Last Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that two co-investing Sun Capital private equity funds had not created an implied “partnership-in-fact” for purposes of determining whether the Sun Funds were under “common control” with their portfolio company, Scott Brass, Inc. (SBI) – resulting in a ruling that the Sun Funds were not under “common control” with SBI or a part of SBI’s “controlled group” and, therefore, that the Sun Funds could not be held liable for SBI’s multiemployer pension fund withdrawal liability.

This ruling marks the end (for now) to the seven-year Sun Capital dispute.  The ruling has significant implications for both multiemployer pension funds and private equity funds.  Among other things, the ruling may hamper the efforts of multiemployer pension plans and the PBGC to collect plan termination and withdrawal liability from private investment funds (and their other portfolio companies) based on a “partnership-in-fact” analysis; on the other hand, private equity fund sponsors should be aware that (i) acquiring an 80% (or more) interest in a portfolio company, whether within one private equity fund or pursuant to a “joint venture” between related (and maybe even unrelated) funds, may trigger joint and several liability for the portfolio company’s underfunded pension or withdrawal liabilities, and (ii) even a smaller ownership interest percentage could possibly trigger the ERISA “controlled group” rules based on complicated “common control” determinations.

See our fuller analysis here.

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Photo of William D. Dalsen William D. Dalsen

Will Dalsen is a senior counsel in the Litigation Department. His practice focuses on complex commercial litigation, with a particular emphasis on private credit, private equity, venture capital and hedge funds. Will is highly regarded for his deep knowledge of the private credit…

Will Dalsen is a senior counsel in the Litigation Department. His practice focuses on complex commercial litigation, with a particular emphasis on private credit, private equity, venture capital and hedge funds. Will is highly regarded for his deep knowledge of the private credit fund industry and ability to resolve disputes for both sponsors and portfolio companies. He provides counseling regarding creditor rights, lender liability, sponsor liability, operating company disputes, control rights and regulatory compliance and investigations.

He advises funds, fund sponsors, investment advisers, and institutional and individual investors. In addition, he has represented public and private corporations in contractual disputes, business tort cases, and government investigations.

Will leads all phases of the litigation process, including pre-suit investigations, negotiating discovery disputes and arguing discovery motions, managing expert discovery, preparing and arguing dispositive motions, and preparing witnesses for trial. He has elicited deposition testimony from numerous witnesses on topics ranging from corporate finances to document preservation.

Prior to joining Proskauer, Will served for two years as a law clerk to Judge Susan Phillips Read of the New York State Court of Appeals, drafting bench memoranda and assisting with opinions in a variety of civil and criminal matters. In law school, Will was Editor in Chief of the Wisconsin Law Review and served as a judicial intern to the Honorable Shirley S. Abrahamson, Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Photo of Jennifer Rigterink Jennifer Rigterink

Jennifer Rigterink is senior counsel in the Labor Department and a member of the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group.

Jennifer focuses on a diverse array of tax and ERISA issues impacting employee benefits.  Her wide-ranging practice encompasses qualified retirement plans and non-qualified…

Jennifer Rigterink is senior counsel in the Labor Department and a member of the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group.

Jennifer focuses on a diverse array of tax and ERISA issues impacting employee benefits.  Her wide-ranging practice encompasses qualified retirement plans and non-qualified arrangements, health and welfare benefits, and fringe benefit programs.  She counsels single-employer and multiemployer clients on matters pertaining to plan administration, design and qualification, as well as regulatory, legislative and legal compliance.

In recent years, Jennifer has advised employers and plan sponsors with fiduciary and governance matters applicable to defined benefit plans and pension de-risking activities, including lump sum window programs, annuity purchases, and pension plan terminations.

Jennifer frequently counsels clients on health and welfare arrangements, with a particular focus on all matters relating to family building and reproductive health care benefits.  Her experience also includes working with employers and plan sponsors on mental health parity compliance issues.

Prior to joining Proskauer, Jennifer clerked for Judge Jacques L. Wiener, Jr., in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and Judge Yvette Kane in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Photo of Timothy W. Mungovan Timothy W. Mungovan

Tim Mungovan is the Chair of Proskauer.  He is also the immediate past chair of the Firm’s Litigation Department and head of the Securities Litigation practice.

His practice is focused on securities, commercial litigation, governance, and bankruptcy-related matters. He has a national reputation…

Tim Mungovan is the Chair of Proskauer.  He is also the immediate past chair of the Firm’s Litigation Department and head of the Securities Litigation practice.

His practice is focused on securities, commercial litigation, governance, and bankruptcy-related matters. He has a national reputation for advising sponsors of private investment funds (hedge, private equity, private credit and venture capital) in a wide variety of matters, including litigation, governance, securities, fiduciary obligations, and regulatory enforcement.

Chambers USA describes Tim as “an extraordinary lawyer who is a fierce and very talented litigator. He is extremely knowledgeable, responsive and client-oriented.” Best Lawyers in America lauds Tim’s experience, integrity, work ethic, communications and courtroom skills. Tim has been listed in the “Top 100 Lawyers” in Massachusetts, and Benchmark Litigation has continually recognized Tim as a Litigation Star in Massachusetts.

Over the last six years, Tim has been the lead litigator representing the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico in the historic restructuring of Puerto Rico’s debts. The scale and complexity of this restructuring has resulted in one of the most active litigation dockets in the U.S. Almost every aspect of the litigation involved matters of first impression in part because the restructuring is governed by the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act, which was enacted for Puerto Rico in 2016.  The track record of success speaks for itself:  in the more than 150 lawsuits filed, Tim and the Proskauer team have prevailed in almost 95% of the cases.

Tim is recognized nationally for his experience in private fund litigation and disputes, having focused on the industry for more than 25 years.  As part of that focus, Tim created and is the lead editor of Proskauer’s blog on Private Equity litigation, The Capital Commitment.

Photo of Ira G. Bogner Ira G. Bogner

Ira G. Bogner is the immediate former chair of the Firm’s Tax Department and a member of the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group and is currently a member of the Firm’s Executive Committee. Ira represents a varied list of clients, including financial…

Ira G. Bogner is the immediate former chair of the Firm’s Tax Department and a member of the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group and is currently a member of the Firm’s Executive Committee. Ira represents a varied list of clients, including financial service companies, entertainment industry clients, and tax-exempt organizations, and also actively represents individual executives in executive compensation matters.

Ira counsels clients with respect to the tax, securities law disclosure, corporate governance, stock exchange and other requirements relevant to executive compensation arrangements. Ira also provides advice regarding equity arrangements, employment agreements, change in control agreements and all other types of executive compensation arrangements, including guidance regarding “409A,” “162m,” “457A,” and “280G.”

Ira frequently is called on to structure and analyze alternative investments for pension trusts and other exempt organizations. He also works with the Firm’s corporate and real estate lawyers in structuring and maintaining investment funds that include participation by pension plans. Through his work in the investment fund area Ira has obtained substantial experience in applying the rules provided under the “plan asset” regulations, including the operation of venture capital operating companies and real estate operating companies. He has assisted in the formation of private equity, real estate, infrastructure and hedge funds, including “fund of funds.” Ira also has advised clients on both avoiding ERISA “plan asset” status and operating an investment fund in accordance with ERISA.

Areas of Concentration

Ira has provided guidance to clients on a wide variety of matters in the areas of employee benefits and executive compensation, including:

  • investment of plan assets
  • implementation of employee benefit plans

  • employee benefit issues in mergers and acquisitions

  • awarding of equity-based compensation

  • negotiation and drafting of employment agreements and severance arrangements

  • structuring, analyzing and maintaining investment funds that are suitable for plan investors

Thought Leadership

Ira has published a number of articles in publications such as The New York Law Journal, The New Jersey Law Journal, The Daily Deal, The Journal of Pension Planning and Compliance, Mergers and Acquisitions (The Monthly Tax Journal), The Journal of Taxation and Regulation of Financial Institutions, The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, European Private Equity & Venture Capital Associations, The LPA Anatomised and Private Equity International and has been named to the Board of Advisors of the Journal of Taxation and Regulation of Financial Institutions. He also has lectured on topics such as the classification of workers, drafting employment agreements, equity alternatives for senior executives, investing IRA assets, the plan asset regulations, shareholder approval of equity plans, Code Section 409A, and key provisions for ERISA investors investing in a private equity fund.

Recognition

Ira has been recognized and ranked by various directories. US Legal 500 has carried the following comments: “Ira Bogner is ‘available, responsive and knowledgeable;” “Ira Bogner ‘provides a level of comfort with respect to business issues that is rare in the world of ERISA;” “Ira Bogner is the ‘go-to guy for fund sponsors needing help with ERISA.’”

Photo of Ira Golub Ira Golub

Ira M. Golub is a partner in the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group. He practices exclusively in the employee benefits area. The nature of Ira’s practice embraces virtually all aspects of employee benefits law, ranging from the establishment and design of pension…

Ira M. Golub is a partner in the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group. He practices exclusively in the employee benefits area. The nature of Ira’s practice embraces virtually all aspects of employee benefits law, ranging from the establishment and design of pension, profit-sharing, welfare and executive compensation plans to the administration and termination of such programs.

Ira works regularly with both single employer and multiemployer pension, welfare, annuity, vacation and apprenticeship funds. He serves as fund counsel to numerous multiemployer funds in a variety of industries, providing advice to trustees and administrators in connection with the operation and maintenance of the funds. His understanding of the issues emanating from the operation of multiemployer funds is enhanced by his experience in effecting the termination and mergers of funds and representing contributing employers in disputes with employee benefit plans.

Ira has extensive experience representing employers in their efforts to manage withdrawal liability exposure. He has assisted numerous employers that have been assessed withdrawal liability in challenging, arbitrating and negotiating the settlement of such assessments. The fact that Ira formerly worked for an actuarial consulting firm and serves regularly as counsel to multiemployer funds that assess withdrawal liability enables him to bring a spectrum of analytical skills and a depth of experience when addressing withdrawal liability matters. He has provided advice to employers in connection with highly complex and multi-faceted withdrawal liability problems, worked intensively with all withdrawal liability methods (including the hybrid withdrawal liability allocation method recently adopted by some large multiemployer funds) and given advice in connection with multiple withdrawal liability transactions involving liabilities in excess of a billion dollars. He has represented clients before the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) and has negotiated a number of agreements with the PBGC in transactional and other contexts (such as, for example, Section 4062(e) of ERISA). He has been a legal advisor in many situations involving bankruptcy and restructuring as it relates to withdrawal liability and pension underfunding.

Over the years, Ira has developed a particular capability representing plan sponsors and trustees in connection with the full range of fiduciary and other plan asset and investment issues. He also has a breadth of knowledge with respect to issues relating to welfare programs, and is considered a leading authority with respect to the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985, as amended (COBRA) and Health Savings Account. Ira is often called upon to provide advice relating to managing and modifying significant employer retiree medical liabilities and obligations. He frequently has been involved in providing advice to large corporations in connection with reductions-in-force, and with respect to the full range of employee benefit aspects arising in corporate mergers and acquisitions. Ira also works with government sponsored employee benefit plans that are not subject to ERISA.

Ira has published the COBRA Handbook, a comprehensive text on COBRA that is updated annually. He is a member of the Board of Editors of HR Advisor. In addition to having worked at a national actuarial consulting firm, Ira previously was a trial attorney for the National Labor Relations Board.

Photo of Justin Alex Justin Alex

Justin S. Alex is a partner and a member of the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group.

Justin advises private and public companies on all aspects of their employee benefits and executive compensation arrangements and plans.

He has particular experience in the sports…

Justin S. Alex is a partner and a member of the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group.

Justin advises private and public companies on all aspects of their employee benefits and executive compensation arrangements and plans.

He has particular experience in the sports industry, including employment agreements for executives at the highest levels in professional sports and the benefits and compensation aspects of numerous transactions, such as the purchase or sale of the Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Miami Marlins, Real Salt Lake, OL Reign, Professional Hockey Federation, the Licensed Sports Group Unit of VF Corporation, Full Swing Golf, and ADPRO Sports and the merger of the USFL and XFL.

In addition to Justin’s general benefits and compensation practice, he spends a significant portion of his time advising employers and financial sponsors with respect to pension liabilities. He also advises the trustees of collectively bargained single-employer and multiemployer plans with respect to their administration, governance, and legal compliance.

Prior to joining Proskauer, Justin was an attorney in the Office of Chief Counsel at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), where he gained significant experience with pension termination and underfunding issues. He also represented the PBGC in corporate bankruptcies and federal court litigation.

Justin is the co-editor of Proskauer’s Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Blog and the Hiring Partner for Proskauer’s Washington office. He also serves on the Board of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.

Photo of Adam Scoll Adam Scoll

Adam Scoll is a partner in the Firm’s Tax Department and Private Funds Group.

He specializes in the area of Title I of ERISA and the investment of ERISA “plan assets,” advising both pension trusts and their investment managers and advisers with regard…

Adam Scoll is a partner in the Firm’s Tax Department and Private Funds Group.

He specializes in the area of Title I of ERISA and the investment of ERISA “plan assets,” advising both pension trusts and their investment managers and advisers with regard to compliance with ERISA’s complex fiduciary duty and prohibited transaction rules.

Adam regularly advises private investment fund sponsors regarding the structuring of their funds in order to accept investments from ERISA-covered pension trusts, including compliance with the ERISA “plan asset” regulations and the operation of venture capital operating companies (VCOCs) and real estate operating companies (REOCs).

Adam also represents both employers and senior executives in the negotiation and drafting of employment and separation agreements, deferred compensation plans, and equity and “phantom equity” arrangements, including compliance with the nonqualified deferred compensation rules under Sections 409A and 457A of the Internal Revenue Code.

Photo of Michael R. Hackett Michael R. Hackett

Mike Hackett is a partner in the Litigation Department and Co-Head of the Asset Management Litigation practice. An experienced litigator and trial lawyer, Mike’s practice focuses on complex commercial litigation, with a particular emphasis on asset management, financial services, M&A, shareholder, and life…

Mike Hackett is a partner in the Litigation Department and Co-Head of the Asset Management Litigation practice. An experienced litigator and trial lawyer, Mike’s practice focuses on complex commercial litigation, with a particular emphasis on asset management, financial services, M&A, shareholder, and life sciences disputes.

A significant portion of Mike’s practice concerns disputes and regulation involving private funds, including private equity, venture capital, hedge, real estate and private credit funds, as well as their sponsors, partners, investors, portfolio companies, and officers and directors. Mike’s experience representing private fund clients runs the gamut, from control contests within advisers, to disputes between limited partners and general partners, to representation of investment advisers in connection with regulatory examinations, investigations and enforcement matters. Mike routinely represents funds, fund sponsors, portfolio companies, and their officers and directors, including in significant post-closing M&A disputes.

Mike also litigates high-stakes commercial disputes in the life sciences and financial services areas, including for established pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, emerging and innovative start-ups, asset managers, and other private capital investors, in areas such as M&A, breach of contract, indemnification, fraud, contested earnouts and royalties, securities and capital markets, and corporate governance.

Mike has been recognized by Chambers USA and was named a “Rising Star” by Massachusetts Super Lawyers.