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Business Week spotlights cutting-edge benefits plan developed by McAfee & Taft attorneys

published in Business Week | December 10, 2007

An innovative enhanced retirement system developed by McAfee & Taft attorneys for Devon Energy is grabbing national attention for its trend-setting reshaping of retirement benefits. Jennifer Callahan, John Papahronis, Jim Prince and Brandon Long have been working for more than a year on the concept, design and implementation of this cutting-edge employee benefits solution that is causing other companies, as well as industry experts and major media, to take notice.

Business Week recently published an article exploring this latest innovation, the “super 401(k)”:

The new plan would provide workers with employer contributions so generous, a significant number could reasonably expect to do better than they would in the traditional defined-benefit pension plan. In return, employees would have to cede to the Oklahoma City company much of the control over their investment decisions. Eason and other Devon employees had until the end of the fall benefits enrollment season to make up their minds. Once the Nov. 15 deadline passed, their decisions were irrevocable. “It’s a very tough choice,” said Kim Wilkerson, 46, a manager who oversees alliances with other oil and gas companies.

Devon’s new super 401(k) is at the cutting edge of a trend that’s reshaping retirement benefits. Traditionally, employees have wielded decision-making authority over their own 401(k)s, by electing whether and how to invest. But as a growing number of employers have scaled back or eliminated defined-benefit pension plans, government and corporate policymakers have realized 401(k) participants haven’t done a very good job of managing their savings. Emboldened by recent legal and regulatory changes that shield employers from lawsuits, more are starting to make changes to 401(k) plans with the goal of taking the decision-making out of employees’ hands. “It’s the wave of the future,” said Jack L. VanDerhei, research director of the Fellows Program at the nonprofit Employee Benefit Research Institute.

Other local and national media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, have interviewed Devon officials. Devon has also been fielding calls from around the country seeking information more information about this cutting-edge plan.