ERISA & Executive Compensation: Answers To FAQs

The issue of executive compensation continually raises questions about promises, broken promises and rectifying broken promises – especially in the current economic climate. To answer some of the more frequently asked questions on this topic; we interviewed Ron Dean, a California attorney who has been practicing ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) law for over 35 years. Here’s what he had to say:

Question: How will I know when my company simply isn’t going to honor their promises?

Answer: Your gut will tell you – loud and clear.

Question: Can you file a claim against your employer for broken promises regarding executive compensation while still working there?

Answer: Absolutely yes – assuming you’ve suffered some harm, or will in the future, from the broken promise.

Question: What do you do if you’ve already been terminated and the company refuses to make good on its promises?

Answer: If you’ve tried to resolve it informally and that hasn’t worked, it’s time you went to see a lawyer about your rights.

Question: What can I do to preserve the value of my case?

Answer: Be sure to act promptly. Many cases are lost on the statute of limitations. That limitation applies whether or not you knew you had a claim and even if the time was spent “negotiating” with the employer.

Question: How can an attorney help me with executive compensation issues?

Answer: The interpretation of these plans, and determining how they apply in your case, is often technical and complex and requires someone who has done this before. An attorney can help you negotiate an exit package, bargain with the plans over your correct rights under those plans, and show your employer that it can’t just roll over you.

Question: How are attorneys compensated in this area?

Answer: Attorneys in this area work both on an hourly basis – where you pay win or lose – or on a contingency fee basis – where you only pay if you win. If you do win, the contingency fee will be larger than the hourly fee would have been because the attorney is taking some of the risk. Talk to the attorney and see how each fee basis fits within your own preferences.

If you’ve been denied compensation under ERISA, consult with an experienced ERISA attorney to discuss your situation and evaluate your options. Consultations are free, without obligation and strictly confidential.