Qualified Plans

Staying Ahead in Times of Constant Change

Qualified plans are some of the most valuable recruitment tools available to employers. They are also among the most heavily regulated of employee benefits plans. Continual changes in the rules governing such plans -- notably, massive amendments in the area of defined benefit plans -- challenge employers’ efforts to stay current and take appropriate action. Recent examples include Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules that provide favorable incentives for companies to use auto-enrollment procedures for their 401(k) plans, but which may carry repercussions based on when a company opts in. In addition, recent proposed U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) regulations on disclosure of service provider information and fee disclosure could affect service provider relations with qualified retirement plans, while 401(k) disclosure continues to draw attention to fees relating to investment in 401(k) plans.

Advisors to Leading Employers

Our Qualified Plans practice is part of Miller & Chevalier’s nationally recognized Employee Benefits practice. We guide businesses through the intricacies of the rules governing qualified plans. Our lawyers are highly experienced advisors with a deep and nuanced understanding of the legal and tax issues that face employers. We are known for crafting innovative and practical solutions to our clients’ business challenges.

Our clients are among the world’s largest public and privately-owned companies, sophisticated and discerning employers who value working with a proven leader in employee benefits and qualified plans. The powerful combination of our benefits and tax capabilities, our rich government experience, and our reputation for resolving tough issues has made us a firm of choice for top U.S. and non-U.S. companies. We steer these clients -- many with workforces in the tens of thousands and plan assets in the billions -- through the intricacies of Washington bureaucracy. We successfully resolve their issues and design strategies that advance their objectives and mitigate risk.

Trusted Leaders in Qualified Plans, Employee Benefits, and Tax

Our Qualified Plans practice spans all stages of a plan’s life and addresses both our clients’ planning and policy needs. Our lawyers routinely work with clients to design, amend, merge, or terminate retirement plans. In addition, we advise on plan administration and operation. We counsel employers on issues related to all types of retirement plans, including traditional defined benefit and defined contribution plans, pension plans, profit sharing plans, 401(k) plans, IRAs, and employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), as well as “hybrid” designs such as cash balance and pension equity plans, and plans for tax-exempt employers. We address participant investment education, prohibited transactions, pension surplus, 401(h) accounts, and plan loan programs.

Employers creating plans value our lawyers’ vast experience advising clients on a multitude of plans and across a variety of industries. And because adopting a new plan often involves freezing or terminating another plan, we help our clients with all aspects of the transition to the new plan. The rules for freezing or terminating qualified retirement plans, particularly those for defined benefit plans, have become increasingly complex. Our insight and experience help us provide sound and creative solutions that accomplish companies’ business goals.

We advise employers on the range of issues entailed in operating and administering qualified plans, among them nondiscrimination testing, defined benefit plan funding rules, and amendments to comply with pension tax legislative changes and new IRS and ERISA regulations. We also counsel them on outsourcing arrangements.

Our lawyers have substantial experience conducting regulatory and fiduciary compliance reviews. We help clients self-correct plan defects or guide them through the appropriate IRS and DOL compliance programs, including the IRS Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System’s (EPCRS) Self-Correction Program (SCP), Voluntary Correction Program (VCP), and Audit Closing Agreement Program (Audit CAP), and the DOL Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program (VFCP) and Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance Program (DFVCP).

We recognize the important role that plan issues play in mergers, reorganizations and other corporate transactions, and in post-merger integration, and we handle the variety of plan issues resulting from these events.

The Value of Government Know-How

Our considerable experience and long-standing relationships in government help us to present our clients’ interests commandingly in all stages of the federal regulatory and legislative process. Our Employee Benefits team features multiple senior IRS, U.S. Department of the Treasury, and Congressional officials and draws on the experience of other Miller & Chevalier lawyers who have held strategic policy positions in government, including as IRS Commissioner, IRS Assistant Commissioner (Technical), IRS Deputy Chief Counsel (Operations), and Majority Tax counsel for the House Committee on Ways and Means. Our lawyers are recognized in government for their subject-matter knowledge, their integrity, and their policy acumen, a distinction that we value and that serves our clients well.

We represent our clients strategically before Congress and federal agencies, advise on issues emerging from the relevant House and Senate Committees, and assist with regulatory matters, particularly as agencies are developing new guidance or policy positions. Our inside-the-beltway team routinely helps clients navigate the maze of the federal government. We focus on advancing our clients’ business objectives and successfully resolving issues before they develop into costly legal problems.

Go-to Counsel for Tough Agency Challenges and Controversies

Helping clients resolve tough, complex issues administratively is a significant facet of Miller & Chevalier’s practice. We have a long history resolving important and difficult matters quickly and on terms favorable to our clients at every stage of the regulatory agency process. Our singular blend of employee benefits and issue resolution capabilities distinguishes our practice and is a clear asset to our clients. We regularly handle IRS closing agreements involving retirement plan corrections not covered by VCP procedures, successfully persuade the Treasury Department and IRS to address specific items in regulations, and obtain IRS and Treasury Department exception for certain ESOPs with retiree medical accounts (HSOPs).

Our lawyers are equally skilled in helping clients plan for audits and manage the range of audit issues. Clients routinely engage us to help them develop strategies for issues that have been raised during an audit, as well as to identify other areas of risk.

Formidable Litigation Resources

When litigation is necessary, companies with multi-million dollar amounts in controversy choose Miller & Chevalier for our experience, our approach to litigation, and our record of achievement in court. They know that we are forceful advocates who will defend their interests vigorously and persuasively, with a team precisely suited to their particular needs. We also have organized national litigation strategies for clients to help them in developing law on recurring issues.

For our consulting clients, the concrete experience of our litigators is an invaluable resource in designing protective plans and practices today that will help avoid litigation in the future.

Unparalleled Tax Leadership

Miller & Chevalier has been at the forefront of complex tax issues since our founding as the first federal tax practice in the U.S. During that time, our lawyers have participated in the development and implementation of every significant piece of federal tax legislation. Our tax and employee benefits practices are fully integrated, which provides great benefit to clients.

Beyond Experience

We are proud of our clients’ reliance on our experience and performance. We are equally gratified by our reputation as pragmatic business professionals who never lose sight of clients’ business objectives. Our clients appreciate our ability to work easily within their organizations and to integrate seamlessly with their team of internal and external specialists.

Because we know that having early information can be very helpful to employers in shaping their strategies, we pay exceptional attention to keeping our clients informed, using vehicles such as up-to-the-minute alerts, timely teleconferences, and workshops. Our Washington, D.C. focus gives us immediate access to breaking news, allowing us to brief clients on the latest regulatory and legislative trends and developments, including their impact on employers. Often, we are able to alert our clients to developments well in advance of their formal publication or announcement.

Representative Engagements|View All
  • Represented an energy company in connection with an IRS technical advice proceeding involving a "greater of" pension formula that the IRS initially viewed as creating a backloading issue, but subsequently relented by issuing Rev. Rul. 2008-7.
  • Obtained VCP approval for method of correction for ESOP operation issue for large energy company, avoiding millions of dollars in potential correction costs.
  • Obtained a private letter ruling (PLR) applying net unrealized appreciation to participant directed investments for agricultural company (PLR 200509032).
  • Assisted a government contractor, confronting the expiration of its primary contract, in developing various risk management and cost reduction strategies associated with certain plan terminations, benefit reductions, and layoffs likely to occur as a result of the contract expiration.
  • Provide advice with respect to defined benefit plans of large and mid-size companies, including hybrid plans, with respect to application of Pension Protection Act provisions.
Government Experience
Corporate Experience
Rankings and Recognition
  • Chambers USA: Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Team of the Year, 2015
  • Legal 500: Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Team of the Year (U.S.), 2015
  • Chambers USA: Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (National), 2015 - 2016
  • Chambers USA: ERISA Litigation (National), 2015 - 2016
  • Chambers USA: Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (District of Columbia), 2008 - 2016
  • Legal 500: Labor & Employment: Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (U.S.), 2010 - 2016
  • U.S. News -- Best Lawyers® "Best Law Firms": Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law (National), 2013 - 2016
  • U.S. News -- Best Lawyers® "Best Law Firms": Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law (District of Columbia), 2010 - 2016