As counsel in the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation practice, Leah advises a broad range of clients on all aspects of employee benefits and executive compensation plans, including their design, implementation, maintenance, correction and termination, as well as ongoing compliance with applicable laws such as ERISA, the Internal Revenue Code, PBGC, HIPAA, COBRA, GINA and the Affordable Care Act.
Leah provides practical business guidance to clients on the design, implementation, and operation of defined benefit, defined contribution, profit-sharing, cash balance, ESOP, 401(a), 401(k), 403(b), 457 and nonqualified deferred compensation plans. She advises on pension plan funding, withdrawal issues for multiemployer plans, de-risking of pension plans, and other retirement plan compliance issues triggered by business reorganizations, plan funding, bankruptcy and reductions-in-force. She counsels clients on compliance issues, including government audits of benefit plans, submissions to the Internal Revenue Service regarding a variety of operational and plan document failures, and submissions to the Department of Labor for fiduciary compliance matters. Leah also provides advice on investments under Title I of ERISA that impact fiduciary obligations and relate to exempt and non-exempt prohibited transactions.
In addition, Leah advises buyers and sellers on benefit plan issues in corporate transactions such as mergers and acquisitions, stock purchases and asset purchases, including controlled group and affiliated service group issues, impacted benefits, plan consolidations, plan terminations and plan asset transfers.
Leah also guides public and private companies on executive compensation issues under Sections 409A, 162(m) and 280G of the Internal Revenue Code, including performance pay awards, change-in-control agreements, severance plans, equity plans, incentive plans and employment agreements.
Examples of Leah’s experience include:
- Representing many large public companies, private employers and private equity funds in corporate mergers and acquisitions, including plan spinoffs, plan mergers, transfers of assets and liabilities, and plan terminations.
- Advising clients in transactions involving employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) from formation, acquisition, succession planning, rebalancing, and liquidity events.
- Representing numerous employers in negotiations with the IRS and Department of Labor audits.
- Providing advice to ERISA-governed plan investment and administrative committees, including counsel regarding fiduciary duties under ERISA and negotiation of fee arrangements with outside vendors such as administrative services agreements, investment advisory agreements, and investment management agreements.
- Representing tax-exempt organizations in regard to unique issues under 403(b) plans, 457 plans, and non-ERISA governmental plans.
- Representing numerous employers to ensure their health and welfare plans comply with the Affordable Care Act, COBRA, HIPAA, Mental Health Parity, and GINA.
- Drafting nonqualified plans, equity plans, and incentive plans to comply with Section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code.
- “DOL Issues Interim Final Rule Implementing SECURE Act Requirements for Lifetime Benefit Illustrations,” Thompson Hine Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Update, September 2020
- Co-author, "Adviser: 401(k) plans aren't immune to COVID-19," Crain's Cleveland Business, April 4, 2020
- “Board Member Liability Under ERISA for Retirement Plans,” Directors and Boards, September 15, 2015
- “Cost-Savings and Risk-Reducing Ideas for Severance Programs,” Bloomberg Law Reports, July 30, 2010
- “Update on the Federal COBRA Subsidy: Traps for the Unwary and a Possible Savings Opportunity,” Bloomberg Law Reports, March 29, 2010
- “Could Your Officers or Board Face Personal Liability for 401(k) Plan Investment Losses?” Journal of Compensation and Benefits, May/June 2009
- “Offering Company Stock As an Investment Option in Retirement Plans,” Employee Benefit Plan Review, June 2009
- “Employer-Sponsored Personal Health Records,” chapter in Thompson’s Human Resources 2009: Answers to the Top HR Questions in 2009, October 2008
- “Health Savings Account Update,” Employee Benefit Plan Review, October 2008
- “Charitable Contributions Over the Internet,” The Georgia Bar Journal, August 2002
- “ESOP Distribution Rules,” National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO) Employee Ownership Conference, Atlanta, April 2018
- “What Owners Need to Know,” NCEO Employee Ownership Conference, Tampa, October 2017
- “Advanced Employee Benefits,” Certificate in Employee Benefits Law Seminar, Institute of Applied Management and Law, Inc., April 2016, May 2016, April 2017, May 2017
- “The New DOL Fiduciary Rule,” PlanAdviser National Conference, September 2016
- “Do’s and Don’ts of Employee Stock Ownership Plans,” NCEO Employee Ownership Conference, April 2016
- “Lessons from the Legal Frontline,” Georgia Society of CPAs, December 2015
- “The Nuts and Bolts of Employee Stock Ownership Plans,” Atlanta Bar Association, Tax Division, October 2015
- “Benefits Bootcamp – Overview of Health Plans and Severance Plans,” Worldwide Employee Benefits, April 2011
- “How to Comply with New COBRA, GINA, HIPAA, Mental Health & Michelle’s Law,” MLA Webinar, January 2010
- “Group Health Plans: Are You Ready for 2010 Deadlines?” MLA Webinar, December 2009
- “Do You Have Arrangements That Might Be Affected By 409A?” MLA Webinar, January 2008
- “Self-Funded Health Plan Roundtable,” Sungard Corbel, Orlando, Florida; 2004
- “Qualified Domestic Relations Orders,” Georgia Legal Aid and Atlanta Legal Aid 2004 Annual CLE Conference, 2004
- “Legal Assistance for Military Personnel,” Institute of Continuing Legal Education, 2003
- Selected to the 2011, 2012 Georgia Super Lawyers® Rising Stars lists
- Women in Pensions Network
- Worldwide Employee Benefits Network, Atlanta chapter board member, 2003–2004; 2015–2016
- Lawyers Club of Atlanta
- National Center for Employee Ownership
- Georgia Association for Women Lawyers Leadership Academy, 2017
- Violinist, Orchestra at Peachtree City Methodist Church
- Boys & Girls Club of West Georgia, Pike County (board member, 2008–2011)
- Statewide co-coordinator for pro bono legal assistance for military personnel, 2003
Adviser: 401(k) plans aren't immune to COVID-19Crain's Cleveland Business
April 06, 2020