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In The News

Gary Kotaska Comments on 11th Circuit Prohibiting CRA from Altering Health Benefits  More

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Press Releases

Phillips Lytle LLP Earns “Top Listed” Ranking in New York State in Commercial Litigation and Product Liability Litigation – Defendants on The Best Lawyers in America® 2015 List  More

Fifty-One Phillips Lytle LLP Attorneys Named to the 2014 Upstate New York Super Lawyers® List  More

Phillips Lytle LLP Attorneys Gary F. Kotaska and Colleen E. Lamarre and Chiampou Travis Besaw & Kershner LLP’s Kelly G. Besaw, CPA, CVA to Present at Multiemployer Pension Plan Seminar  More

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Speaking Engagements

“Compliance Updates,” Walsh Insurance Group, November 2011  More

Raymond H. Barr and Sarah K. Ranni to Present Seminar on Employee Benefits  More

“Understanding the Impact of Health Care Reform on Employers,” Lorman® Educational Services Seminar, June 2011  More

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“IRS and DOL Recognize All Same-Sex Marriages,” Phillips Lytle Employee Benefits Client Alert, October 2013  More

“What DOMA’s Demise Means for New York Employers and Benefit Plan Sponsors,” Phillips Lytle Employee Benefits Client Alert, August 2013  More

“Health Care Reform Update: Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions Delayed Until 2015; Other Provisions on the Horizon,” Phillips Lytle Employee Benefits Client Alert, August 2013  More

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Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation

In today’s competitive work environment, it’s imperative to offer employee benefit and executive compensation programs that attract, retain and incentivize the best talent. At Phillips Lytle, our attorneys help clients put together cost-effective packages that do just that.

With one of the largest employee benefits and executive compensation practices in Upstate New York, we service employers large and small, publicly traded and closely held, governmental and tax exempt. We have extensive experience in designing plans and compensation arrangements, preparing and reviewing plan documentation and governmental filings, representing clients in governmental audits and investigations, and providing counsel on issues affecting employee benefit plans and executive compensation agreements.

Our attorneys focus not only on compliance issues relating to the unique statutory and regulatory environment affecting employee benefit plans and executive compensation arrangements, but also on planning and business opportunities that require consideration of related issues.

Qualified Retirement Plans

We work with clients in all aspects of tax-qualified retirement plans, including profit-sharing plans, 401(k) plans, thrift plans, 403(b) plans, ESOPs, defined benefit pension plans, cash balance plans, money purchase pension plans, 412(i) plans, multiple employer plans and multiemployer plans.


We advise clients on the design, documentation, implementation and administration of various health, welfare and fringe benefit plans, consumer-driven reimbursement arrangements (e.g., flexible spending accounts) and wellness programs. In addition, we assist clients with the exploration and identification of proper funding vehicles for these plans, including insurance, self-funding, benefit trusts and voluntary employees’ benefit associations (VEBAs). We regularly counsel clients regarding the Affordable Care Act, HIPAA, COBRA and other health-related laws, and work together with clients to develop internal policies and administrative procedures. We also conduct employee training sessions to ensure ongoing compliance.


Because of the nondiscrimination limits placed on qualified retirement plans, nonqualified deferred compensation arrangements may be important to attract, motivate and retain executives and other highly paid employees. These arrangements can be structured in a variety of ways depending on the objectives of the employer and the needs of the employee. Our attorneys assist clients in selecting from the many available alternatives and in the design, documentation and implementation of such plans and related funding vehicles. Our advice addresses the related tax, securities and corporate law issues that may arise, including the application of Code Section 409A.


Equity-based compensation provides an incentive for employees to align their interests with those of the employer’s owners. Our Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation attorneys, working with the firm’s Corporate, Securities and Tax attorneys, have designed a variety of equity-based compensation arrangements, including qualified and nonqualified stock options, stock appreciation rights (SARs), phantom stock, stock purchase plans, restricted stock agreements, profits interests and comparable arrangements for limited liability companies.


Well-designed executive compensation arrangements enable organizations to attract and retain the best executives and to better align the interests of executives with organizational goals. Our Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation attorneys, often working in tandem with the firm’s Corporate, Securities, Tax and Labor & Employment attorneys, have assisted clients in creating compensation arrangements designed to incentivize groups and individuals, and in reporting these arrangements for corporate governance and securities law purposes.


Operational responsibilities and financial liabilities associated with retirement plans, welfare plans, equity-based compensation and executive compensation arrangements are important considerations in the acquisition, divestiture or merger of business entities, whether for-profit or not-for-profit. Our attorneys are experienced in evaluating these responsibilities and liabilities, performing related due diligence examinations, and structuring the employee benefit and executive compensation aspects of transactions, both from the perspective of the acquiring institution, as well as the divesting institution.

Benefits Litigation

We also have experience in benefits litigation involving ERISA and other statutes affecting employee benefit plans. Our Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation attorneys, working with the firm’s Litigation and Labor & Employment attorneys, have represented employers, employee benefit plans and fiduciaries, as well as insurers in litigation arising from benefit claims, governmental investigations, contested plan interpretations, and other claims related to the sponsorship and administration of employee benefit plans. However, our attorneys ideally aim to counsel clients on strategies to avoid such lawsuits. Our experience includes:

  • Defense of ESOP fiduciaries in class action litigation challenging the investment in employer securities
  • Subrogation and reimbursement claims on behalf of employee benefit plans
  • Claims alleging breach of fiduciary duty
  • Top hat plan litigation
  • Contribution and withdrawal liability disputes with multi-employer pension plans
  • ERISA Section 510 claims
  • COBRA-related litigation
  • Disputes regarding stop loss coverage
  • Retiree welfare benefit litigation
  • ERISA pre-emption issues
  • Claims arising out of alleged reporting and disclosure violations