Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation


Even before the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) was passed in 1974, McAfee & Taft has been a leader in the field of employee benefits and executive compensation. Our Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Group is one of the largest of its kind and is respected nationally among employers, government officials, consultants, and other competitors. We represent clients of all sizes, including large publicly traded corporations with employees all over the United States. Our clients are diverse and work in various industries including utilities, transportation, manufacturing, entertainment, gaming, energy, retail, healthcare, education (including large universities), insurance, banking, television, radio, and various other economic segments.

Our employee benefits attorneys serve in leadership roles for various prominent benefits organizations, including the SouthWest Benefits Association in Dallas, Texas (two firm attorneys serve as past presidents); the Employee Benefits Institute of Kansas City; the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel; the American Bar Association’s Section of Taxation; the TE/GE Council; and the Oklahoma Employers Healthcare Alliance.  Our attorneys also speak at conferences all over the country on benefit plan trends and compliance issues.

Together, our attorneys have extensive experience in all employee benefits and executive compensation matters, including:

  • Qualified retirement plans
  • Health and welfare plans, including Affordable Care Act compliance and COVID-19 issues
  • Executive compensation, including compensation strategies, plan design, and compliance issues involving 409A
  • ERISA litigation
  • Plan fiduciary counseling
  • Subrogation recovery services
  • Multi-employer and collectively-bargained plans
  • Mergers and acquisitions

Specific areas of expertise

Retirement Plan Consulting, Design and Implementation
McAfee & Taft provides comprehensive consulting services related to the design, structure, alternative solution, implementation and administration of tax-qualified retirement plans, including pension plans, profit sharing plans, Code Section 401(k) plans, employee stock ownership plans, collectively-bargained pension plans, and church and governmental plans.

Our “clients first” philosophy allows us to provide a unique perspective when consulting and designing qualified employee benefit plans. Our focus is solely on what is best for the client, and our advice and analysis are centered exclusively on this approach.

Over the years, we have differentiated ourselves from others based on our expertise, experience and extensive client base. Each of these attributes allows us to provide clients with a thorough and complete analysis of their employee benefit matters. Such analysis is also enhanced by our close working relationship with the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Labor. These relationships allow us to provide unique perspectives on plan design and structure, as well as to keep a close eye on potential new law changes, governmental interpretations, and court rulings. In turn, we are able to be extremely proactive in providing our clients with new innovative ideas and alternative plan designs.

Health & Welfare Plans
We have substantial expertise involving all aspects of health and welfare plan design and administration, including plan design and documentation, communication, funding, claims and litigation advice, and state law compliance issues. Our group also has experience in establishing funding vehicles for welfare benefits, including VEBAs.

We often coordinate with the clients’ other advisors in creating effective solutions to their health and welfare needs. We also provide advice regarding the implementation and administration of cafeteria plans, counseling regarding aspects of COBRA and HIPAA compliance, and client assistance in integrating their health and welfare plans with Medicare and Social Security.

Fiduciary Counseling
Given the complex and ever-changing nature of the business, our attorneys are frequently retained to provide ongoing counseling to clients regarding their plans. When new ideas and other options should be considered, we’re there to proactively provide employers with alternative plan designs. A mainstay of our counseling practice also involves ensuring that qualified plans retain their “qualified” status.

Our attorneys also frequently represent clients in complex fiduciary responsibility and prohibited transaction matters, both in counseling and litigation, including audits, investigations and other controversies involving the Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service.

We also have experience with respect to issues concerning investment of plan assets including fiduciary responsibility, plan asset rules and excise tax waivers.

Executive Compensation
We assist our clients in the design and implementation of a wide variety of executive compensation plans, including:

  • Employment agreements
  • Equity compensation programs, such as stock option plans, phantom stock plans, and restricted stock award plans
  • Long-term incentive awards
  • Supplemental retirement plans
  • Protections for executives in the event of a takeover or other change in control.

We also help clients design funding vehicles for these arrangements.

Employee Benefits-Related Corporate Transactions
McAfee & Taft’s Employee Benefits attorneys regularly handle the employee benefits and compensation aspects of transactions for which the firm provides corporate and securities services. These transactions include:

  • Mergers
  • Acquisitions
  • Buyouts
  • Joint Ventures
  • Spin-offs
  • Divestitures

ERISA Litigation
Our ERISA litigation and controversy attorneys have extensive experience and expertise defending employers and insurers in all aspects of ERISA litigation, including:

  • Administrative review proceedings
  • Claims decisions
  • Benefits lawsuits
  • Subrogation/reimbursement actions
  • Fiduciary litigation
  • Protected rights litigation

Additionally, we handle litigation involving claims for prohibited transactions, alienation of benefits, plan service provider malpractice and withdrawal liability. We also represent plans, plan sponsors, administrators and fiduciaries in matters involving the Department of Labor, the Internal Revenue Service and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

Our ERISA litigation attorneys practice closely with our employee benefits and labor and employment attorneys, bringing a richer perspective to these areas of practice. In an effort to protect our clients against future litigation, we provide valuable assistance regarding the design and implementation of employee benefit plans and regularly counsel client on ERISA compliance issues regarding fiduciary and other duties.

A differentiated approach

Just as no two employers are the same, neither are any two employee benefit plans. Our approach is to provide businesses and other organizations with customized plan options and the information they need to make informed business decisions.

The fact is that “boilerplate” and “cookie-cutter” programs simply don’t work in today’s environment, where employee benefits rules and regulations are constantly subject to change. That is why it is especially vital that employers be represented by attorneys with the experience, expertise, and proactive mindset to develop innovative solutions and to understand every plan alternative and consequence.

Given the depth and expertise of our Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Group, McAfee & Taft also has the unique capability of providing a “team approach” to its client relationships. As a result of this structure, each member of our team can address a variety of issues either through their own experience or with the assistance and consultation of other group members.

When appropriate, we also work closely with clients’ accountants, actuaries and third party administrators. As a leader in the area of retirement and health plan design and administration, McAfee & Taft attorneys have developed significant working relationships with local, regional and national consulting and administrative firms.

The employee benefits world seems to change daily, and in order for our clients to fully take advantage of these changes, we take it upon ourselves to continually advise them about their options and alternatives.

In addition, McAfee & Taft holds complimentary Labor & Employment and Employee Benefits EmployerLINC legal webinars and seminars throughout the year.

Employers Counsel Network (ECN)

Employers Counsel Network logoComprised of top-level law firms in all 50 states — plus Washington D.C. and Canada — the Employers Counsel Network (ECN) advises and represents employers regarding workplace issues and disputes. McAfee & Taft was selected as the exclusive member firm representing Oklahoma in the ECN because of its outstanding reputation in the field of employment law. Member firms provide legal assistance and representation to employers on a wide variety of issues, including FMLA, ADA, discrimination, harassment, workers’ comp, wage and hour, hiring, firing, layoffs, WARN Act, umemployment benefits, discipline, documentation, investigations, noncompete agreements, arbitration, HR audits, policies and procedures, OSHA, ERISA, HIPAA, COBRA, labor relations and more.

Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Team

Brian C. Beatty


(405) 270-6015

Judy Burdg

Shareholder, Practice Group Leader

(918) 574-3087

Jennifer H. Callahan

Shareholder, Director, Industry Group Leader

(405) 552-2225

Melissa J. Cottle


(405) 552-2364

Brandon P. Long

Shareholder, Director

(405) 552-2328

T. Lake Moore V


(405) 270-6068

Richard D. Nix

Shareholder, Practice Group Leader

(405) 552-2219

John A. Papahronis


(405) 552-2231

Sam Wilkerson

Of Counsel

(918) 574-3067

Anna E. Wolfe


(918) 574-3048

Riley P. Wren


(405) 552-2227


Lisa G. McKinzie


(405) 270-6014