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ERISA 2020: The Evolving World - Part I

Speaker(s): Arthur H. Kohn, Garrett A. Fenton, George M. Sepsakos, Jay Dinunzio, Jeanne Klinefelter Wilson, Kendra Kosko Isaacson, Lori E. Bostrom, Louis J. ("Chip") Denkovic, Nicole Rosser, Norma Drelich Mero, Peter C. Gyr, Sarah N. Lowe
Recorded on: Aug. 4, 2020
PLI Program #: 279032

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.

Chip Denkovic is an Executive Director in the Legal and Compliance Division of Morgan Stanley.  He is the senior employee benefits lawyer in the Firm’s Executive Compensation and Employee Benefits Legal Group. 

Mr. Denkovic’s responsibilities reach all legal issues related to Morgan Stanley’s employee benefits, including pension, defined contribution, employee stock ownership, executive benefits, health and welfare plans and wellness initiatives.  Mr. Denkovic covers employee benefits matters in corporate transactions, litigation and financing, along with related corporate, tax and securities laws, disclosure and employee issues, and global benefits contracting.  He advises and acts as secretary to Morgan Stanley’s Retirement Plan Investment Committee and also provides advice and assistance with related executive compensation, employment, human resources, governance and other matters.

Mr. Denkovic joined Morgan Stanley in 2004.  He received his J.D. in 1999 from the Fordham University School of Law and a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame in 1983.  Prior to joining Morgan Stanley, Mr. Denkovic was an attorney in the Employee Benefits Law Group of Citigroup Inc. (and its predecessor firms).  He is admitted to practice law in New York and New Jersey and is a member of the American Bar Association, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York and the ERISA Committee of the American Bankers’ Association.  He is a member of Morgan Stanley’s Legal and Compliance Division Diversity and Inclusion Network, the Fordham Law School Alumni Association and serves as a Class Officer in the Notre Dame Alumni Association.

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.

George Sepsakos is a Principal with Groom Law Group and represents clients on a broad range of ERISA, federal tax and securities law matters. His practice is primarily focused on issues related to Title I of ERISA, including fiduciary responsibility and prohibited transaction issues. For example, George’s practice includes:

  • Regularly defending plan trustees, fiduciaries, and service providers in investigations and enforcement proceedings brought by the Department of Labor (DOL).
  • Representing clients in front of the DOL, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), seeking advisory opinions, prohibited transaction exemptions, no action letters, and other guidance.
  • Counseling banks, broker-dealers, recordkeepers, investment managers and advisers and other financial services companies on the structuring and marketing of retirement plan services and products.
  • Regularly counseling large employers, and plan committees to develop processes and best practices regarding plan investments, including the acquisition and management of employer securities, and plan governance matters.
  • Conducting reviews and internal audits of plan governance and administrative practices.

George is a frequent speaker and author on a range of employee benefits related topics. Prior to joining the firm, George worked as an ERISA Enforcement Advisor within the Office of Enforcement of the Department of Labor Employee Benefits Security Administration.


Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration

Jay Dinunzio is a Principal in Mercer’s Financial Strategy Group focused on consulting with clients on pension risk transfer (PRT) strategies including retiree lift-out and plan termination annuitizations.  Jay has nearly 20 years of experience navigating strategic and tactical aspects of insurance based transactions involving retirement plans.

Jay has led over 100 pension risk transfer transactions since 2013, and is well versed in communicating and managing the settlor and fiduciary issues which naturally compete with each other in a PRT transaction. Additionally, Jay is proficient in asset-in-kind annuity funding, mortality experience data, insurer negotiation, and independent annuity expert/DOL 95-1 “safest available annuity” analysis.

Prior to joining Mercer Jay worked at a leading national retirement consulting firm, within the annuity consulting practice. Additionally, Jay spent the first portion of his career working within the pension risk transfer business units for two different leading life insurance companies.  Jay holds a B.A. political science from Syracuse University, and also holds Life, Accident and Health Insurance Licenses in all 50 states.

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.

Lori E. Bostrom is Managing Director and Chief Legal Officer of Newport Trust Company, which serves clients with fiduciary services in retirement and investment management.  Lori manages the legal work for Newport Trust, and is also on the senior team responsible for new business engagements.  She previously served as Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at OFI Global Asset Management, Inc. (OppenheimerFunds) for over 10 years, heading a team of 30 attorneys, paralegals, and marketing compliance professionals covering investment product distribution. Previously, Lori spent 9 years in-house at Prudential Financial, Inc. and The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, specializing in investment products and initiatives, having started her legal career at large and midsize law firms. She has served on various committees of financial industry and benefits trade associations, focusing on retirement policy and investment product distribution. Lori has a B.A. from Skidmore College and a J.D. from Cornell Law School. 

Nicole Rosser is a member of BlackRock’s Legal & Compliance Department, responsible for ERISA matters for BlackRock.  Nicole 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 in 2013, Nicole worked at the law firm of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP, where she was an associate since 2007.  Nicole received a B.S. from the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia in 2004, and a J.D. and LL.M from New York University School of Law in 2007 and 2010, respectively.

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.

Peter heads the compliance and operational risk control functions of UBS Asset Management (UBSAM) in the Americas and is responsible for all compliance and operational risk matters of UBSAM’s four lines of business, UBS O’Connor, UBS Hedge Fund Solutions, UBS Real Estate and Private Markets (REPM) as well as the traditional mutual fund and separate managed account businesses.  Peter also serves as the global coordinator of compliance and operational risk control for REPM.   Peter joined the firm in September 2019. His prior roles include General Counsel of J.P. Morgan’s global wealth management division (Private Bank, J.P. Morgan Securities and Chase Private Client) and various senior legal positions in J.P. Morgan’s Asset & Wealth Management division, and at Merrill Lynch, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, Sullivan & Cromwell and Cravath, Swaine and Moore.  Peter holds law degrees from the University of Basel and Northwestern University and is admitted to the bars of New York and Switzerland.

Sarah N. Lowe of Frost Brown Todd LLC focuses her practice on employee benefits, with an emphasis in the areas of qualified plans, related ERISA fiduciary issues and pension plan investments. She regularly reviews and negotiates provisions of pension plan investments on behalf of large pension funds, including hedge funds and other alternative investments. She also routinely assists structuring private investment funds and their portfolio investments so that they avoid being subject to ERISA fiduciary rules. As part of her practice, she regularly advises clients on compliance with ERISA’s rules regarding fiduciary duties and prohibited transactions.

Sarah also has significant experience in pension de-risking area, including both “lift out” and termination annuity transactions. Her experience includes representing plan sponsors, plan fiduciaries and independent fiduciaries in multiple complex annuity transactions.

Sarah has provided counsel to and negotiated on behalf of clients regarding employee benefit issues in connection with mergers, acquisitions, dispositions and other business transactions. She has also advised public and private employer clients regarding issues related to design, preparation, communication, administration and operation of qualified plans and the related funding vehicles, including pension and profit-sharing plans, 401(k) plans, rabbi trusts and cafeteria plans.


As Acting Assistant Secretary, Ms. Wilson serves as agency head for the Employee Benefits Security Administration at the Department of Labor.   Ms. Wilson has served at EBSA since her initial appointment in November 2017.  Since that time she has served as Acting Assistant Secretary (from June 2020 to now, and previously from November 2017 to January 2018).  She also served as EBSA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy (November 2017 to May 2019), and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (May 2019 to May 2020).   

Before her appointment, Ms. Wilson served as counsel to plan sponsors and fiduciaries for over fifteen years. Prior to her graduation from law school, Ms. Wilson worked for seven years at a national accounting firm where she audited employee benefit plans and provided employee benefit plan compliance advice.