Howard Shapiro is a Partner in the Employee Benefits, Executive Compensation & ERISA Litigation Practice Center, resident in the New Orleans office. He is a nationally known ERISA litigator, listed by The National Law Journal as one of the Top 40 Benefits Lawyers in the country in the category of litigators representing management. He is ranked in the first tier of ERISA litigators by Chambers USA, which commends him as “a top class national player” with an “excellent practice with both breadth and depth.” He has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America since 1997, where he is one of few lawyers listed in two separate categories: ERISA and Labor/Employment.
Howard's national ERISA litigation practice has focused on defending matters raising sophisticated preemption issues; fiduciary issues; fiduciary misrepresentation claims; ESOP litigation issues; 401(k) plan issues; blackout period cases; plan asset diversification issues; prohibited transaction allegations; directed trustee issues; cash balance cases; independent contractor litigation; “serious consideration” cases; retiree rights litigation; severance pay cases; executive compensation/“top hat” litigation; Section 510 cases; benefit claims cases; ERISA class actions; and class-wide challenges to health plans that do not offer contraception benefits. He has appeared in federal courts from coast to coast, maintaining an active national ERISA litigation practice.
In addition, Howard was a co-author of Employee Benefits Law, a treatise originally published by BNA in 1991 and updated with annual supplements. He also served as a senior editor/author of Employee Benefits Law, Second Edition, published in 2000. He has written law review articles, outlines, and other publications and speaks frequently at national seminars and other programs on ERISA litigation topics.
John started Valentine Law in 2009 to serve the needs of Institutional Investors dealing with Asset Servicing. He is uniquely qualified in this eclectic field of law-he has over 25 years of experience with custody banks, investment managers and plan sponsors dealing with the numerous, inter-twined areas of law, regulations and, importantly-industry practices which impact the purchase, holding, administration and sale of assets by ERISA plans, Mutual Funds, Endowments and Foundations. He is unique, in that he understands the investment and benefits businesses from every perspective: plan/fund sponsor, service provider, and fiduciary.
Before opening his private practice, John headed The Bank of New York Mellon's Everett, Massachusetts office of the Legal Department of The Bank of New York Mellon. For over 11 years, he and his staff supported the bank's institutional trust and custody services, including the bank's global custody network, and the mutual fund back-office administration and services group. Before that, as Senior Counsel for Chase Manhattan Bank, starting in 1986, he helped shape and develop the bank's emerging Global Custody business to serve ERISA and Mutual Funds clients. While with Chase, he advised the Trust and Custody business as well as its institutional investment arm, Chase Investors Management Company.
Because of his in-house experience, he has direct, first-hand knowledge of domestic and foreign back office operations in all areas, including: securities processing; depository and clearing operations; corporate actions; proxy voting; class action settlements; tax reclaims; handling of restricted securities; derivatives processing; ERISA prohibited transactions and fiduciary duties.
Before his bank and investment manager experience, he gained plan sponsor and employer perspectives as Labor Relations and Benefits Counsel for Lever Brothers Company, handling plan design, funding, fiduciary and administration issues-as well as labor negotiations, arbitrations, NLRB and human rights matters.
His legal career began with AT & T, as an Assistant Regional Counsel, handling general corporate matters, but specializing in human rights defense work, where he successfully defended close to 100 human rights and NLRB complaints.
He has always maintained a "hands-on" philosophy in understanding the businesses he has represented. At AT&T, he went down into manholes, underground switching centers and to the top of microwave towers. At Lever, he became familiar with the production floor and its commodity trading for the oils used in its products; and, he worked with treasury operations on plan funding issues. At Chase, he worked with operations officers in both domestic and global custody. He trained trust officers in ERISA fiduciary duties and prohibited transactions identification and avoidance. In order to better understand CIMC, along with several of its top traders, he took the licensing course required to become a Commodity Futures Trading Advisor.
John was one of the earliest members of the ERISA Attorney Group, an informal network of in-house bank ERISA counsel formed shortly after ERISA became law. The group identified common industry problems and has been instrumental in developing best practices in institutional trust and custody of ERISA assets. He actively participated in the group for over 20 years, and as a result, he developed and maintained close contacts in the industry.
In 1995-6, when the SEC began revising its rules for foreign custody of Mutual Fund assets, using contacts from the ERISA Attorney's Group, he brought together in-house bank counsel from the 5 main US Global Custody banks and recommended that the coalition engage the Baker and McKenzie law firm to coordinate industry comments on proposed changes to Rule 17f-5. The result was the creation of the Association of Global Custodians. As a participant in The AGC, John actively represented Chase Manhattan Bank, Mellon Bank, and The Bank of New York Mellon.
He is the author of four articles written for the Practicing Law Institute:
Nicholas Waddles is a partner in the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Department in the Los Angeles office of Seyfarth Shaw LLP. His practice focuses on assisting retirement plan sponsors and pension plan service providers in all aspects of employee benefit issues, including representing plan sponsors in controversies before the IRS and the Department of Labor, negotiating the resolution of plan qualification issues through IRS and DOL remedial programs, advising plan fiduciaries of their responsibilities under ERISA, and structuring qualified plan arrangements.
Mr. Waddles’ practice also focuses on advising trustees, service providers and administrators of TaftHartley multiemployer trust funds on all issues including pension plan design and trust fund administration, investment of plan assets, the qualification of state domestic relations orders, drafting plan documents and general compliance with ERISA, the Internal Revenue Code, federal labor law and other laws affecting pension funds. In 2006 Mr. Waddles was named one of Southern California’s “Rising Stars” by the Law & Politics “Super Lawyers” publication.
J.D., Washington University in St. Louis (1996)
National Employment Law Moot Court Team, Mock Trial Board
B.S., Truman State University (1992)
U.S. District Court for the Central District of California
U.S. District Court for the Eastern and Western Districts of Michigan
American Bar Association (Labor & Employment Section; Taxation Section; Joint Committee on Employee Benefits)
American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries (ASPPA)
California Bar Association
International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Currently, Senior Advisor to Fiduciary Counselors Inc.
Former Director, Office of Exemption Determinations, Employee Benefits Security Administration
Mr. Strasfeld assumed the position of Director of the Office of Exemption Determinations in June 1989. He retired from that position on February 3, 2012.
From 1984 to 1989, he held several positions including Chief of ORI’s Division of Fiduciary Interpretations and Regulations and Chief of ORI’s Division of Regulatory Coordination. Mr. Strasfeld was an Employee Benefit Plan Specialist in the Division of Fiduciary Interpretations and Regulations from 1979 to 1984, and a Tax Law Specialist with the Internal Revenue Service from 1976 to 1979.
Mr. Strasfeld received a B.S. degree in 1972 from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a J.D. in 1975 from UCLA School of Law, Los Angeles, CA.
Areas of Practice
Melanie Nussdorf is a partner in the Washington office of Steptoe, where she is a member of the Tax and Employee Benefits groups.
Her practice spans the entire range of employee benefits, from the tax-based rules for qualified pension plans, to fiduciary issues, welfare benefits, and plan termination. Ms. Nussdorf's particular focus over the last several years has been fiduciary issues, including prohibited transaction exemption questions under ERISA, especially in connection with financial products and services. Ms. Nussdorf represents a number of financial institutions including major banks, investment advisers,brokerage firms, and insurance companies. In addition, she has particular experience in all aspects of the plan termination process, including issues of employer liability for poorly funded plans terminating in or outside of a bankruptcy proceeding. She has done substantial work on ERISA issues relating to hedge funds and private equity vehicles. She also has substantial experience with the exemption and advisory opinion process under ERISA and has worked extensively on legislative issues related to ERISA.
Ms. Nussdorf was counsel for age and sex discrimination at the Department of Labor prior to serving as Executive Assistant to the Solicitor of Labor from 1977-81. During this period, she had significant oversight responsibility for the department's legal work under ERISA. From 1981-84, she served as Special Counsel at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
Select Seminars & Events
“Other Regulatory Regimes Affecting the Investment Management Industry,” PLI’s Investment Management Institute 2013
"Pension Plan Investment: Current Perspectives," Practising Law Institute's Conference, April 5, 2011
"ERISA Fiduciary Basics," Practising Law Institute's Conference, February 23, 2011
"Investment Management Institute," Practising Law Institute's Conference, February 10, 2011
"CFTC’s Proposed Business Conduct Standards for Swap Dealers: Costs and Consequences to Swap Dealers and Plans," Practising Law Institute's Teleconference, January 25, 2011
"DOL’s Proposed Significant Expansion of the Fiduciary Definition," Practising Law Institute's Teleconference, November 19, 2010
Expanded Roth Conversion Opportunity for Retirement Plan Participants
ERISA Advisory - $36.9 Million Awarded in ERISA Class Action Challenging Investment Selection and Compensation Paid to 401(k) Plan Recordkeeper
ERISA Advisory - Department of Labor Releases 408(b)(2) Fee Disclosure Regulations
ERISA Advisory - CFTC Announces New Swap Rules
ERISA Advisory - Labor Department Issues Final Regulations Addressing Provision of Investment Advice to Participants and Beneficiaries of Self-Directed Individual Account Plans and IRAs
ERISA Advisory - Proposed Regulation Redefining Fiduciary
ERISA Advisory - ERISA Advisory Council Makes Stable Value Fund Recommendations to Labor Department
Melanie Nussdorf Quoted in Pensions & Investments about Revamped Rules for Offering Investment Advice
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 (2012-2019) in Employee Benefits (ERISA) law and New York Super Lawyers (2013-2018). She recently co-authored the articles “Sun Capital Redux: Private Equity and Pension Liability,” The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation (April 5, 2016); “Counting to 80,” Private Equity Manager (August 2013); and “New Ways to Manage Old Pension Liabilities,” Law 360 (June 17, 2013).
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.
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 was also recognized in the 2016 and 2017 editions of The 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.
Karen L. Handorf is a Partner at Cohen Milstein and Chair of the firm’s Employee Benefits (ERISA) Practice Group. She joined the firm in 2007 following a distinguished career in government service litigating ERISA cases in federal and district courts. In her role as head of the Employee Benefits Practice, Ms. Handorf represents the interests of employees, retirees, plan participants and beneficiaries in ERISA cases in the district courts and on appeal.
Ms. Handorf is involved in litigation and appeals involving a broad range of employee benefits issues. She currently leads a team of litigators in a series of lawsuits alleging that health care systems wrongfully claim their pension benefit plans are exempt from ERISA’s protection because they are church plans. Ms. Handorf is also litigating issues involving the selection of proprietary funds by 401(k) plans sponsored by financial institutions and imprudent and non-diversified investments by defined benefit plans. She also represents Oregon officials in a lawsuit alleging that a provision of the state’s OregonSaves retirement program for private-sector employees is preempted by ERISA.
Prior to joining Cohen Milstein, Ms. Handorf was an attorney for the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), where she litigated ERISA cases in federal and district courts for 25 years. While at the DOL, she played a major role in formulating the Government’s position on ERISA issues expressed in amicus briefs filed by the Solicitor General in the United States Supreme Court.
Ms. Handorf is a recipient of the Department of Labor Distinguished Career Service Award and received Exceptional Achievement Awards for her work on ERISA 401(k) plan remedies, the amicus brief in the Enron litigation, retiree health care, the amicus program in general, the appellate brief in the Department’s Tower litigation, termination annuities litigation and multiple employer welfare arrangement (MEWAs) litigation.
Ms. Handorf has been recognized for her expertise by her colleagues in the ERISA bar, who named her a Fellow of the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel. She is a frequent speaker on ERISA issues for the ABA, various Bar associations and at private seminars. She serves as plaintiffs' co-chair of preemption subcommittee of the Employee Benefits Committee of the ABA's Labor Section. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, she was named to the Best Lawyers in America.
Ms. Handorf attended the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, where she received a B.S. in Speech and History, and earned her law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School.
Liza LeAndre is the Vice President, Compensation & Benefits Tax Counsel at Johnson & Johnson where she advises on tax and legal issues relating to Johnson & Johnson’s worldwide compensation and employee benefit programs. Ms. LeAndre advises on cross-border compensation and benefits arrangements, including globally-aligned compensation, bonus, executive and equity plan offerings. She also advises on compensation and benefits issues relating to acquisitions, joint ventures, divestitures and restructurings.
Prior to Johnson & Johnson, Ms. LeAndre was Chief Benefits Counsel at the Colgate-Palmolive Company where she advised on the company’s global retirement, welfare benefit and compensation programs as well as its executive and stock-based incentive compensation benefits. She also advised on plan asset management and plan governance. Prior to Colgate, Ms. LeAndre served as Corporate Counsel for Lucent Technologies where she provided legal advice in compensation and benefits areas including retirement plans, in-house asset management, executive compensation, mergers, acquisitions and divestitures, stock-based compensation, welfare plans and collective bargaining.
Ms. LeAndre was also a Legal Consultant at Hewitt Associates and advised its actuarial, executive compensation, pension, defined contribution, total benefits administration, merger and acquisition and executive compensation practice groups. She began her career at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen and Hamilton where she advised in areas including plan asset investment, executive compensation and merger and acquisitions.
Ms. LeAndre received her A.B. from Princeton University and her J.D. from the Harvard Law School.
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.
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.
Peter E. Haller is a partner in the Executive Compensation & Employee Benefits Department and practice leader for ERISA fiduciary issues.
Mr. Haller advises clients on their employee benefit plans and programs, with an emphasis on the fiduciary responsibility and prohibited transaction rules under ERISA, including the DOL guidance and court decisions arising out of the Fiduciary Rule and related exemptions. He has significant experience with ERISA issues raised by hedge funds, private equity funds and financial institutions and their broker-dealer, asset management and private bank affiliates. Mr. Haller represents clients with their prohibited transaction exemption requests before the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefit Security Administration. He also advises on ERISA and other employee benefits matters in connection with corporate transactions involving asset management and financial services firms.
Mr. Haller chairs the New York City Bar Association subcommittee on ERISA Fiduciary Duties, Private Equity and Plan Investments. Mr. Haller also serves as an adjunct professor and teaches a class with Barry Barbash at Georgetown University Law Center and Howard University Law School on ERISA Fiduciary Duties and the Regulation of Private Funds. He is also a frequent speaker and lecturer on a wide variety of employee benefits and ERISA related topics.
Prior to returning to Willkie in 2015, Mr. Haller was counsel for Credit Suisse in New York, where he served as the global head of the ERISA and Executive Compensation practices, and head of the U.S. Bank Regulatory practice. In this role, he advised Credit Suisse with the development and offering of complex financial products in their investment banking and asset management divisions. Mr. Haller is also a Certified Public Accountant.
Mr. Haller is admitted to the Bars of the States of New York, Massachusetts and Maine.
Mr. Haller received a JD from Boston College Law School in 1993 and a BS in accountancy (cum laude) from Bentley College in 1988, where he received the Falcon Society Award for academic achievement.
Shannon Barrett is a partner in O’Melveny’s Washington, DC office. He 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 associate general counsel and advises the firm on products and services to ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) plans. She also assists in maintaining the firm’s internal retirement plans. Suzzanne is co-chair of the Firmwide Asian Professionals Network. 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.
Alan is the senior attorney responsible for executive compensation, employee benefits and ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) matters. In addition to advising on the firm’s own employee benefits, Alan assists in structuring investments for ERISA plans and advises Goldman Sachs Asset Management in connection with the ERISA aspects of its responsibilities. He is a member of the Acquisition and Disposition Review Committee. Alan joined Goldman Sachs in 1999 and became a legal director in 2004. He was named managing director in 2006.
Prior to joining the firm, Alan was a partner in the ERISA Department of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, LLP. He was also an assistant general counsel at Salomon Brothers, Inc. and was an associate in the Employee Benefits group at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton.
Alan is a graduate of Tufts University and Cornell Law School.
Timothy D. Hauser is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Program Operations of the Employee Benefits Security Administration and as such is the chief operating officer of the Agency. His responsibilities include overseeing EBSA's regulatory, enforcement and reporting activities.
Mr. Hauser joined the Department of Labor in 1991 as a trial attorney for the Plan Benefits Security Division (PBSD), where he represented the Department in federal district court and appellate litigation. From November 2000 until November 2013, Mr. Hauser was the Associate Solicitor of the Division. As the head of PBSD, he was responsible for all of the Department's legal work under ERISA.
Before joining the Department of Labor, Mr. Hauser worked as a trial attorney for six years at Legal Aid of Western Missouri. As a Legal Aid attorney, he represented indigent clients in civil litigation in ten rural counties in Missouri.
Mr. Hauser graduated from Harvard Law School in 1985. He is also a graduate of the University of Illinois.
Laura Bader has two decades of experience counseling clients in connection with institutional investment and ERISA fiduciary matters.
Laura's experience includes structuring and negotiating private equity, real estate, and other private funds for fund sponsors as well as for institutional investors. She also has counseled ERISA plans, investment managers, and a variety of pooled investment vehicles on ERISA compliance and fiduciary matters.