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Retirement Plans in a Time of COVID-19


Speaker(s): Christina M. Cerasale, Howard Pianko, Linda J. Haynes
Recorded on: Apr. 23, 2020
PLI Program #: 299704

Linda Haynes advises clients on the complex and ever-evolving ERISA fiduciary matters that affect plan fiduciaries today.

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.


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.


Christina concentrates her practice in the employee benefits area. She advises clients on issues involving ERISA, employee benefit plans, and executive compensation.

Employee benefit plans and compensation arrangements are often central to attracting and retaining talent. Using these plans and arrangements requires both strategic thinking and a deep knowledge of the complex set of laws and requirements that govern them. With respect to ERISA and plan qualification issues, Christina has represented clients in matters before the Department of Labor and Internal Revenue Service. She has considerable experience with qualified pension and defined contribution plans, 403(b) and 457 plans, and deferred compensation plans.

Christina has also assisted clients with welfare plan issues, governmental plans, and executive compensation matters, including drafting and interpreting incentive plans, equity plans, and independent contractor, employment, and separation agreements. She has advised clients on fiduciary and governance issues and responsibilities related to tax-qualified plans.

For her entire legal career, Christina has practiced exclusively in the employee benefit space and has dealt with many different types of benefits issues over the years. She manages tax-qualified benefit plans of both large multinational clients and smaller intimate companies. These experiences provide her with the framework to meet clients wherever they are, and tailor her advice appropriately.

Christina enjoys helping clients attract and retain employees, and comply with a complex area of the law. With a unique combination of technical know-how and a gift for teaching, Christina helps break down complex issues for clients and get to the heart of what matters.