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 rule changes that consist of hundreds of pages.

In responding to all of this information, 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 and compensation committees, management teams, and individual executives in a wide range of industries. On the employee benefits side, we provide guidance on the design and administration of retirement, health and welfare, and severance plans and 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.

Every organization 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 compensation and benefits 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 and equity-based incentive compensation programs
  • Prepare employment contracts, retention agreements, and change-in-control agreements
  • Negotiate executive compensation arrangements, including incentive plans, equity compensation, severance and change-in-control agreements, and performance metrics
  • Help clients navigate the tax law implications of executive compensation


  • 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.



Department of Labor Issues Strong Caution on Use of Cryptocurrencies in 401(k) Plans [Alert]

March 21, 2022

Rob Kaplan discusses the DOL's compliance release that provides strong caution against ERISA fiduciaries of 401(k) and 403(b) plans including cryptocurrencies as plan investment options.

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.

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

In The News

49 Cozen O'Connor Attorneys Named Pennsylvania Super Lawyers and Rising Stars

June 01, 2022

Super Lawyers has selected 49 Cozen O'Connor attorneys to the 2022 Pennsylvania Super Lawyers and Rising Stars lists.

Cozen O’Connor Recognized as a “Best Law Firm” in 29 Practice Areas Nationwide, 121 Practice Areas Regionally

November 04, 2021

U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers recognized Cozen O’Connor as a “Best Law Firm” in 29 practice areas nationwide and 121 practice areas regionally.

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.


Jay A. Dorsch

Chair, Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation


(215) 665-4685



Cozen O’Connor Recognized as a “Best Law Firm” in 29 Practice Areas Nationwide, 121 Practice Areas Regionally

November 04, 2021

U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers recognized Cozen O’Connor as a “Best Law Firm” in 29 practice areas nationwide and 121 practice areas regionally.

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.

Related Practice Areas

Keep up-to-date with the latest news from Cozen O'Connor

Enter your City or Zip.

Probably shouldn't change this:
Sign up to receive alerts, publications, and event / webinar invites.

By submitting your contact information, you are giving Cozen O'Connor consent to contact you via email.