I have served as a Director on the Kirkwood School Board since my election in April, 2019. I also served on the Board of Directors of Places for People, a St. Louis non-profit which supports families and individuals dealing with severe mental health and co-occurring disorders, however I had to end that service earlier this year because of scheduling conflicts with Kirkwood’s School Board. I am also the Secretary of the Embark Foundation, a non-profit advancing the welfare of dogs and other companion animals.
I also have two children in the Kirkwood School District who have attended Robinson Elementary School, Nipher Middle School and Kirkwood High School.
My “Day Job”
The most common question when I knock on someone’s door is “what’s your day job.” I respond by saying I’m a lawyer and then they ask me what type and I say I represent workers trying to protect their retirement savings. If that’s all you need to know, you can stop reading.
If you’re still with me, let me explain in more detail. Nearly all employer-sponsored retirement plans in America (like 401(k) plans and pensions) are governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). In a nutshell, it requires that retirement plans have “fiduciaries”, and these fiduciaries have to be prudent in their decision making and loyal to the employees.
With 401(k) plans, many fiduciaries did not take their role seriously until, in 2006, a series of cases were filed alleging that Wall Street was making huge profits off the back of 401(k) plans and employers were asleep at the switch or, worse, aware but willing to ignore it in exchange for side deals from those fleecing their employees and retirees. I represented the workers in nearly all of those cases. Since they were filed, we’ve recovered hundreds of million of dollars directly through litigation. Moreover, with greater awareness of the issues we raised, and the fear of getting sued, fiduciaries have been able to negotiate steep reductions in fees and improvements in the investments and performance of 401(k) plans nationwide. Some estimate the improvements in 401(k) and 403(b) plans since 2006 are saving workers and retirees over $100 billion per year.
I still have some cases about 401(k) plans, particularly where the fiduciaries include imprudent investment options, like investing millions of dollars of their employees’ retirement savings in a single risky stock. However, I also have cases now about other sorts of plans. I have cases about pension plans, where some employers are using really old mortality tables and interest rate assumptions that end up shortchanging married retirees. I also have cases about company stock funds, called ESOPs, where corporate executives can take advantage of employees by making them buy privately held stock from the executives at too high of a price, or by making the employees sell their stock back to the executives or the company itself at too low of a price. Finally, I have cases about long-term disability plans, where I typically represent individuals who can no longer work because of a disability, particularly people with long-covid or who are immune-compromised. In those cases, I help them appeal to the insurance company to get their claims covered and litigate against the insurance company if they still refuse.
I’ve been doing ERISA cases for about 15 years now and have had a lot of successes in that time, including two wins (and no losses) at the United States Supreme Court. Still, I’m most satisfied with the difference I can make in encouraging fiduciaries to improve their plans without me needing to make a federal case about it.