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Pension Plan Investments 2019: Current Perspectives

Speaker(s): Alan S. Wilmit, Bradford C. Melius, Christina Y. Lee, David M. Cohen, David R. Cantor, Erin K. Cho, Hal Knox, CFA, FSA, EA, James S. Frazier, Jana Steele, Karen L. Handorf, Lennine Occhino, Linda J. Haynes, Mark Foley, Mary E. Alcock, Michelle Khalife, Patricia Anne Kuhn, Patrick S. Menasco, Philip Bennett, Shannon Barrett, Steven W. Rabitz
Recorded on: May. 7, 2019
PLI Program #: 251937

Steven W. Rabitz is a Partner at Dechert LLP focusing on executive compensation matters for public and private companies and the fiduciary responsibility, prohibited transaction and funding rules of ERISA. He is regularly featured in Chambers USA for his work in employee benefits and executive compensation and in Best Lawyers for his ERISA-related practice. He is nationally recommended by The Legal 500 and was named a “Leading Lawyer” in 2017, in addition to being ranked in Super Lawyers.  Mr. Rabitz’s writing on current legal topics and issues has appeared in numerous publications, including, Tax Management Compensation Journal, Pension & Benefits Daily, Derivatives: Financial Products Report, The Hedge Fund Law Report, and he has been quoted in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Institutional Investor, Barron’s, Bloomberg, Hedge Fund Law Report, International Business Times and Law 360. In 2015, he received the Burton Award for excellence in legal writing.

Prior to private practice, Mr. Rabitz pioneered and led the ERISA, executive compensation and benefits legal function at Lehman Brothers and served in a similar capacity at Barclays Capital. He also worked as part of a dedicated team of ERISA and compensation lawyers at Goldman Sachs earlier in his career. Prior to joining Dechert, Mr. Rabitz was a partner at a national leading law firm.

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.

Brad Melius is Vice President and Corporate Counsel and Regulatory Lead for Prudential Retirement Law, based in Hartford, Connecticut.  He advises Prudential Retirement, which offers defined contribution, defined benefit and nonqualified plan recordkeeping and investments, as well as directed trustee services.  He is the primary lawyer responsible for IncomeFlex, Prudential’s industry leading in-plan guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefit.  He is also the primary legal counsel for Prudential Retirement’s federal savings bank and registered investment adviser, and he advises Prudential about various “financial wellness” initiatives.  He has spoken on a variety of topics at legal conferences, including the American Law Institute, American Bar Association and Practicing Law Institute.

Brad has over 20 years of experience advising on issues affecting qualified and nonqualified retirement plans.  From 2006 to 2014, Brad was Adjunct Professor at Quinnipiac University School of Law, where he taught Employee Benefits Law.   Brad graduated with honors in Politics from Fairfield University, where he was a member of the Jesuit Honor Society.   He earned his Juris Doctor from Vanderbilt University School of Law, and was Book Review Editor of the Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

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.

David Cohen, a partner in the New York office of Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP (SRZ), specializes in matters related to fiduciary responsibility, ERISA and qualified plans.

David received his J.D. from The George Washington University Law School and his B.A. from Columbia University. Prior to joining SRZ, David held positions in both the private sector (as vice president and assistant general counsel of a major investment firm) and in government service (with the Department of Labor Employee Benefits Security Administration’s Divisions of Regulatory Coordination and Exemptions).

David speaks and writes widely on ERISA and benefit fund-related issues, including authoring ERISA compliance guides for broker-dealers for Practising Law Institute and presenting on “Handling ERISA Issues When Managing a Plan Asset Look-Through Fund” for a Financial Research Associates Hedge Fund Tax, Accounting and Administration Master Class and on “Fund Formation Issues,” “Current Topics in Private Equity and Alternative Investments” and “Current Fiduciary Issues” for recent Practising Law Institute Pension Plan Investments and ERISA Plans in the Financial Markets conferences. In recognition of his accomplishments, he was selected for inclusion in New York Super Lawyers, a listing of outstanding attorneys in the New York metro area, Chambers USA and The Best Lawyers in America.

David is a Senior Principal at Mercer Investments. He has over 17 years of experience consulting with defined benefit plans around investment strategy and pension risk transfer.

David received a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Binghamton University in 2002. He is a qualified pension actuary, a CFA charterholder, and a Financial Risk Manager charterholder. David is also a Member of the American Academy of Actuaries.

David is currently a member of the Society of Actuaries Investment Committee. He is also the Chair of the Society of Actuaries Retirement Research Committee. Dave speaks and writes frequently on a variety of investment and pension related topics including a recent talk titled “Outsourcing Fiduciary Risk” and one titled “Obligation Based Asset Allocation” in addition to a paper titled “An Analysis of Debt and Equity Market Reaction to Pension Risk Transfer Announcements: What Investors Need to Know”.

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 Practising 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.

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 has also been recognized in 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.

Jana Steele is a partner in Osler’s Pensions & Benefits Group in Toronto. Jana has significant expertise and experience regarding plan design, including innovative plan designs, such as shared risk and target benefit plans – and has written extensively on such plans. Jana also has extensive experience dealing with pensions and benefits in the context of corporate transactions.

She is involved in providing advice with respect to both the establishment and the ongoing administration of pension plans. Jana advises on issues such as governance, administration, pension investment, compliance, trustee obligations, surplus matters, plan conversions, plan mergers, de-risking strategies, and plan wind-ups.  Jana also has experience dealing with pensions and benefits issues arising in insolvencies and corporate restructurings.  Jana is a frequent speaker on pension matters in Canada and has guest lectured at several universities. 

Jana has her H.B. Comm from Queen’s University and her LL.B. from the University of Western Ontario.

Jana has been recognized in the area of pensions and employee benefits in several industry publications, including Chambers Global, Chambers Canada, Legal 500, Best Lawyers in Canada, the Canadian Lexpert Directory and Who’s Who Legal.

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.

Lennine Occhino is a Global Coordinating Leader of Mayer Brown's Fund Formation & Investment Management group and a member of the ERISA practice. Since joining the firm in 1988, Lennine has concentrated exclusively in the pension investment area, advising on the structuring and offering of alternative investment vehicles of all types to ERISA and government plans and other institutional investors, including alternative investment funds for defined contribution plans, onshore and offshore hedge funds, private equity funds, real estate funds, infrastructure funds, group trusts, bank collective trusts and insurance company separate accounts. Lennine's work in the development of alternative investment vehicles for 401(k) plans was "highly commended" by the Financial Times in its 2015 North America Innovative Lawyers Report, and awarded the 2016 Commercial Real Estate Award in the "Outstanding Service" category by the National Real Estate Investor. Lennine was also recognized by peers in The Best Lawyers in America (2011-2018) and Chambers USA (2012-2018) for Employee Benefits Law. Chambers USA noted that "she is hailed as 'phenomenally talented' by sources, who note that she is 'timely in her response, knowledgeable about the issues and able to apply the legal analysis to come up with practical solutions and examples of how others in the industry have handled the matters"

Lennine also advises plan sponsors, trustees, investment managers, and other fiduciaries with respect to their fiduciary obligations and compliance procedures. She has extensive experience representing clients in connection with Department of Labor prohibited transaction exemption and advisory opinion requests, as well as audits and enforcement actions brought by the Department of Labor.

Mark J. Foley, CFA is Managing Director and Head of Retirement Plan Default Solutions at TIAA. In this role, Mark is responsible for defining and driving the overall go-to-market strategy for TIAA’s suite of retirement default solutions, including product development and management responsibilities for TIAA’s Custom Default Solutions.

Before joining TIAA in 2017, Mark was vice president of product development for Prudential International Insurance, where he developed product, investment and business strategy for new international market entry opportunities in Australia and the United Kingdom. Previously, Mark was vice president of product development for Prudential Retirement, where he led the development and implementation of Prudential IncomeFlex and other outcome-oriented investments for U.S. employer-sponsored retirement plans. He earlier served as the senior product manager for Prudential Retirement’s asset allocation products and selected equity funds.

Prior to joining Prudential, Mark oversaw stable value products and managed asset allocation and  equity products at Cigna, and was director of guaranteed products at MetLife, where he created, managed and marketed stable value, guaranteed index, and alternative investment products.

Mark received his bachelor’s degree in history from Rutgers University. He is also a CFA charterholder, holds the Fellow, Life Management Institute designation, is a member of the CFA Institute and the CFA Society North Carolina, and holds Series 6 and 63 FINRA registrations.

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.

Michelle Khalife has been working with the Department of Labor since 2008. She began her career with EBSA as a Benefits Advisor where she provided information to plan participants and compliance assistance to plan fiduciaries.  In 2012, she transferred to the Enforcement Division as an Investigator where she conducts civil and criminal investigations of pension plans, health plans and service providers to determine compliance with Title I of ERISA and other related laws.  In 2017, Ms. Khalife was promoted to Senior Investigator and is responsible for conducting and coordinating complex major cases for the New York Regional Office.   

Ms. Khalife received her J.D. from St. John’s University and a Bachelor of Arts from Villanova University.

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.

Patrick Menasco is a nationally-recognized ERISA and public plan investment lawyer with 25 years of public and private sector experience.  He enjoys longstanding connections with regulators, a broad technical proficiency in ERISA and public plan regulation, and a gift for blending analysis with insight.  Patrick’s work focuses on investment funds (particularly real estate, transportation and stable value-related strategies), general asset management, bank/broker-dealer netting opinions, derivatives and other capital market transactions, prohibited transaction exemptions, government investigations, and adversarial proceedings.  His clients include major national and international financial institutions.

Patrick is also a frequent lecturer on employee benefit investment issues at the Practising Law Institute in New York and has served as an adjunct professor at the George Washington University Law School for ten years. He is regularly recognized by Chambers USA and The Legal 500 lists of top lawyers for employee benefits and executive compensation.

Philip is a solicitor of the Senior Courts of England and Wales (non practising). In December 2017 he retired from Slaughter and May after more than 30 years as a partner specialising in pensions law. Philip is a graduate of Durham University.

His experience included advising on some of the largest scheme mergers and restructurings, repayments of surplus and management of deficit issues (including benefit design changes and consultations with employees and their representatives over these changes) and “employer covenant” support measures.

Philip’s work included advising General Motors on the UK pension aspects of the sale of its Opel/Vauxhall Automotive business to Peugeot SA, including advising on the associated UK pensions reorganisation (2017); advising Pirelli on the impact of its post-agreed takeover by ChemChina, refinancing arrangements, including measures in respect of the "employer covenant" for its 5 UK pension funds (2016); advising Unilever on re-enrolment issues following the third anniversary of its auto-enrolment staging date (2016); advising Royal London on the closure of its defined benefit pension schemes to future accrual (2015).

Philip is listed as a leading individual in the Pensions section of Chambers UK, 2017 and in the Pensions Section Hall of Fame in The Legal 500 United Kingdom, 2017.

Philip has been a member of a number of PensionsEurope working groups, including its Defined Benefit Working Group. He is a member of the International Pension and Employee Benefits Lawyers Association ("IPEBLA"), and a past chair of IPEBLA.  He is a former member of the main Committee of the Association of Pension Lawyers (the “APL”) and a past Chairman of the APL's Legislative and Parliamentary Sub-Committee. He is also a former member of the International Sub-Committee of the Association of Pension Lawyers.

During 2018, Philip has provided expert evidence to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee Consultation on CDC Schemes, appeared as an expert witness before that Committee (and his evidence is referred in more than 10% of the footnotes in the Select Committee’s Report published on 16th July, 2018). He has spoken at a number of conferences, both within the UK and overseas, on Collective Defined Contribution Pension Schemes, published a joint paper comparing Dutch Collective Defined Contribution Pension Schemes with UK Defined Benefit Schemes, and provided a response to the Department for Work and Pensions June 2018  Consultation on clarifying and strengthening trustees’ investment duties.

More recently he has published an article, in Trust Law International (Volume 32, Part 4, 2019) on“ Must occupational pension schemes take into  account ESG factors, even if there is a risk of financial detriment to the pension fund?” and responded to the UK Department of Work and Pensions public consultation on “ Delivering Collective Defined Contribution Pension Schemes”.


Hal is a partner in Aon’s Retirement and Investment Business located in Norwalk, CT. His focus is primarily centered on pension de-risking strategies for corporate pension fund clients. Recent projects Hal has been working on include: designing a lump sum pension offering to former employees; re-evaluating a plan sponsor’s asset allocation given a recent pension freeze; and analyzing a potential bulk annuity transfer for a subset of the company’s pension plan.


Hal has over 20 years of experience in consulting and also worked at an investment bank to help create non-insurance based pension de-risking solutions. He is a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries and a CFA charterholder. He joined Aon in January, 2015.


Hal has experience spanning across multiple industries including energy, big law, and retail.  Hal leads Aon’s effort in addressing the unique needs of law firms who sponsor defined benefit plans for the partnership.


Hal earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Statistics and Actuarial Science from New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT).



Shannon Barrett 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.

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.