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If you are like most lawyers, you don't often think about the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code governing the tax status of employer-sponsored retirement plans, Code section 409A's intricate restrictions on deferred compensation (backed up by draconian penalty taxes) or the many other aspects of what is generically known as "employee benefits law". If your clients are fortunate, they don't often have to think about them either.

But what if a client's 401(k) plan is selected for audit by the IRS or the Department of Labor? What if the client's HR department is unsure of what a plan provision means and can't parse the prototype plan document purchased from a mutual fund, bank or insurance company? What if an employee claims entitlement to benefits that the client doesn't believe the plan provides? What if an employee dies, and it isn't clear who is entitled to death benefits?

Suppose that your client gets what seems like a tempting offer: Its workers can be covered by a union pension plan, taking all the administrative labor and risk off your hands. Or a non-union "multiple employer plan" makes the same sales pitch. Or its insurance agent tells it about a great way to save Social Security taxes by setting up a "cafeteria plan" that will turn regular compensation into a tax-free benefit.


In all these cases and the many more that can arise (or that your clients may be facing right now), do you have the knowledge needed to identify and analyze the potential issues? If not, do you want to invest the time to learn, which may be far out of proportion to any fee that you can charge?

ERISA Cavalry was founded to give busy lawyers answers to questions like these, quickly and at an affordable price. Look here for the areas of law that we cover and here for our services and fees.  We also post occasional notes, in quasi-blog format, on "Tips, Tricks and Traps" and a glossary of benefits-related terms.

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Thomas Veal

Thomas Veal began his legal practice in the ERISA and employee benefits arena not long after ERISA was enacted. He was most recently a senior counsel at Steptoe & Johnson LLP, following over 20 years in the national employee benefits practice of Deloitte Tax LLP. At an earlier stage of his career, he was director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation's Corporate Policy and Regulations Department, which was responsible for drafting all PBGC regulations and administering the PBGC's multiemployer pension plan program.

His writings include Employee Benefits Guide (Matthew Bender Elite Publications), a detailed treatment of the major (and many minor) areas of employee benefits law. He is also the sole or principal author of 30 chapters in the online treatise Lexis Tax Advisor – Federal Topical (available through LexisNexis) and has written numerous articles on a wide variety of employee benefits issues.

In his leisure hours, he accumulates books and board games, occasionally writes short fiction, and is active in science fiction fandom. In the Year 2000, he chaired the 58th World Science Fiction Convention.

After many years in Chicago, with interludes in New York City and the D.C. suburbs, he settled in semi-rural Spanaway, Washington, where he lives with his wife Becky.

Bar Memberships:  Washington State, Illinois, New York

Education: B.A. Yale University; J.D. University of Illinois College of Law

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