Employers of all kinds — public, privately held, tax-exempt, and governmental — rely on Friday, Eldredge & Clark to handle their unique employee benefit needs. We handle every legal aspect of employee benefits plans, from design, implementation, and administration to compliance audits, and mergers and acquisitions. More importantly, while other firms may address this area of the law with employment lawyers who are not trained in the complexities of tax law, you have the assurance of knowing that our group focuses exclusively on the tax and ERISA (Employee Retirement and Income Security Act) concerns of your unique benefits plan and compensation needs.
Our firm has by far the largest employee benefits practice in Arkansas, encompassing more than 1,000 separate benefits and compensation plans. Our clients based in this state and beyond represent a “who’s who” of leading employers and include:
- A leading energy utility
- Banks and bank holding companies
- A large nationwide department store retailer
- Food processing companies with regional and national reach
- The top Arkansas health systems and hospitals
- Family business interests that own dozens of companies
- Educational institutions and other not-for-profit organizations (including the State of Arkansas deferred compensation plan)
But big plans are hardly our only concern. If you are a small employer — for example, a medical practice or a family-owned business — you will get the same attention to detail and insightful legal guidance as clients with thousands of covered employees. No matter what your size, when you have to deal with the Department of Labor (Employee Benefits Security Administration) or the Internal Revenue Service on a pension or benefits issue, you get the assurance of representation by lawyers who are well-known and respected by government regulators.
The foundation of our benefits counseling is a tax law practice that is second to none among law firms in Arkansas. Members of our tax practice group all have advanced tax law degrees, nearly all have been selected by peers in the profession for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America, and several have received special recognition from such authoritative organizations as Chambers USA and the American College of Tax Counsel. And, our benefits lawyers have received similar Chambers and Best Lawyers recognition, encompassing such evaluations as “highly recommended by sources for the quality and depth of his work” and “an attorney of the highest caliber who sources commend for his experience, commitment, and dedication.” When you turn to our benefits lawyers, you get help from some of the best in the profession.
Private Employer Plans
Private sector employers need to ensure that the employee benefits plans they implement are well structured, properly documented, and in full compliance with all Department of Labor and IRS regulations. We fully understand the importance of preventing litigation regarding plan design and administration, as companies both public and privately held and of all sizes seek our help for proper structuring of:
- Profit sharing plans
- 401(k) plans
- Defined benefits pension plans
- Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs)
- Health and welfare plans
We provide legal advice to both plan sponsors and fiduciaries on issues ranging from design, administration, tax qualification, fiduciary duties, Department of Labor investigations, Internal Revenue Service audits, and both DOL and IRS correction and compliance programs.
We have the experience to assist private sector employers address benefits issues that they might otherwise not anticipate. For example, we offer due diligence and any necessary negotiations on benefits and compensation plans in mergers and acquisitions, having regularly done this for one of the largest retailers in the country. We can also assist your company in the design, implementation, and administration of health and welfare benefits plans, including group health plans, cafeteria plans, and complex self-funded plans.
We can help manage your plan exposures and costs, avoid costly benefits plan lawsuits and liabilities, and structure plans to save time and money in administration. We work to ensure that all plans comply with ERISA, the Internal Revenue Code, HIPAA, COBRA, the Social Security Act, federal employment discrimination, and other federal and state laws and regulations, with particular emphasis on fiduciary training, record retention and privacy concerns.
Tax-exempt Organization Plans
Health care providers and other tax-exempt organizations that maintain Section 403(b) retirement plans or programs or nonqualified deferred compensation plans subject to Section 457 – as well as other defined contribution plan opportunities that have been extended to tax-exempt entities – can confidently turn to Friday, Eldredge & Clark for full compliance guidance. From effective plan structure and design to preventive plan reviews that identify and correct problems before they show up in an IRS audit or DOL investigation, our guidance helps clients avoid problems. That includes help in properly classifying and determining benefits coverage for part-time employees, leased employees, shared employees, and independent contractors. We also assist employers in reporting benefits in their Form 990.
A wide range of Arkansas governmental entities rely on us for employee benefits guidance. We advise many governmental entities on the optimal ways to structure and administer their benefits plans. The unique complexities in funding and compliance surrounding governmental plans require our special guidance on state law requirements that apply to non-ERISA tax qualified plans, Section 403(b) and 457 plans.
Executive compensation arrangements are often at the heart of benefits planning, and we advise companies on all aspects of equity and deferred compensation planning for executives. Our in-depth understanding of tax, accounting, disclosure, and securities considerations allows us to provide the necessary guidance to implement and administer effective equity compensation arrangements, bonus programs, and deferred compensation plans.
ERISA and state law fiduciary requirements are extremely complex, and we focus on giving you and your organization a clear idea of your responsibilities as fiduciaries. With years of experience advising many clients in a wide range of industries, we clearly explain what the law expects of fiduciaries and their advisors and service providers. Working proactively on claims avoidance and risk assessment, our group guides fiduciaries on strategies that proactively identify and eliminate the basis for claims regarding prohibited transactions or breaches of fiduciary duty. But when necessary, we can capably and aggressively defend fiduciaries when sued individually or in class actions. We also can assist in responding to claims for benefits and can handle ERISA preemption issues.
Public Policy advocacy
Given our solid reputation in employee benefits, our firm is an effective advocate on the regulatory and compliance issues that are most important to your organization. Our participation in the IRS Liaison Group for the Gulf Coast Area and the PWBA Dallas Regional Office Practitioner Group gives us important access to those responsible for federal tax laws and regulations. Having extensive dealings with agency personnel at the district/regional level and in Washington, D.C., our team can skillfully represent you as a strong voice in tax and benefits policy.