Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation

Featured Publication:

DOL Fiduciary Rule Taking Effect June 9 Is Low-Calorie, But Still Hard for Some to Swallow [Employee Benefits Alert]

Jay A. Dorsch and Matthew D. Clyde discuss the DOL's Fiduciary Rule that state individuals or companies who are considered fiduciaries under the new rule must meet “impartial conduct standards” to qualify for the related prohibited transaction exemptions.


Now more than ever, companies face significant challenges in attracting and retaining employees. There is greater public scrutiny of compensation and benefits, and a push for greater transparency has vastly increased the complexity of regulations governing these matters. Federal officials routinely publish rules changes that consist of hundreds of pages.

Amid all the noise and confusion, Cozen O’Connor attorneys train their attention on the one thing that matters most: our clients’ goals. We don’t waste time belaboring constraints or cataloging unlikely scenarios. We clear away distractions and focus on finding the most efficient legal path to our clients’ desired results.

Cozen O’Connor’s employee benefits and executive compensation lawyers advise companies, boards of directors, investment committees, management teams, and individual executives in a wide range of industries. On the employee benefits side, we provide guidance regarding retirement and health, and welfare plans, counsel clients on the benefits implications of business transactions, and advise on fiduciary responsibilities, plan terminations, and withdrawals. On the executive compensation side, we negotiate sophisticated contracts that include proper protections and desirable incentives for both executives and employers.

Each corporate client needs compensation and benefits arrangements that comply with the law, limit liability, attract and retain top talent, and square with the company’s financial position. To strike the appropriate balance among those goals, benefits counsel must develop specific strategies to suit each client’s situation. But whether it’s a union-sponsored multiemployer pension plan or an executive contract, any well-crafted agreement must satisfy one criterion: it must operate as intended. A plan that does not function properly or has unanticipated consequences is a missed opportunity at best and a hotbed of litigation at worst. Cozen O’Connor attorneys make sure that promises made are promises delivered.

While many large-firm benefit and compensation attorneys specialize in narrow subfields, our attorneys are well-rounded general practitioners. They are fully versed in the details of each set of laws and maintain a broad perspective on the field as a whole. We believe this versatility is essential to providing the best advice to clients. Cozen O’Connor attorneys can identify how even small changes in one area could affect a company’s benefits and compensation position in other areas. Moreover, clients know that an attorney is closely overseeing their interests and understands all aspects of their benefits and compensation portfolio.



Employee Benefits

  • Advise clients regarding qualified retirement plans, including defined benefit pension plans, defined contribution plans, 403(b) plans, 401(k) plans, cash balance plans, and ESOPs
  • Counsel clients regarding nonqualified retirement plans, related funding arrangements, non-qualified deferred compensation, and tax considerations
  • Provide advice regarding health and welfare benefit plans’ statutory requirements in order to protect clients from liability
  • Counsel clients in their fiduciary duties under ERISA
  • Advise clients on benefits issues arising from mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures
  • Assist with plan terminations and de-risking, including the implications of plan underfunding or overfunding
  • Counsel clients regarding multiemployer pension plans and withdrawal liability
  • Represent clients in all aspects of ERISA litigation and in matters before the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Labor, Department of Health and Human Services, and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation

Executive Compensation

  • Counsel clients about non-qualified deferred compensation strategies, including Section 409A requirements and other deferred compensation models
  • Design and provide guidance on equity-based incentive compensation programs
  • Prepare employment contracts, retention agreements, and change-in-control agreements
  • Negotiate executive compensation packages in connection with mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures



  • Public and private companies
  • Boards of directors
  • Investment committees
  • Management teams
  • Individual executives



Our attorneys are renowned in the field of benefits and compensation law. The team includes a fellow of the prestigious American College of Employee Benefits Counsel. Several of our attorneys have professional experience as accountants and human resources consultants, which gives them valuable insights into the needs and challenges of their clients. Attorneys in the practice frequently lecture and publish on employee benefits, compensation, tax, and employment law.

Cozen O’Connor has a reputation for being entrepreneurial, which means, in part, that we constantly strive to deepen our relationships with our clients. We provide steadfast support to our clients in the midst of challenge, transition, and upheaval because we see client relationships as long-term investments. 

We see our cross-disciplinary support of colleagues within the firm as another investment. Effective collaboration is a hallmark of excellent client service. Therefore, members of the employee benefits and executive compensation group work closely with attorneys from our tax, labor and employment, mergers and acquisitions, bankruptcy, health care, and public finance groups to provide comprehensive legal counsel.



DOL Issues Model COBRA Notices For Implementing COVID-Relief Bill’s Subsidized COBRA Requirements [Alert]

April 09, 2021

Robert Kaplan discusses the DOL's three model notices employers are required to send to qualified beneficiaries.

Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Provisions in the American Rescue Plan Act [Alert]

March 12, 2021

Robert Kaplan, Matt Clyde, and Lynn Brehm discuss the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and how it affects employee benefit plans and publicly traded companies’ tax deductions for executive compensation.

An Election Agenda for Management if Biden Becomes President [Alert]

November 02, 2020

Jeff Pasek, Diane Thompson, Michael Corgan, and Anne Greene discuss the significant changes affecting a host of executive employment issues that could be implemented by a Biden administration.

Executive Compensation Considerations Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

September 09, 2020

Katayun Jaffari, Diane Thompson, and Anne Greene co-authored an article published in The Legal Intelligencer that examines the considerations companies must bear in mind when addressing executive compensation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

IRS Issues Guidance Implementing Coronavirus-Related Retirement Plan Provisions Under the Cares Act [Alert]

June 23, 2020

Robert Kaplan and John Wilson discuss the IRS's latest guidance for 401(k), 403(b) and 457(b) retirement plans, including the expanded definition of a qualified individual.

IRS Issues Proposed Regulations for Tax on Nonprofit Executive Compensation [Alert]

June 10, 2020

Robert Kaplan and Jay Dorsch discuss the IRS's proposed rules regarding the 21 percent excise tax on compensation over $1 million and excess parachute payments paid by tax-exempt organizations to certain covered employees.

ERISA Fiduciaries Get Protection as a result of High Court Ruling [Alert]

June 04, 2020

Rob Kaplan discusses the Supreme Court's decision in Thole vs. U.S. Bank N.A., and what it means for fiduciaries of ERISA-regulated employee pension plans.

IRS Allows Greater Cafeteria Plan Flexibility During COVID-19 Crisis [Alert]

May 14, 2020

John Wilson, Jay Dorsch, Lynn Brehm, Robert Kaplan, and Matt Clyde discuss IRS Notice 2020-29 allowing employers to provide flexibility to employees to change their elections under cafeteria plans through December 31, 2020.

IRS and DOL Release Employee Benefits Guidance for COVID-19-Related Administration [Alert]

May 11, 2020

John Wilson and Rob Kaplan discuss guidance from the Department of Labor and the IRS regarding retirement plans, COBRA, and employee benefits subject to ERISA.

IRS Announces High Deductible Health Plans Can Cover COVID-19 Expenses Without Applying a Deductible [Alert]

March 16, 2020

Robert Kaplan discusses the IRS Notice 2020-15 allowing employers to relax deductibles and other out-of-pocket limits for coronavirus-related expenses.

IRS Asserts No Statute of Limitations for ACA Violations; May Require New Record Retention Policies [Alert]

March 02, 2020

Jay Dorsch and Rob Kaplan discuss the IRS's position that there is no statute of limitations for penalties associated with the Affordable Care Act.

Year-End Spending Bill Includes Significant Employee Benefit Plan Changes

December 30, 2019

Robert Kaplan and Jay Dorsch discuss why employers need to begin evaluating the effects of the SECURE Act on their retirement plans as soon as possible.

Employee Benefits Compliance: Three Employee Benefits Plans That Your Company May Be Overlooking [Pittsburgh HRA]

July 17, 2019

Anne Greene wrote an article about three types of benefit plan documents that are often pushed to the back of the file box without review and sometimes altogether forgotten.

DOL Fiduciary Rule Taking Effect June 9 Is Low-Calorie, But Still Hard for Some to Swallow [Employee Benefits Alert]

June 01, 2017

Jay A. Dorsch and Matthew D. Clyde discuss the DOL's Fiduciary Rule that state individuals or companies who are considered fiduciaries under the new rule must meet “impartial conduct standards” to qualify for the related prohibited transaction exemptions.

ACA Relief Brightens 2017 for Small Employers [Labor & Employment Observer]

December 23, 2016

L. Stephen Bowers and Jay A. Dorsch discuss the 21st Century Cures Act, which eases restrictions on health reimbursement arrangements sponsored by certain small employers.

Small Employers Cheer Recently Eased Affordable Care Act Restrictions [Employee Benefits Alert]

December 13, 2016

L. Stephen Bowers and Jay A. Dorsch discuss the 21st Century Cures Act that provides government funding and support for a number of health care initiatives.

Vague COBRA Notices Could Prove Venomous [Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Alert]

March 09, 2016

L. Stephen Bowers and Jay A. Dorsch discuss a recent class action settlement wherein a large financial services organization agreed to pay nearly $300,000 to settle claims that the notice it provided to health plan participants and beneficiaries of their right to continue their health coverage upon the occurrence of a qualifying event, as is required by COBRA, was deficient.

Limiting Employees’ Hours to Dodge the ACA’s Employer Mandate Could Violate ERISA [Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Alert]

February 23, 2016

David A. Barron and L. Stephen Bowers discuss Marin v. Dave & Busters, Inc. et al., a federal district court ruling allowing an employee to proceed with a class action lawsuit that alleges her employer violated ERISA when it reduced employees’ hours to avoid incurring increased costs under the ACA.

Will Plan Participants’ Demands for Perfection Retire Large 401(k) Plans? [Employee Benefits Alert]

February 03, 2016

Stephen L. Bowers and Jay Dorsch discuss Bell v. Anthem Inc. et al., and (1) whether it is a breach of fiduciary duty for a large plan to not use its leverage to secure lower administration and investment services fees, and (2) whether the selection of higher-fee mutual funds over similar lower-cost funds constitutes a per se breach of fiduciary duty under ERISA?

Supreme Court Sends ERISA Plans Racing to the Courthouse for Subrogation Recoveries [Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Alert]

January 29, 2016

Stephen L. Bowers, Jay A. Dorsch and Jeffrey I. Pasek discuss the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Montanile v. Board of Trustees of the National Elevator Industry Health Benefit Plan and how it impacts fiduciaries of employee benefit plans governed by ERISA.

DOL Issues Re-proposed Regulations Defining Investment Advice Fiduciary and Proposes New PTEs [Employee Benefits Alert]

May 04, 2015

The DOL issued long awaited re-proposed regulations governing fiduciary status and investment advice for public comment on April 14, 2015. The proposed regulations would amend the definition of fiduciary under ERISA to better protect retirement savers against conflicted investment advice.

More Regulation: The OFCCP Sets Its Sights on Veterans and Individuals with Disabilities [AHLA Labor & Employment Newsletter]

December 13, 2013

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has stepped up its efforts in recent years to assert jurisdiction over more health care providers. As a result, a growing number of health care providers are struggling to comply with OFCCP's many regulatory requirements, while others are warily watching developments in this area. Now, federal contractors are faced with new regulations principally aimed at increasing employment opportunities for veterans and individuals with disabilities. These regulations, which cover an estimated 200,000 federal contractor establishments, become effective March 24, 2014, and require contractors to make additional, significant recruitment and outreach efforts to these groups.

Use-It-or-Lose-It Rule Modified for Health Care FSAs [Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Alert]

November 11, 2013

The IRS has issued IRS Notice 2013-71, allowing limited carry-over of amounts in employees’ flex plan accounts to the following plan year. Under the guidance employers may permit participants to carry over up to $500 of unused amounts in their health care flexible spending account into the next plan year.

Changes to New Jersey’s Unemployment Insurance Law Penalize Nonresponsive Employers [Labor & Employment Alert]

September 12, 2013

New Jersey has joined a growing list of states enacting changes to their unemployment insurance laws to comply with an upcoming federal deadline. Starting October 22, 2013, New Jersey will refuse to relieve an employer’s account of charges for erroneous benefit payments if (1) the payments were made because the employer failed to timely respond to requests for information from the New Jersey Division of Labor and Workforce Development, and (2) the employer has a pattern of failing to respond to such requests.

Obama Administration 2.0: What’s at Stake for Employers [Profiles in Diversity Journal]

May 01, 2013

During Barack Obama’s first term as president, most of his pro-employee legislative agenda was stymied by Congress. Undeterred, the Obama Administration turned to administrative agencies such as the Department of Labor, National Labor Relations Board, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to move forward its workplace agenda. The stakes continue to be high for employers during President Obama’s second term, particularly in the diversity-focused areas of equal employment opportunity and immigration.

June 30, 2011 Deadline for Cafeteria Plan Amendments [Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Alert!]

June 20, 2011

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, enacted March 23, 2010, revises the definition of medical expenses as it relates to over-the-counter drugs for employer-provided accident and health plans, including health flexible spending arrangements (FSAs) and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), as well as the definition of qualified medical expenses for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Archer Medical Savings Accounts (Archer MSAs).

Last Chance to Correct 409A Violations Without Having to Pay a Penalty [Employee Benefit & Executive Compensation Alert!]

November 10, 2010

The IRS issued Notice 2010-6 (Notice) earlier this year, providing taxpayers with a mechanism to correct certain IRC Section 409A document errors. Under the Notice’s transition rules, if certain document compliance errors are corrected by December 31, 2010, the affected employee may avoid incurring any income tax or penalties (other than income tax on amounts actually received).

Health Care Reform Act Provides for Potential Reimbursement of Retiree Health Claims [Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Alert!]

June 21, 2010

The new health care reform legislation provides an opportunity to employers who offer medical coverage to retirees to obtain government reimbursement of certain claims expenses. Called the ''Early Retiree Reinsurance Program,'' it is designed to assist employers who provide health care coverage for individuals who retire before becoming eligible for Medicare (i.e., ages 55 to 65) to continue to provide such coverage. However, there is a catch: the reimbursement program is temporary and is capped at $5 billion in total reimbursements.

VEBAS, ERISA, and Other Cloaking Devices [Federation of Regulatory Counsel, Inc.]

May 01, 2010

Health care costs continue to rise, forcing a commensurate rise in the cost of traditional group insurance. Employers continue to seek affordable benefits for their employees in an effort to maintain a productive and competitive workforce. Inspired entrepreneurs enter the market to supply low-cost programs to meet this demand. Many of these programs qualify as insurance.

Expanded FBAR Reporting Requirements for Employee Benefits Plans [Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Alert!]

July 20, 2009

Expanded FBAR Reporting Requirements for Employee Benefits Plans - Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Alert! - Recent IRS pronouncements have expanded the obligation of retirement and other employee benefits plans, along with other taxpayers, to file the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (“FBAR”). FBAR reporting requirements have been around for many years. A “U. S. person” (U. S. citizens and residents, certain foreign persons doing business in the U. S. and domestic corporations, partnerships and trusts, including employee benefits trust)

Cozen O’Connor: On Top Of The Hot Issues In Executive Compensation [The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel]

July 01, 2009

''It’s unclear what impact ‘say on pay’ votes will have. A shareholder vote that ‘yes this is a good program’ or ‘no this is not a good program’ doesn’t provide any guidance on why the shareholders have concluded a program is or is not appropriate.''

Section 409A Deadline Approaching [Employee Benefits Alert!]

November 20, 2008

December 31, 2008 is the deadline for revising nonqualified deferred compensation arrangements to comply with Internal Revenue Code Section 409A. While the rules have been in effect since 2004, the deadline for conforming all documents that are subject to Section 409A was extended from the end of last year and is not expected to be extended further. Although Section 409A addresses only non-qualified deferred compensation arrangements, the final regulation.

Summer 2007 [Business Law Observer]

July 10, 2007

Summer 2007 - Business Law Observer -

2007 Deadline for Deferred Compensation Plan Amendments Under Section 409A Final Regulations [Employee Benefits Alert - 06/25/07]

June 25, 2007

On April 10, 2007, the Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service issued final regulations on nonqualified deferred compensation under Section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code (the ''Final Regulations'').

Final 409A Regulations Released [Employee Benefits Alert - 04/12/07]

April 12, 2007

On April 10, 2007, the Internal Revenue Service (the ''IRS'') and the Treasury Department released the long-awaited final regulations regarding the taxation of non-qualified deferred compensation under Section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the ''Code''). Code Section 409A provides that amounts deferred under non-qualified plans and arrangements may be subject to current taxation and penalties if certain requirements are not satisfied.

9/01/2006 [Employee Benefits Alert!]

September 01, 2006

9/01/2006 - Employee Benefits Alert! -

Events & Seminars

Past Events

Preparing Plan Sponsors for 2021

November 12, 2020 - Webinar

2019 Labor and Employment Law Update

June 20, 2019 - Philadelphia, PA

ERISA Basics National Institute

June 05, 2019 - Washington, D.C.

What’s Trending in Labor and Employment Law

May 23, 2019 - Pittsburgh, PA

Health Law 2019

December 05, 2018 - Philadelphia, PA

2017 Labor and Employment Law Update - Chicago

October 05, 2017 - Chicago, IL

2015 Health Law Year in Review

December 08, 2015 - Philadelphia, PA

PEBA Program: Legislative Update

December 11, 2014 - Philadelphia, PA

Critical Employment Law Issues for 2015

November 05, 2014 - Philadelphia, PA

8th Annual HFMA Fall Institute

September 18, 2014 - Philadelphia, PA

19th Annual PBI Employment Law Institute

April 16, 2013 - Philadelphia, PA

Implementing The Affordable Care Act - Countdown to 2014

February 06, 2013 - Philadelphia, PA

In The News

Companies Slammed by Coronavirus Look to Cut Contributions to their Employees' 401(k)s

April 01, 2020

Jay Dorsch was quoted in USA Today discussing the impact of employee benefits with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cozen O’Connor Recognized As a Best Law Firm in 24 Practice Areas Nationwide, 106 Practice Areas Regionally

November 05, 2019

The U.S. News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” rankings are based on a rigorous evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations and peer review from leading attorneys in their field.

Robert S. Kaplan Signs-On to Cozen O’Connor‘s Growing Labor and Employment Practice

July 10, 2019

Kaplan has experience as a former investment and retirement services professional and now advises employers, benefit plan sponsors, and other service providers on employee benefits (ERISA) and executive compensation-related legal and tax issues.

100 Cozen O’Connor Lawyers Named to the Best Lawyers in America

August 23, 2017

Lawyers were selected for inclusion in the 2018 edition based on a rigorous peer-review that has been developed and defined for more than 30 years.

Cozen O’Connor Welcomes Six More Attorneys from Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney

May 17, 2017

Cozen O’Connor has announced the following attorneys have joined the firm: employee benefit/ERISA attorneys John H. Wilson, Lynn Brehm and Matthew Clyde, labor and employment attorney Brian A. Casal, and commercial litigators William J. Moorhead and Gabrielle Lee.


Jay A. Dorsch

Chair, Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation


(215) 665-4685


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