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Hawkins Parnell & Young brings extraordinary depth in perspective in advising on matters arising in connection with Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) plans, and in defending shareholder, employment and benefits litigation throughout the country. Our attorneys handle diverse issues ranging from mainstream benefit claims litigation to complex class actions involving employee ownership plan (ESOP) valuations, and breach of ERISA fiduciary complaints involving the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) or private litigants. We draw upon this breadth of experience to provide clients comprehensive and cost-effective services nationwide from offices in California, New York, Texas, and Georgia.

We represent employers, insurers, plans, sponsors, fiduciaries, trustees, shareholders, plan administrators and third-party administrators (TPAs) in federal courts and government regulatory proceedings before the DOL and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

In recent years, there has been an explosion in ERISA and employee benefits related litigation, DOL investigations, and IRS audits. We provide, sophisticated preventive strategies aimed to limit risk exposure in our counseling efforts and aggressive defense for achieving a cost effective resolution in matters that have escalated to litigation.

Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs)

Our attorneys are recognized nationally as innovative leaders in the ESOP field. We regularly advise shareholders, management, publicly-traded and closely-held corporations, family-owned businesses, financial institutions, investors and other parties in designing, implementing, and using ESOPs in transactions, including the following types of transactions:

  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Business succession and estate planning
  • Management and leveraged buyouts
  • Shareholder liquidity/tax-deferral strategies under Section 1042 of the Internal Revenue Code
  • Redemptions and Releveraging
  • Recapitalizations
  • Hostile takeover bids
  • Third-party sales
  • Tender offers

Our experience ensures these transactions are negotiated in a manner to protect our clients’ interests and are fully documented to address the requirements that apply in ERISA to such transactions. We address the tax consequences of the transaction and the resulting post-transaction structure to protect the interests of our clients.

Our attorneys are frequent lecturers and authors regarding corporate, tax and fiduciary issues relating to ESOPs. They have been active leaders in the community for decades — David Johanson is a former member of the boards of directors of The ESOP Association, and a past chair of the legislative and regulatory advisory committee and the advisory committee chairs counsel. He was the general counsel for The National Center for Employee Ownership for more than ten years and served on its board of directors for many years.

Agency Investigations and Agency/Participant Litigation

We advise businesses, management, banks, investors, trustees and shareholders in preparing for and responding to governmental investigations of ESOPs and other qualified retirement plans, including DOL limited reviews and investigations, IRS audits and appeals, and U.S. Tax Court Petitions.  If these matters proceed, we defend these clients at the interview and administrative deposition stages of these proceedings.  We have an exceptional track record of completing early resolutions for hundreds of agency investigations that allow these matters to be resolved without the expense of litigation and the business disruption that such litigation can involve. When litigation is required, we are prepared to defend these matters vigorously and work to actively limit the risks associated with such litigation.