Melissa J. Cottle


Bio Menu
  • Overview
  • Experience
  • Honors & Involvement
Bio overview

Melissa Cottle is an ERISA attorney whose practice encompasses a broad range of employee benefits matters involving retirement plans, health and welfare plans, and executive compensation. Her employee benefits practice is focused on the design, implementation, and administration of various forms of retirement and health plans, including 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, 457(b) plans, defined benefit plans, employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), employer-sponsored health plans, and wellness programs. As a part of her practice, Melissa advises many companies of all sizes, governmental entities, nontaxable entities, plan administrators, human resources professionals, tribal governments, and other lawyers with respect to complex matters related to both retirement plans and health and welfare benefit plans.

As part of her ERISA and employee benefits practice, Melissa counsels clients on compliance issues with the Internal Revenue Service and Department of Labor and represents them in agency matters involving plan investigations and audits, governmental reporting, requests for qualified plan determinations, voluntary correction program submissions (VCP), and voluntary fiduciary correction program submissions (VFCP). She also advises clients on complex compliance matters related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (health care reform), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), and most recently, the SECURE Act and the CARES Act.

Melissa has authored business Q&As for The Oklahoman and has been a guest speaker at McAfee & Taft EmployerLINC events on a variety of benefit plan topics.

Melissa’s achievements have earned her inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America: Ones to Watch (employee benefits/ERISA law; labor and employment law – management; workers’ compensation law – employers).

Prior to entering law school, Melissa worked as a human resources administrator for a physician-owned group of dental clinics.

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Experience, Honors, & Awards

Representative Experience

  • Advises clients on all aspects of compliance for qualified retirement plans
  • Assists clients with the design, implementation and administration of tax-qualified retirement plans, nonqualified retirement plans, and health and welfare plans.
  • Advises clients regarding health and welfare plans, including ACA, COBRA and HIPAA compliance, multiple-employer welfare arrangements, and ERISA compliance issues.
  • Advises clients on prohibited transactions issues and associated excise taxes
  • Advises Indian tribal clients and consultants regarding extremely complicated employee benefits issues, including sovereignty issues, identification and separation of government and “commercial” employees and plans, benefits structuring, controlled group issues, deferred compensation, and health care reform
  • Prepares and negotiates voluntary correction filings with the IRS under the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (EPCRS) for qualified retirement plans, including anonymous submissions for company-threatening issues and/or creative solutions to difficult problems
  • Prepares and negotiates voluntary fiduciary correction filings with the DOL under the Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program (VFCP)
  • Drafts qualified plan restatements and review restatements by recordkeepers to ensure operational compliance
  • Prepares uncashed check and lost participant policies
  • Performs nondiscrimination testing for self-insured health plans
  • Represents clients before the IRS during investigations and in plan determination requests
  • Drafts responses to the IRS regarding proposed ACA employee shared responsibility (ESRP) assessments and successfully achieve “no penalty” responses
  • Represents clients before the U.S. Department of Labor during investigations and in correcting plan errors
  • Conducts due diligence on employee benefits issues related to mergers and acquisitions.

Honors and Awards

  • Selected by peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America: Ones to Watch (employee benefits/ERISA law; labor and employment law – management; workers’ compensation law – employers)

Professional Organizations and Memberships

  • Oklahoma Bar Association
  • SouthWest Benefits Association

ATPs display in this column

At The Podium

Employee Benefits ‘Ask the Experts’ Panel

Online | March 10, 2021

Health Plans, Before and After COVID-19

Online | March 10, 2021

Preparing for 401(k) Audit Season: How to make your audit run more smoothly

EmployerLINC18: Workplace Issues in the News
Tulsa, OK | March 29, 2018

Preparing for 401(k) Audit Season: How to make your audit run more smoothly

EmployerLINC18: Workplace Issues in the News
Oklahoma City, OK | March 27, 2018

401(k) Compliance and Enforcement Update

McAfee & Taft Webinar Series
Online | July 26, 2017
Attorney Articles


Indian Land Reform: Justice for All? An Examination of Property Laws Pertaining to the Five Tribes Indians and a New Call for Reform

Oklahoma City Law Review |


  • Oklahoma, 2014


  • J.D., summa cum laude, Oklahoma City University, 2014
    • Oklahoma City University Law Review; 13 CALI Awards; Editor-in-Chief Award; Emerging Leaders Scholarship
  • B.A (International and Area Studies), with special distinction, University of Oklahoma, 2007