsel, Employment, Labor and Benefits Law for The Dow Chemical Company at the company’s global headquarters.

In this role, Brita is responsible for leading corporate processes for promoting and ensuring Dow’s compliance with laws and company policies.  This includes oversites of internal complaint reporting and investigations and oversight for company policies and procedures, including Dow’s Code of Conduct.  Brita is also responsible for management for global training programs for compliance-related matters, such as Anti-Bribery and Corruption and Respect and Responsibility policies.  In her role as Senior Managing Counsel, Brita has also responsibility to ensure company compliance with U.S. employment, labor and benefits laws and regulations.                                                                                                                      

Brita is a member of the Legal Leadership Team and provides legal counsel to various company committees, including the Senior Leadership Inclusion Council and the Benefits Governance Finance Committee.  

Prior to joining Dow, Brita was the Practice Group Co-Chair and Special Counsel for the Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation practice group at the law firm of Gray Plant Mooty in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Brita graduated summa cum laude from University of Minnesota Law School and received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from St. Olaf College. Brita currently reports to Amy Wilson, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary.


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.


Christine Keller advises a wide range of clients on all aspects of health and welfare plan design, administration, and funding including compliance with federal tax, ERISA, and other federal and state law requirements, plan and VEBA trust document drafting, participant disclosure, change in election issues, wellness program compliance, and claims and appeals. Her clients include employers, insurers, and service providers of all sizes.

She draws on her prior IRS experience to provide practical advice about risk and to assist clients with obtaining informal guidance and rulings from the IRS and other federal agencies. Christine is actively helping clients understand the ramifications of proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act and frequently speaks to clients and professional groups on that topic.

Christine joined the firm in 2001 after practicing for six years at the IRS, Office of Chief Counsel (Tax-Exempt and Government Entities Division). At the Office of Chief Counsel, Christine worked first in the qualified plans litigation branch and later in the health and welfare branch. She is one of the principal authors of two sets of final cafeteria plan regulations published by the IRS in 2000 and 2001.

Christine served on the firm’s Executive Committee from 2016-2020.

 


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 Practicing 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.


Erin Rose Miner is Director at Credit Suisse in New York heading the US regulatory compensation group as well as providing Executive Compensation coverage in the Americas.  Ms. Miner ensures the bank’s compensation plans and programs comply with US regulatory expectations as well as manages the execution of the compensation plans for employees based in the Americas. Ms. Miner received her undergraduate degree in Finance from the University of Maryland, College Park and received her law degree from New York Law School.


Garrett Fenton is a Senior Corporate Counsel in Microsoft’s Corporate Legal Group who specializes in all aspects of employee welfare and retirement benefits, executive compensation, and HIPAA compliance.

Garrett received his undergraduate degree from the University of Washington, his Juris Doctor degree (magna cum laude) from Southwestern University School of Law, and his LL.M. in Taxation (magna cum laude) from the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law. Prior to joining Microsoft in 2017, Garrett was an equity partner at Miller & Chevalier Chartered in Washington, D.C., where he assisted primarily large employers and insurers with a broad range of employee benefits, executive compensation, and tax issues.

Garrett is a frequent speaker on employee benefits matters, and has authored and co-authored numerous articles and treatises as well. He also serves on the Boards of Directors of the ERISA Industry Committee and the In-House Benefits Counsel Network.


Ian L. Levin is a partner in Schulte Roth & Zabel’s M&A and Securities Group. Ian’s practice covers a broad range of executive compensation and employee benefits matters, including the associated tax, securities, corporate, employment and labor issues. Ian’s practice routinely involves:

  • Advising private and public companies, in particular private equity sponsors, regarding executive compensation and employee benefits issues arising in mergers and acquisitions, initial public offerings, joint ventures and other transactions
  • Representing executives and management teams in negotiating employment and incentive compensation, particularly in connection with corporate transactions
  • Advising clients as to the design and establishment of virtually all types of executive compensation, equity, deferred compensation and other benefit arrangements
  • Advising companies and their boards regarding governance and disclosure requirements
  • Representing lenders and borrowers in various corporate financing transactions
  • Structuring private equity and hedge funds and other investments in compliance with ERISA

Ian has been recognized as a leading employee benefits attorney by Chambers USA, The Legal 500 US, New York Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers. Chambers USA describes Ian as “highly experienced in advising clients on the benefit and executive compensation issues associated with various business transactions” and noted that clients regard Ian as “very proactive” and “an excellent lawyer with strong technical knowledge.” The Legal 500 US has noted that he “operates at a very high level across many areas, but brings a particularly unique set of skills to ERISA Title I matters in his representation of private investment funds.”

Ian serves as a member on the Advisory Board and as chair of the Center for Transactional Law and Practice Advisory Board at the Emory University School of Law. He also serves as an adjunct professor at New York Law School.


Jamie Fleckner is a partner in Goodwin’s Complex Business Litigation & Dispute Resolution practice focusing on the financial industry, and Chair of its ERISA Litigation practice. Mr. Fleckner represents clients in a wide array of complex commercial litigation, with a focus on financial services and products, including investment management. He regularly litigates class and derivative actions under ERISA, the Investment Company Act of 1940, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and related federal and state laws. His practice also focuses on regulatory investigations and governmental proceedings, and has represented clients before the U.S. Department of Labor, Securities and Exchange Commission, Department of Justice, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation and state authorities.

Mr. Fleckner has been recognized across the industry. Mr. Fleckner was named by BTI a “Client Service All-Star for 2020.” In 2019, Mr. Fleckner was recognized by Law 360 as an MVP in ERISA Litigation. His success in litigating cutting edge legal issues has been profiled in The American Lawyer’s Big Suits and Litigator of the Week features. According to Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business where Mr. Fleckner has been selected for inclusion since 2014, Mr. Fleckner is “at the top of his game,” and is “a rare thought leader” on ERISA litigation. Since 2015, he has been recognized as a leading lawyer in the list of Who’s Who Legal: Pensions and Benefits.


Janet  is Senior Legal Director and advises the firm on products and services to individual retirement accounts and ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) plans. Janet also advises the firm on executive compensation and employee benefit matters. Prior to joining Goldman Sachs in 2006, Janet was an associate in the Benefits and Compensation group at Latham & Watkins LLP and an associate in the Executive Compensation group at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP. Janet is a graduate of Amherst College and Harvard Law School.


Kendra Kosko Isaacson serves as Senior Pensions Counsel to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, where she advises Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and other committee members on ERISA and all retirement-related issues. She is also a member of the Committee’s Oversight Team where she assists with nominations and financial conflicts of interest.  Kendra also advises Senator Murray on all tax-related matters.

Kendra received her B.A. in Government from Dartmouth College, a J.D., with honors, from the Catholic University Columbus School of Law, and an LL.M in Taxation with a certificate in Employee Benefits from the Georgetown University Law Center.  After law school, Kendra was an Associate with Slevin & Hart, P.C. and also with Venable LLP in Washington, DC. Before joining the HELP Committee, Kendra worked in the Employee Benefits Security Administration at the Department of Labor where she worked in the Office of Policy and Research. 

Kendra speaks frequently on retirement policy.


Lisa J. Bleier is Managing Director and Associate General Counsel at SIFMA, and head of the Private Client, Retirement & State Government Affairs teams. In this capacity, she supervises and coordinates SIFMA’s outreach to members of Congress and government regulators on retirement and senior investor matters, as well as managing the teams engaged in state issues and retail issues.

Ms. Bleier is also on the Board of the NAPSA National Institute on Elder Financial Exploitation, Co-Chair SIFMA’s Senior Investor Protection Initiative, and the Co-Chair of the American Bar Association Section on Taxation Employee Benefits Legislation and Litigation Subcommittee.  In addition, she is on the planning board for the National Aging and Legal Conference.  She has testified on retirement plan matters in Oregon and Connecticut.  Further, she has testified on ERISA fiduciary matters in Nevada and Maryland.

Ms. Bleier has been published in Trust & Investment Magazine, having authored “Overhauling ERISA for Today’s Marketplace,” and “The State of Play for Today’s Directed Trustee.” 

Previously, Ms. Bleier held positions with the American Bankers Association, the American Society of Pension Actuaries, and Congresswoman Marge Roukema of NJ.

Ms. Bleier holds a J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and a B.A. from the University of Michigan.


Lois H. Chang is a partner at a San Francisco based-firm, Neyhart Anderson, Flynn & Grosboll APC specializing in ERISA employee-benefits law.

Lois received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 2017. She received a Juris Doctorate from the Golden Gate University School of Law in 2011. Before joining Neyhart, Anderson, Flynn & Grosboll APC in 2013, she worked as a Benefits Advisor and subsequently as an Investigator for the United States Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration in San Francisco.   During law school she was also an intern at the U.S. Department of Labor primarily reviewing and processing applications through the Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program.

Lois practices union-side labor law specializing in employee benefits law, including Taft-Hartley Trust Funds and public employee benefit plans.  Lois' expertise is in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and other areas of Federal law relating to employee benefit plans.  She also does ERISA collection work, subrogation/third party liability, withdrawal liability, Qualified Domestic Relations Orders, benefits compliance, litigation for union trust funds and as well as representing workers compensation alternate dispute resolution programs. 

Lois has also been a contributing author to the Employee Benefits Law supplement for the Employee Benefits Committee of the Labor and Employment Section of the American Bar Association.  Lois is also a member of the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee and volunteer attorney for the Bar Association of San Francisco’s Volunteer Legal Services Program. 


Mr. Khawar was named Acting Assistant Secretary on March 25, 2021. Mr. Khawar was sworn in on January 20, 2021 as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Employee Benefits Security Administration. He has extensive government experience, and has previously served in a variety of roles at the Department, including as an EBSA investigator, in EBSA’s Office of Enforcement, as EBSA’s Chief of Staff in two Administrations, and as a Counselor to the 26th Secretary of Labor, Thomas E. Perez. Mr. Khawar has a bachelor’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University and a law degree from Emory University School of Law.


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.


Norma is an Assistant General Counsel at Warner Media Group, LLC (formerly known as Time Warner Inc.).  She is an employee benefits lawyer responsible for Time Warner employee benefit plans, including the 401(k), pension plan, excess and deferred compensation plans, health and welfare benefits, COBRA, HIPAA etc.  In addition, she provides fiduciary advice to the Investment Committee and acts as a liaison to the Administrative Committee.  Norma works closely with Corporate Benefits, divisional benefit departments and collaborates with other attorneys within the legal department on contracts, litigation and securities matters.

Prior to joining WarnerMedia almost 16 years ago, Norma practiced employee benefits law at Morgan Lewis & Bockius in New York and Washington D.C.  Before that, she worked as a senior tax consultant in the Compensation and Benefits practice at KPMG, and Deloitte Touche.  She received a JD/MBA from Emory University and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.

Norma is a co-founder and board member of the Charity Chess Championship, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to raising money for charitable causes.  2019 was the third year of the charity and 100% of all net proceeds from the chess event will be donated to the David M. Rubenstein Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to fund research for the early detection and prevention of pancreatic cancer.

Norma lives in New York City with her husband and son, a chess aficionado.


Paul Koppel is the Firm’s Head of ERISA. He regularly advises clients regarding a broad range of ERISA and executive compensation matters, including ERISA issues for alternative investment funds and financial institutions, advising fund sponsors on the application of ERISA to funds that include retirement plan investments and advising private equity funds and hedge funds on the issues that arise in connection with pension plan investors, and advising on compliance with ERISA’s fiduciary requirements when ERISA plan assets are being managed.

Paul has represented clients before federal government agencies, including the Department of Labor, the SEC, the IRS and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

Paul received his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and his B.A. from Cornell University. He is admitted to practice in New York.


Richard (“Rick”) Nowak is a Litigation & Dispute Resolution partner in Mayer Brown’s Chicago office.  He is an experienced trial attorney in state and federal court and also represents clients in arbitrations, mediations, and governmental and internal investigations.  Rick’s practice focuses on complex ERISA fiduciary and benefits litigation and employment litigation and counseling.  In 2020, Rick was named a Benefits “Rising Star” by Law360, which is a highly-selective honor given to “attorneys under 40 whose legal accomplishments transcend their age.”

Rick actively counsels and represents benefit plans, plan sponsors, plan fiduciaries against claims relating to defined contribution (401(k) and 403(b)) plans, defined benefit plans, severance plans, top hat plans, and health plans under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).  In addition, Rick actively represents clients in ERISA class actions alleging excessive fees, imprudent investments, and other claims relating to the administration of plan assets and fiduciary responsibilities.  Rick also has specific experience relating to employee stock ownership plans (ESOP), representing plan sponsors and other interested parties in litigation and investigations relating to ESOP transactions. 

Rick also counsels and represents employers on employment matters, including disputes involving the Fair Labor Standards Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and National Labor Relations Act, among others.  Rick’s experience includes handling charges, investigations, and complaints brought by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and related state agencies.  Rick also works closely with employer clients to develop policies and procedures on issues relating to employee classification, confidentiality and non-compete agreements, whistleblowing, harassment and discrimination, employee monitoring, employee privacy, and employee social media activity, among others. 

Rick also has experience representing clients in antitrust investigations and litigation, including a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) grand jury investigation and a multi-district class action litigation.  

Prior to joining Mayer Brown, Rick was an attorney for the City of Chicago’s Department of Law, where he defended the City and its employees against constitutional and other civil rights claims in state and federal court.



Sarah is an attorney at Trucker Huss, in the Bay Area, who focuses her practice primarily on health and welfare plans (both single employer and multiemployer).  Her experience includes assisting clients in compliance with the various federal and state laws applicable to health and welfare plans, such as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), ERISA, the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), the Public Health Service Act, HIPAA, COBRA, FMLA and Medicare.

Prior to joining Trucker Huss, Sarah practiced employee benefits and labor law at two prominent labor law firms located in Oakland, California and Washington, D.C.  She received her J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School, and her B.A. from the University of Washington in English Literature.  She has lived abroad in Germany, the Czech Republic and Bangladesh.

Sarah regularly gives presentations on employee benefits matters to clients and professional organizations.  She currently serves as a Chapter Editor for the BNA Employee Benefits Law treatise, as well as Editor of the newsletter for the San Francisco Chapter of the Western Pension & Benefits Council (WP&BC).  In addition, Sarah is also involved in many other professional organizations including the American Bar Association, the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, the Queen’s Bench Bar Association and the ABA Health Law Section’s Cancer Legal Advocacy Group.  Since 2017, Sarah has been selected as a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers magazine.

When not working, Sarah enjoys wine tasting, cooking, and traveling. 

 


Sarah Burt is the Chief Legal Officer for the ERISA/Benefits team at Prudential Financial and leads a team of attorneys who provide advice to the businesses and human resources on ERISA, Internal Revenue Code, and other laws affecting benefit plans and IRAs. 

On a daily basis, Sarah and her team provide advice on a wide range of ERISA and Internal Revenue Code issues including, but not limited to, prohibited transaction exemptions, fiduciary requirements, and fund structure.  In addition, Sarah and her team provide advice on welfare, wellness, pension, severance, and deferred compensation plans.  Sarah’s clients include the Prudential businesses that sell products and services to ERISA plans and IRAs including Prudential’s broker-dealers, asset managers, and insurance companies. Sarah is also the lead lawyer for the Investment Oversight Committee of Prudential’s company plans.

Sarah joined Prudential in 2007 as a Director, Corporate Counsel.  After holding a number of positions within Prudential’s ERISA/Benefits team, Sarah become Chief Legal Officer for the ERISA/Benefits team in 2018. Before joining Prudential’s Law Department in 2007, Sarah was an attorney in Proskauer Rose LLP’s Employee Benefits Practice Group.  While at Proskauer, Sarah primarily provided ERISA and Internal Revenue Code advice to multi-employer pension and welfare plans (i.e., Taft-Hartley plans).

Sarah graduated cum laude from Cornell Law School.  She received her undergraduate degree from the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University. 

 


Sarah Downie is an Executive Compensation & Benefits partner in Weil’s Tax Department and is based in New York. Ms. Downie advises clients on all aspects of compensation and employee benefits.

Ms. Downie has extensive experience in the executive compensation and employee benefits aspects of mergers, acquisitions and financings. She represents senior executives and companies in the negotiation and drafting of employment and severance agreements. She also advises as to the design and operation of executive and employee benefit arrangements including equity compensation and cash incentive plans, change in control and retention arrangements and nonqualified deferred compensation plans. In addition, Ms. Downie regularly advises employers on the design and operation of tax-qualified retirement plans, including 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans and 457(b) plans, as well as health and welfare benefit plans.

Ms. Downie advises clients on pension plan investment and compliance with ERISA’s fiduciary obligations and prohibited transaction rules. She regularly counsels private fund sponsors in connection with ERISA’s “plan asset” regulations and with VCOC, REOC and similar issues.

Ms. Downie is recognized for Employee Benefits by Super Lawyers and has been recommended for Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation by Legal 500 US. She served as Chair of the New York City Bar Association’s Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Committee and is a member of the Steering Committee of the New York Chapter of Worldwide Employee Benefits Network.


Theresa Brunsman serves as Vice President and Associate General Counsel at Nuveen, spending most of her time on legal issues related to ERISA, derivatives, collective investment trusts and regulatory changes related to those areas.

Prior to her current role, she worked at Aegon Asset Management providing similar services, and prior to that at Invesco, where she provided compliance support and, subsequently, legal support focused primarily on the stable value program and Invesco’s collective trust business, as well as CFTC and other regulatory issues.

Prior to Invesco, she served as internal counsel to various life insurance companies in Cincinnati, Ohio, working on affiliated adviser issues, commercial real estate mortgage transactions and variable annuity and variable life products. Her legal career started in Cincinnati law firms where she helped close bond deals for non-profit health care institutions, provided general corporate advice, and handled probate, residential real estate and family law matters.

In her spare time, she likes to read, quilt, garden, write and perform in plays, write song parodies about the financial services industry and visit the gravesites of US Presidents.

She has over 20 years of experience providing in-house legal counsel to firms in the financial services sector.  She received her BA in foreign affairs from the University of Cincinnati and her JD from George Washington University.


Todd Hochman is a Director and Associate General Counsel at Citigroup Inc.  Todd provides advice regarding ERISA, the Internal Revenue Code and other applicable laws and regulations, with respect to retirement products and services offered by Citi’s retail businesses. Prior joining Citi, Todd was an in-house ERISA counsel at Raymond James Financial Inc., and before that, spent eleven years in ERISA and retirement compliance roles at Prudential Financial.

Todd began his career as an ERISA associate at the law firms of Hayt, Hayt & Landau and Todtman, Epstein, Young, Goldstein & Tunick, before moving into benefits consulting at Godwins Inc. (now part of Aon), and then fiduciary liability insurance claims at American International Group, Inc.  Prior to attending law school, Todd performed actuarial work for the New York State Insurance Department (now the New York State Department of Financial Services).

Todd received his J.D. from St. John’s University School of Law and his B.S. from Stony Brook University, double majoring in Applied Mathematics and Statistics and Economics.


Vicki D. Blanton, Assistant Vice President – Senior Legal Counsel for AT&T Inc., provides legal advice and counsel in her primary areas of responsibility, which include the defined benefit plans (approx. $52B in assets), the 401(k) savings plans (approx. $56B), severance plans, ERISA litigation SME, and as Assistant Secretary of the AT&T Federal PAC. Vicki currently serves as the Chair of the Board of the Dallas Bar Association with over 11,000 voluntary members, having formerly been elected as a Board Member-at-Large, Secretary/Treasurer and Vice Chair. Vicki’s other philanthropic and charitable endeavors include serving as a Founding Member of the Village Giving Circle of the Texas Women’s Foundation; a board member for the American Red Cross North Texas Chapter and Secretary/Treasurer to the DBA Community Service Fund Board. Vicki also served as the Nominating Co-Chair for District 6 of the Texas Bar Foundation, and Past Chair of the J.L. Turner Legal Association Foundation Board and Co-Chair of the record-setting Equal Access to Justice campaign for Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas. The J.L. Turner Legal Association won accolades from the State Bar of Texas and the National Bar Association during her presidency in 2007. She has received individual recognition with Presidential Awards from the National Bar Association, the State Bar of Texas and the Dallas Bar Association. Named as the 2020 TMCP Corporate Counsel of the Year for the State Bar of Texas, an Outstanding Corporate Counsel of the Year for the Women Lawyers’ Division of the National Bar Association and a Best Lawyer by Dallas Business Journal, D Magazine, and Eclipse Magazine, Vicki is an American Fellow of the German Marshall Memorial Fund and was a Barrister in the American Inns of Court. Vicki is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She earned a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin, a Juris Doctorate from Southern Methodist University School of Law, and a Certificate of Study at Georgetown University’s Executive Development Program at the London School of Economics. Vicki has 2 daughters, a 2017 alumna of Howard University and a 2018 alumna of the University of Missouri at Columbia (MIZZOU). Vicki is a frequently invited speaker on various topics including benefits and executive compensation, diversity and professional development. Her favorite discussion point, the gender wage gap, addresses the intersectionality of those diverse subjects.


Judith Rom heads the Legal Department at DWS (Deutsche Bank’s Asset Management division) in the Americas. She was previously head of Legal for Wealth Management & Asset Management Americas at Deutsche Bank and also worked at Zurich Scudder Investments.  

Prior to working in-house, Ms. Rom was a lawyer at the law firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell. She received her J.D. from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, where she was the Managing Editor of the Law Review, and her B.A. from Columbia University.  She is a member of the State Bar of New York.