Quitman Stephens’s practice focuses on the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended (“ERISA”), employee benefits, executive compensation and health-care compliance matters.
Mr. Stephens counsels clients on all aspects of employee benefit plans and arrangements – including qualified retirement, nonqualified deferred compensation, group health and other plans – and on matters arising under ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the “Code”) – including formation, operation, planning, compliance, and litigation-related issues with respect to such plans and arrangements.
Such frequently includes:
Plan Corrections. Employee benefit plans subject to ERISA and the Code often experience plan failures – such as the failure to operate a plan in compliance with applicable law or the plan document itself (the “plan instrument”). Mr. Stephens regularly oversees corrections for such plan failures, including, where applicable (i) for operational and plan-document failures through submissions to the Internal Revenue Service’s plan-corrections program, the Employee Plan Compliance Resolution System (the “EPCRS”), (ii) for corrections for breaches of fiduciary duty or prohibited transactions through the Department of Labor’s Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program (the “VFCP”), and (iii) for corrections for delinquent filings of plan annual reports (Form 5500) through the Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance Program (“DFVCP”).
Employee Benefits in an M&A Context. Mr. Stephens is experienced in all manner of employee benefit plan issues arising in merger-and-acquisition contexts, including issues unique to both stock and asset sales, and served, for example, as ERISA/employee benefits counsel to the Readers Digest Association in its $2.4 billion sale to Ripplewood Holdings, and as ERISA/employee benefits counsel to Toni & Guy in conjunction with the $400 million sale of its haircare-products business to Unilever. He has also advised clients on multiemployer-plan-related obligations in such transactions, including avoiding and/or mitigating “withdrawal liability” issues.
Plan Assets Regulations. Mr. Stephens is fluent in the “plan assets regulations” under ERISA, and has advised on the formation and operation of over 40 private equity funds in compliance with ERISA, including, for example, for clients such as CB Richard Ellis, Highcross Funds, LaSalle Real Estate Funds, Market Street Capital Partners Funds, Morgan Stanley Real Estate Funds, and the Orion Funds – with much of that work involving significant, international, investment projects, requiring coordination with lawyers and other professionals in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Mexico, Canada, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Macao, and China.
ERISA Litigation. Mr. Stephens regularly advises clients on ERISA and employee benefit-litigation matters, and has counseled clients on such issues in many complex, multi-million-dollar, ERISA-related controversies, including lawsuits (and class-action lawsuits) involving 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, and defined benefit plans –including several challenges involving multiemployer plans – along with disputes involving multi-million-dollar retiree-medical and nonqualified plan obligations. He served, for example, as ERISA/employee benefits counsel to Pfizer throughout the Solutia bankruptcy, advising on all manner of employee benefit plan-related issues, and resolution thereof, in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process, and in the related, nonqualified plan-focused litigation.
ESOPs. Mr. Stephens has advised upon the formation and operation of employee stock ownership plans (“ESOPs”), particularly the use of ESOPs as a leveraged buyout or financing vehicle, and as a tax-favored planning vehicle to buy out the equity of departing owners of successful closely-held companies – while ensuring the continuity of the enterprise through employee ownership.
Mr. Stephens advises clients on all manner of nonqualified deferred compensation plans and arrangements, and regularly (i) drafts such plans and arrangements, (ii) oversees operational compliance issues for such plans and arrangements, (iii) advises on issues with respect to such plans in an M&A context, and (iv) advises on litigation with respect to such plans and arrangements. As part of that practice, he regularly counsels clients on compliance issues for such plans with respect to the requirements of 409A, a provision in the Code governing deferred compensation, and 280G, a provision in the Code governing so-called “excess parachute payments” triggered upon a “change in control.”
Mr. Stephens is fluent in all aspects of the law known as the Affordable Care Act (the “ACA”) – also popularly refered to as “ObamaCare” – and regularly advises clients on compliance and strategy issues related to the ACA. He also advises clients on general, health-care compliance issues, including issues arising under the federal Stark Law, the federal “Anti-Kickback” Statute, and the federal False Claims Act – statutes that govern and regulate the federal funding of health care services -- as well as, to the extent applicable in a health-care context, antitrust issues.
Mr. Stephens also regularly oversees group health plan compliance issues arising under ERISA and the ACA. In conjunction with those laws, he also regularly oversees design, implementation, and compliance for workplace wellness programs and arrangements.
Since 2004, Mr. Stephens has served as lead judge in the Dallas Sports Commission’s Regional Spelling Bee. Previously sponsored for 59 years by The Dallas Morning News, the DSC Regional Spelling Bee is televised each spring on a Saturday morning on the local ABC affiliate, WFAA-TV/Channel 8. The winner of the Bee proceeds to Washington, D.C. to compete for the national title in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. As a teenager, Mr. Stephens won the DSC Regional Spelling Bee in 1984 and 1985, and placed 9th in the 1985 National Spelling Bee
Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Taxation from New York University School of Law
Juris Doctor from Southern Methodist University, Dedman School of Law
Bachelor of Arts & Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Southern Methodist University
Graduated with Honors in Liberal Arts
AWARDS & HONORS
Thomson Reuters –Texas Rising Stars, 2012