John A. Papahronis


(405) 552-2231
Oklahoma City

John Papahronis is a shareholder at McAfee & Taft. He is an ERISA attorney whose practice encompasses the entire range of employee benefit services, including qualified retirement plans, health and welfare plans, legal compliance, and fiduciary counseling. He has particular and extensive experience working with defined benefit pension plans and employer stock ownership plans. In addition, his expertise includes counseling employers on health and welfare plan matters, including the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly referred to as health care reform, COBRA, HIPAA and cafeteria plans.

John provides services to both taxable and nontaxable employers and has particular and extensive experience working with governmental entities, including numerous municipalities throughout the state of Oklahoma, large public universities, and boards of regents for higher education.

John is a frequent speaker at seminars on employee benefits topics, including the SouthWest Benefits Association Intermediate Level Training Seminars for Employee Benefits Practitioners and Plan Sponsors, the SouthWest Benefits Association Annual Employee Benefits Conference for Practitioners and Plan Sponsors, and the Oklahoma Society of Accountants’ Governmental Accounting and Auditing Conference. He is co-author of Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Client Strategies, published by Aspatore Books in 2008. He has also authored articles in various publications, including the Oklahoma Society of Certified Public Accountants’ CPA Focus, the Oklahoma Bankers Association’s Oklahoma Banker, and the Oklahoma Municipal League’s Cities and Towns.

John’s achievements have earned him inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America (employee benefits/ERISA law) and Oklahoma Super Lawyers. In 2022, John was selected by Best Lawyers as “Oklahoma City Employee Benefits/ERISA Lawyer of the Year,” an honor given to a single lawyer in each legal specialty in each market.

Representative Experience

  • Counsels public and private companies and governmental entities on the design, drafting and administration of all forms of employee benefits plans, including qualified  retirement plans (pension plans, profit sharing plans, 401(k) plans, cash balance plans, ESOPs and governmental plans) ,  and health and welfare plans (including self-insured medical plans, cafeteria plans, consumer-driven health plans and fringe benefit plans).
  • Counsels governmental and tax-exempt employers, including public universities and other institutions of higher education, on all aspects related to the design, structure, implementation, and administration of 403(b) defined contribution plans, 457(b) deferred compensation plans, and defined benefit pension plans.
  • Regularly reviews plan documents to ensure regulatory and legal compliance, avoid common and not-so-common errors, and ensure plan language is consistent with how the plan is administered.  Also provides advice and guidance to plan sponsors regarding proposed changes to plan provisions.
  • Assists public universities in the development and implementation of special supplemental retirement plan vehicles designed to attract and retain top administrators and other highly compensated academic and athletic personnel.
  • Assists clients in the correction of retirement plan operational errors in accordance with IRS requirements.
  • Assists clients with Voluntary Correction Program submissions for qualified retirement plans that have incurred a “qualification” failure.
  • Conducts legal plan audits for qualified retirement plans to identify legal risks prior to potential audits by the IRS or the U.S. Department of Labor.
  • Counsels and trains plan administrators, investment committees, and other fiduciaries on their roles, duties and responsibilities as a means to reduce plan sponsor liability and improve plan participation and security.
  • Represents clients in complex fiduciary responsibility and prohibited transaction matters, both in counseling and litigation.
  • Represents clients before governmental agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Labor and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
  • Assists clients in analyzing extensive health plan issues under PPACA, COBRA, HIPAA, GINA, ADA, HITECH and other laws.
  • Advise clients on strategies for reducing costs and streamlining the administration of plans.
  • Counsels clients on complex employee benefits matters resulting from corporate transactions such as mergers, acquisitions, buyouts, joint ventures, spin-offs and divestitures.

Honors and Awards

  • Selected by peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America (employee benefits/ERISA law)
  • Named “Oklahoma City Employee Benefits/ERISA Lawyer of the Year” for 2022 by The Best Lawyers in America
  • Listed in Oklahoma Super Lawyers
  • Rated AV Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings

Professional Organizations and Memberships

  • Oklahoma County Bar Association
  • Oklahoma Bar Association
  • SouthWest Benefits Association
  • Gulf Coast Area TE/GE Council

Speaking Engagements

  • Hit Me with Your Best Shot: Employee Benefits “Ask the Experts” Panel

    EmployerLINC24: Workplace Soundtrack

    March 7, 2024
    | Oklahoma City, OK
  • Show Me the Money! How Much is Your Consultant Being Paid? How Much Should They Get Paid?

    EmployerLINC23: HR in Reel Life

    March 30, 2023
    | Tulsa, OK
  • Show Me the Money! How Much is Your Consultant Being Paid? How Much Should They Get Paid?

    EmployerLINC23: HR in Reel Life

    March 29, 2023
    | Oklahoma City, OK
  • Lightning Round Questions: Employee Benefits Panel


    March 23, 2022
    | Tulsa, OK
  • Best Practices for Protecting Retirement Plan Assets from Cyber Criminals


    March 23, 2022
    | Tulsa, OK
  • Lightning Round Questions: Employee Benefits Panel


    March 22, 2022
    | Oklahoma City, OK
More speaking engagements
  • Oklahoma, 1983
  • J.D., Northwestern University, 1983
    • Editorial Board, Northwestern Journal of International Law and Business
  • B.A. (Accounting), with highest honors, University of Oklahoma
    • Beta Gamma Sigma