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Applying ERISA Fiduciary Rules to Health Plans, Services and Products 2019

Speaker(s): Benjamin J. Conley, Brian J. Lamb, Chantel Sheaks, Darren Cohen, Erin Turley, Howard Pianko, Jennifer A. Kraft, Karen L. Handorf, Kathleen M. Emberger, Kirstin Poirier-Whitley, Laura Miller Andrew, Roberta Casper Watson, Sruthi Mylavarapu, CFA
Recorded on: Jan. 15, 2019
PLI Program #: 248468

Ben Conley is a partner in Seyfarth’s Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Department in Chicago. He counsels clients on qualified retirement plans, health and welfare plans, and executive compensation. He regularly advises clients on defined benefit and defined contribution plan compliance, including corrections for plan operational errors. 

Ben assists clients in drafting plan documents, plan amendments, and participant communications. He also advises clients on health & welfare plan compliance, including medical and dental plans, cafeteria plans, flexible spending accounts and dependent care spending accounts. Ben counsels clients on plan design decisions relating to COBRA, HIPAA privacy regulations, and health care reform legislation.

Ben serves on the Advisory Board of the Health Care Reform Center & Policy Institute, a newly formed national “think tank” made up of the nation’s leading lawyers, consultants, government representatives and state insurance agents to influence the development of new rules and regulations under Health Care Reform. Ben is a member of the firm's Health Care Reform Team. This cross-departmental team of lawyers was formed to focus on how health care reform will affect our clients. Ben started closely following health care reform well before it was passed into law. He regularly consults with governmental agencies on health care reform developments and has submitted comments on health care reform interim regulations on behalf of clients. Ben has presented extensively on health care reform and what it means for businesses, including leading the Healthcare Reform Certification Program offered by the Employer Healthcare Congress.

Ben also serves on the Steering Committee for the Worldwide Employee Benefits Network - Chicago Western Suburbs. He has written articles concerning health care reform legislation, employer wellness programs, fiduciary responsibilities, claims review procedures and retiree medical benefits.

Ben is recognized as a Recommended Attorney for Employee Benefits, Executive Compensation and Retirement Plans Design by The Legal 500 (2020 and 2021), and is listed in Best Lawyers in America for Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law. He contributes regularly to Seyfarth’s employee benefits blog, Beneficially Yours.

Prior to joining Seyfarth, Ben was a lead articles editor for the Washington & Lee University Law Review.

Brian represents companies and their directors and officers in complex business disputes, including ERISA litigation, fiduciary duty litigation, and M&A litigation.  Brian has deep experience representing banks in disputes with customers, vendors, and other counterparties involving financial transactions, including check-kiting and other forms of bank fraud.  His 2021 articles and presentations include topics on actuarial assumptions litigation, target date fund litigation issues, the BCBS antitrust litigation settlement, and the use of brokerage windows in individual retirement account plans.

Brian is the leader of the firm’s Business Litigation practice group, which has over 100 lawyers in eight cities.  Brian has served in numerous leadership positions in the firm and in the community.

Darren Cohen is the Regional Director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s New York Regional Office of the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA). He is responsible for overseeing the Regional Office’s civil enforcement program, which obtains compliance with the fiduciary, reporting, and disclosure provisions of Title I of ERISA.  He is also responsible for the Office’s criminal enforcement program, which is handled in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Offices and state and local prosecutors. Prior to joining EBSA, Mr. Cohen was the Deputy Regional Solicitor and ERISA Counsel in the New York Office of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of the Solicitor. Prior to joining the U.S. Department of Labor, Mr. Cohen worked at two New York law firms and clerked for the Honorable Cecilia M. Altonaga, U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Florida. Mr. Cohen received his J.D. from Yale Law School and his B.A. from Columbia University.

Erin Turley is a partner at the international law firm McDermott Will & Emery LLP, specializing in issues pertaining to Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) compliance.

Nationally known for her leadership and technical expertise, Ms. Turley has been a member of the McDermott Will & Emery Management Committee since early 2018. In recognition of her outstanding contributions to the field of employee benefits, she also was inducted as a Fellow of the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel (ACEBC) in 2017.

Ms. Turley’s ESOP practice focuses on the design, implementation, maintenance, and termination of ESOPs. She has represented companies, inside ESOP trustees, and outside ESOP trustees in buy-side and sell-side transactions, as well as in ongoing ESOP compliance matters. Ms. Turley has been involved in hundreds of transactions, including leveraged buyouts, mergers, acquisitions, and the structuring and financing of ESOPs using private equity. She has extensive experience representing lenders in designing and negotiating credit facilities specifically tailored to the needs of ESOP-owned companies.

Ms. Turley regularly writes and speaks on topics she encounters in her practice, including issues raised in connection with corporate mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, ESOP compliance, ERISA’s regulatory framework, and health and welfare benefit plan arrangements. She is the co-author of Bloomberg Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) Tax Management Portfolio 354 – ESOPs and BNA Corporate Practice Portfolio 62 – ESOPs in Corporate Transactions.

Jennifer is a partner in the Chicago office of Seyfarth Shaw LLP.  In the battle for recruiting and retention, employers often look to their benefits packages to help serve as a differentiator. Clients turn to Jennifer for advice on cutting-edge benefits, as well as the tried and true basics that form the foundation of a great benefits plan. She guides her clients through the myriad of intersecting (and ever-changing) benefits laws, counseling them on approaches that reduce risk and prevent mistakes.

Jennifer began her practice in employment litigation almost 20 years ago, before shifting to employee benefits. This experience provides her with an understanding of the "real world" that employers face on a day-to-day basis, and how to be practical in finding legally sound solutions that meet the business needs of her clients.

Jennifer advises clients on the design, administration, and fiduciary responsibilities related to qualified retirement plans (401(k), traditional defined benefit and cash balance plans) and welfare benefit plans. Her experience in this area includes engaging with the Department of Labor, IRS, and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation on behalf of employers and plan fiduciaries, addressing plan corrections, assisting with significant corporate and plan spinoff and merger transactions with related integration issues, negotiating vendor contracts, and facilitating transitions to new record-keepers.

Jennifer also regularly counsels on welfare benefits issues, including wellness programs. She has assisted a number of clients with the transition to retiree medical exchanges and has counseled and trained clients extensively on HIPAA compliance. Jennifer has also helped numerous clients deal with changes in the economy through the design, implementation, and administration of severance plans.

As a certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, Jennifer delivers increased value to her clients at a time when more is expected of them. Drawing upon Seyfarth's deep capabilities in project management and technology, she continually improves her practice and the way her clients experience service delivery.

Jennifer is also vice-chair of the Seyfarth's Women's Network, coordinating the efforts of all Seyfarth offices to promote and encourage opportunities for our women attorneys. The Women's Network provides programming on topics important to women in the legal and business roles at the firm, and leads some of the firm's global philanthropic efforts to support organizations for girls and women locally and in developing countries.

Jennifer's favorite thing about Seyfarth has always been the people. She enjoys working collaboratively across all of the firm's practice groups to provide top-level advice for her clients in a variety of areas. Her clients also appreciate her ability to tap into the vast experience of the firm's large employee benefits team across the country.

Jennifer graduated magna cum laude from the University of Minnesota after obtaining her BA with distinction from the University of Michigan.  Jennifer was named to Crain’s Chicago 2019 List of "Notable Gen X Leaders in Law", to the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin’s “Top 50 Women in Law” in 2021 and was recognized as a leading individual in the 2021 Chambers USA rankings for Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation.

Karen L. Handorf is a partner in and the immediate-past Co-Chair of Cohen Milstein’s Employee Benefits/ERISA practice group, where she represents the interests of employees, retirees, plan participants and beneficiaries in ERISA cases.

A Fellow of the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel, Ms. Handorf joined Cohen Milstein in 2007 following a distinguished 25-year career in government service where she was the Deputy Associate Solicitor, Plan Benefits Security Division, among other senior positions she held at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). During her tenure at the DOL, Ms. Handorf played a major role in formulating and litigating the Government’s position on ERISA issues expressed in amicus briefs filed by the Solicitor General in the United States Supreme Court.

At Cohen Milstein, Ms. Handorf has led some of the most significant ERISA-related litigation in recent U.S. history, including successfully litigating over twenty “church plan” cases, which allege that employers had improperly claimed their pension plans qualified for the “church plan” exemption under ERISA, resulting in billions-of-dollars of underfunded plans and losses to beneficiaries, as well as other types of employer-sponsored defined benefit plans, such as 401ks, Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs), and health plans that are allegedly in breach of ERISA.

As a testament to her expertise in ERISA, Ms. Handorf is frequently invited to represent entities in filing their amicus briefs before appellate courts, including the Supreme Court.

Elected by her peers as a Fellow to the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel in 2007, Ms. Handorf was elected to the College’s Board of Governors in 2018.  She served as Plaintiffs' Co-Chair of Preemption and Civil Procedure Subcommittee of the Employee Benefits Committee of the ABA's Labor Section. Ms. Handorf has also received numerous industry recognitions, including being named Law360’s “MVP – Benefits” (2020), recognizing the top five most influential employee benefits and ERISA attorneys in the United States, as well as being named among The National Law Journal’s “Elite Women of the Plaintiffs’ Bar” (2020). She has also been named to the Best Lawyers in America (2016 – 2020), and, in 2019, she was named “Lawyer of the Year” in Washington, DC in ERISA Litigation.

Ms. Handorf is a frequent commentator and speaker on ERISA issues for the press, the ABA, Practising Law Institute, American Conference Institute, various Bar associations, and private seminars.

Kirstin recently joined Sempra as in-house Senior ERISA Counsel after spending 15 years as a partner in the employee benefits practice at Jones Day.  For more than 25 years, she has been a trusted counselor on complex tax, fiduciary, and other regulatory issues impacting employee and executive benefit programs. She provides creative advice and practical solutions for thorny plan design and administration issues, addresses the benefit plan liability and transition issues that arise in M&A transactions, and helps favorably settle   compliance issues with government agencies.

Kirstin regularly advises on emerging options for employer-provided health care benefits, such as direct-contracting between employers and health care providers, and stand-alone options like telemedicine and second opinion services. She has extensive experience advising on ERISA, tax, Affordable Care Act, HIPAA privacy, and myriad other regulatory requirements impacting clients' health and welfare plans and related funding vehicles (e.g., 401(h) accounts, VEBAs). She often negotiates health plan service agreements with third-party administrators and network providers.

Kirstin also frequently counsels on tax and fiduciary issues impacting qualified retirement plans, including topical matters such as environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investment considerations, on executive deferred compensation programs (409A issues), and on all manner of fringe benefits (educational assistance, employer-provided vehicles, wellness incentives).

Laura Andrew is a partner and Chair of the Health Care Practice Group, and member of the Executive Compensation and Employee Benefits Practice Group, with the Atlanta and Jacksonville offices of Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP, specializing in health care and employee benefits.

She concentrates her practice in health and welfare benefit matters, including compliance with ERISA, HIPAA, the ACA, federal and state health care anti-fraud laws, and other federal laws impacting health care matters. She represents clients before the DOL, IRS, CMS and state agencies related to such matters.

Laura graduated, with distinction, from Emory University School of Law. She is a member of the American Health Lawyers Association, the American Bar Association, Health and Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Sections, and the Society for Human Resource Management. She is admitted to the State Bars of Georgia and Florida.

Laura has been recognized by Chambers USA as a leading health care attorney. She is a frequent speaker on health and welfare benefit related topics, and has also written extensively on these topics.

She is actively involved with the United Way of Northeast Florida, serving on its Community Impact Council.

Ms. Mylavarapu’s responsibilities include monitoring client companies, preparing financial reviews, and performing other analyses related to fiduciary decision-making matters. Prior to joining our team, Ms. Mylavarapu was an economic consultant at Charles River Associates in their New York office. She earned the right to use the Chartered Financial Analyst designation in 2014 and is a member of the CFA Institute and the CFA Society of New York. Ms. Mylavarapu earned a B.Sc. in Finance and International Business from the Stern School of Business at New York University.

Practice Area:

Employee Retirement and Health Benefits

Plan Governance

Fiduciary Advisory Services

Executive Compensation

International Benefits

Howard Pianko is the head of Seyfarth Shaw’s New York benefits practice. During his more than thirty-five years of experience in employee benefits law and executive compensation, he has counseled both domestic and international clients on matters running the full benefits gamut. His current practice focuses extensively on fiduciary and plan governance matters, executive compensation (including both domestic and cross-border equity and incentive plans) as well as benefit and employment considerations in M&A transactions, including post-transaction implementation and restructuring.

He is a Charter Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel and a founding member of the International Pension and Employee Benefits Lawyers Association. He has been recognized for his professional expertise by, among others, Chambers, Legal 500 and Best Lawyers in America and also designated as a BTI Client Service All-Star. He originated and co-chairs two PLI programs involving ERISA investment considerations and another focused on the application of ERISA to the health plan space.

Roberta Watson is a partner in the Tampa office of The Wagner Law Group and is the leader of the firm’s health and welfare practice.  Her practice includes the broad range of ERISA and employee benefits, but includes a particularly strong focus on health and welfare benefits, including COBRA, HIPAA, and the Affordable Care Act, and on the fiduciary issues related to health and welfare plans. 

Roberta has been providing extensive advice to clients with respect to health plans since the passage of COBRA in 1986.  She is a recognized expert in COBRA, HIPAA, and the Affordable Care Act.  Her health plan expertise and experience also include coordination of benefits, the Medicare Secondary Payor rules, the Americans with Disabilities Act rules that affect health plans, VEBAs and other Section 419 plans, and various fiduciary topics regarding the administration of health plans. 

Roberta is a graduate of the University of Idaho and Harvard Law School.  Prior to joining the Wagner Law Group, she was with a full-service firm in Tampa, Florida for 28 years.

For nearly 30 years, she has been a frequent speaker on all these topics (and others), and has spoken for many organizations, most frequently for ALI-CLE (formerly called ALI-ABA).  Since 1995, The Best Lawyers in America has listed Roberta in their annual publication and voted her Tampa Bay Lawyer of the Year (Employee Benefits Law) for 2012 and 2019, and she has been listed in Florida Super Lawyers most years from 2006 to present.  Roberta has received an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell, and has been listed in several Who’s Who publications.  She is actively involved in and a past chair of the American Bar Association Tax Section’s Employee Benefits Committee, the ABA’s Joint Committee on Employee Benefits (JCEB), and the ABA Health Law Section’s Employee Benefits Interest Group.  Roberta is a Charter Fellow of the American College of Employee Benefits counsel, and is a member of several other employee benefit organizations.

Chantel has over 20 years of experience in the area of employee benefits including health and welfare plans, and works with clients on ACA strategy, compliance and implementation in addition to general compliance and strategy on other aspects of health and welfare plans. She also has experience in flexible benefits, qualified retirement and savings programs, and reporting and disclosure for employee benefit plans.  Her consulting services include design, implementation, merger and acquisition due diligence, and regulatory compliance.

Chantel is an attorney and has held a variety of positions including fund director/general counsel for a national multiemployer health fund, government relations consultant, and partner at a major, international law firm.  She speaks regularly at industry conferences and is an adjunct law professor. 

Kathleen M. Emberger’s practice focuses on executive compensation and benefits matters, including employee equity and equity-based compensation and incentive arrangements.

She regularly advises on annual and periodic disclosure obligations related to executive compensation and compensation arrangements, including in connection with the preparation of compensation-related annual proxy disclosure, as well as on employment and executive compensation-related aspects of public and private merger and acquisition transactions and investments and acquisitions by private equity firms.

Kathleen joined the firm in 1998 and became counsel in 2007.

The Legal 500 U.S.
Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation

Super Lawyers
Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation

Duke University School of Law
cum laude

University of Pennsylvania
magna cum laude