Claire Rowland is counsel in the firm’s Corporate practice group and a member of the Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation team. Claire counsels a variety of large and small private employers, publicly traded employers, state and local governmental entities, higher education institutions and nonprofit organizations across all industries. She is a credentialed member of the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries (ASPPA), both as a qualified pension administrator (QPA) and a qualified 401(k) administrator (QKA).
My extensive background as a third-party administrator provides me with a unique insight into the practical administrative and operational issues facing plan sponsors, and the interaction of these issues with the legal requirements applicable to their employee benefit and executive compensation plans. I focus on leveraging this insight to clients’ advantage by combining creative problem-solving approaches with real world, practical advice in the following areas:
In mergers and acquisitions transactions, I advise clients on pre- and post-transaction compliance issues, plan mergers and spin-offs. Prior to closing, I review deal documents; draft representations, warranties and disclosures; and conduct due diligence reviews to identify and assess potential employee benefit plan compliance issues. I counsel clients regarding any required corrective actions and prepare and implement those corrections. Because advance planning for transitioning employee benefits and executive compensation arrangements is imperative, I devise benefit plan transition strategies for clients and coordinate with their third-party service providers both pre- and post-transaction to provide continuing counsel on the implementation of the transition plan.
In addition to providing ERISA and retirement plan-related support to defend class action litigation against retirement plan sponsors, I defend employers in IRS audits and Department of Labor investigations of their employee benefit plans, advising on the production of requested or subpoenaed materials and representing clients during the in-person interviews conducted by the government.
No one enjoys audits—I focus on keeping the process moving efficiently and negotiating with the government to reduce the amount of any proposed penalties to something within the realm of reason so that clients can move on with their lives and return their attention to their business.
I counsel employers on all types of employee benefit and executive compensation plans, including 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans (ERISA and non-ERISA), 457(b) and (f) plans, defined benefit plans, cash balance plans, ESOPs, governmental plans, multiple employer plans, multiemployer plans, stock option plans, stock bonus plans, LTIPs, severance plans, etc.
Working with their boards of directors, committees and human resources and payroll personnel, I advise clients on how to design and operate their employee benefit and executive compensation plans to comply with statutory, regulatory and fiduciary requirements, and how to correct their compliance failures via self-correction or submission to the IRS’s Voluntary Correction Program or the Department of Labor’s Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program.
I am most inspired by the ultimate goal of employer-sponsored retirement plans—helping workers save for retirement—and I am a staunch advocate of employer retirement plans. I regularly volunteer to lobby Congress regarding federal tax law, proposed legislation and retirement plan policy.
We’ll likely see more class action litigation by plan participants regarding alleged fiduciary breaches, especially with respect to plan investment selections and fees, the prudent selection and monitoring of service providers, and data privacy and security.
On top of that, Congress can’t seem to keep its hands off of your health or your retirement. Expect significantly more legislative proposals in 2019 and 2020 directed at improving the rate and amount of retirement savings by employees—and along with that expect the attendant headaches of more regulations and more changes to existing employer-sponsored retirement plans. Meanwhile, significant new developments in technology like blockchain and smart contracts, which have already impacted securities law, appear poised to impact—in ways expected/projected to be both good and bad at this point—not just plan investments but plan administration, trust accounting and plan audits. Plan fiduciaries will need to keep abreast of the effect these technological developments will have on employee benefit plans.
Bloomberg Law | January 11, 2021
In this article on key retirement proposals that benefits advisers are watching for the new Congress, San Francisco Corporate counsel Claire Rowland, of the Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation team, is quoted for her outlook on required minimum distributions relating to the excise tax, account holders with less than $100,000 saved, and raising the participation age to 75.
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University of Denver Sturm College of Law, J.D., with highest honors; Recipient, Scholastic Excellence Awards, Lawyering Process, Advanced Legal Research, Administrative Law, Bankruptcy Law
University of Maryland, B.A., cum laude, American History