Eric D. Penkert helps employers navigate the complicated world of employee benefits laws. He assists businesses in understanding their compliance obligations under ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code with respect to retirement, executive compensation, and health and welfare benefits. Eric helps for-profit, tax-exempt, and governmental employers draft and restate their employee benefit plans, including qualified plans such as 401(k) and profit-sharing plans, nonqualified deferred compensation plans, welfare benefit (wrap) plans, and Internal Revenue Code Section 125 (cafeteria) plan documents. He also advises employers regarding health and welfare benefits laws, including the Affordable Care Act, COBRA, HIPAA, and ERISA. Mr. Penkert is a 2010 graduate of Vanderbilt Law School, where he also completed the Law and Business Certificate Program. In 2011, Mr. Penkert graduated from the University of Florida Levin College of Law with an LL.M. in taxation.
Ogletree Deakins is one of the largest labor and employment law firms representing management in all types of employment-related legal matters. The firm has more than 900 attorneys located in 53 offices across the United States and in Europe, Canada and Mexico. Ogletree Deakins is the “Law Firm of the Year” in Labor Law - Management and Litigation-ERISA categories in the 2020 edition of the U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” list. In addition to handling labor and employment law matters, the firm has thriving practices focused on business immigration, employee benefits and workplace safety and health law.
Ogletree Deakins represents a diverse range of clients, from start-up companies to Fortune 500 corporations. In Corporate Counsel magazine’s October 2013 survey, “Who Represents America’s Biggest Companies,” which reports on firms representing Fortune 500 companies, Ogletree Deakins received 170 mentions, more than any other firm. In the magazine's Best of 2019 guide, published in April 2019, Ogletree Deakins was named the top Employment Practice Law Firm in the Outside Counsel category.
Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Practice
Ogletree Deakins has one of the largest teams of employee benefits and executive compensation practitioners in the United States. Ogletree Deakins was listed as a national “First Tier” law firm in the employee benefits (ERISA) practice area in the 2019 edition of the U.S. News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” list. As part of a firm that focuses on labor and employment law, our Employee Benefits Practice Group has a special ability to relate technical expertise to the client’s “big picture” issues. Knowledge of the detailed requirements of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) and other applicable laws is our beginning, not our ending point. Our goal is to provide practical advice that allows an employer’s benefits strategy to work in harmony with the employer’s overall personnel, financial and business objectives.
Employers nationwide have come to depend on Ogletree Deakins for their employee benefits regulatory and compliance advice, both on a day-to-day basis and for unique projects involving corporate restructurings, acquisitions or benefit plan redesign. Our highly trained employee benefits practitioners provide consulting, planning and compliance advice to clients regarding employee benefits plans of all types, including both retirement plans and welfare or fringe benefit plans, sponsored by employers in the private, not-for-profit and public sectors. These include tax-qualified retirement plans, welfare and fringe benefits programs, cafeteria (Section 125) plans, nonqualified deferred compensation plans, severance pay plans, bonus plans, equity compensation plans and executive retirement plans.
We also advise clients on such matters as healthcare reform compliance issues, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) portability, privacy and nondiscrimination requirements; Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) continuation coverage rules, reporting and disclosure obligations to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), retirement and welfare plan nondiscrimination requirements, fiduciary compliance, fiduciary and other liability limitation arrangements and a whole range of cost containment strategies. In addition to our depth of experience with conventional group health plans, our attorneys advise clients on the development of defined contribution or consumer-directed health plan approaches, including programs that offer health savings accounts (HSAs).
New and established clients often turn to members of Ogletree Deakins’ employee benefits group to handle litigation involving employee pension or welfare benefits plans – sometimes brought on behalf of a single individual, but often brought on behalf of a class of plan participants – including claims under ERISA alleging breaches of fiduciary duties or violations of ERISA’s substantive requirements. The ERISA litigators in our practice group are an integral part of the overall benefits practice. They routinely draft plan documents and related instruments for qualified and nonqualified retirement plans, welfare plans and fringe benefit plans; advise clients regarding the employee benefits aspects of corporate mergers, acquisitions and restructurings; or counsel clients regarding other aspects of tax or regulatory compliance. Because our benefits litigators speak the language of employee benefits plan design and administration, they are able to communicate directly and effectively with the client’s human resources personnel, actuaries and other professionals to quickly recognize and marshal the facts essential to the defense.
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