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Joseph S. Adams

Partner in Chicago

Joe Adams advises companies, service providers, and individuals regarding executive compensation and employee benefits programs, including the following areas:

  • Advises on the design, drafting, and ongoing operation of 401(k) and profit sharing plans, employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), cash balance, and other defined benefit pension plans
  • Addresses issues such as how to best demonstrate compliance with the comprehensive fiduciary duty requirements of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), how to successfully resolve comprehensive Department of Labor (DOL) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) audits, and how to address complex participant claims for benefits
  • Drafts short-term and long-term incentive compensation arrangements such as bonus plans, “omnibus” long-term incentive plans (LTIPs), stock options and stock appreciation rights (SARs) agreements, restricted stock and restricted stock unit (RSU) agreements, and other phantom and actual equity arrangements
  • Designs nonqualified retirement plans such as deferred compensation plans, top hat plans, and supplemental executive retirement plans (SERPs), and ensures compliance with Internal Revenue Code Section 409A (regarding nonqualified deferred compensation)
  • Represents employers, executives, and compensation committees with respect to employment agreements and separation agreements
  • Advises on the impact of mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, and spin-offs on employee benefit plans, executive compensation arrangements, and individual executive employment agreements
  • Analyzes the need for executive compensation programs and employee benefit plans to comply with Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requirements (proxy rules, 8-Ks, S-8s, 11-Ks, etc.), IRS rules (including Code Section 162(m), 280G and 409A), Sarbanes-Oxley, Dodd-Frank, and other corporate governance standards, and listing exchange (NYSE or NASDAQ) requirements

Experience

  • Assisted large public company in obtaining ground-breaking IRS ruling regarding retirement contributions for employees struggling with student loan debt.
  • Advised several large public companies on the employee benefits and executive compensation aspects of a spin-off of a portion of their assets into separate public companies.
  • Advised large service provider on the application of the DOL fiduciary proposal to certain products.
  • Advised numerous clients on similar aspects of mergers, acquisitions, and other business combinations.
  • Helped companies with defined benefit pension plans successfully implement complex initiatives such as the contribution of non-cash assets to their plans and pension “de-risking” programs.
  • Advised large sponsor of consolidated recordkeeping system on all aspects of DOL and IRS compliance. 

Honors & Awards

  • Fellow, The American College of Employee Benefits Counsel (ACEBC)
  • The Best Lawyers in America, "Lawyer of the Year", Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law (2013, 2018, 2020)
  • The Best Lawyers in America, Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law (2010-2021)
  • Chambers USA for Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (2008-2019)
  • Leading Lawyers, Leading Employee Benefits Lawyer (2019)
  • Legal 500 US, Employee Benefits, Executive Compensation and Retirement Plans: Design (2020)

Activities

  • Camp Kesem – Chicago Board of Directors
  • Former Trustee – Village of Winnetka

Credentials

Joe received his B.A. in Economics, with honors, from the University of Chicago, and he received his J.D., cum laude, from Cornell Law School where he served as an editor for the Cornell Law Review

Publications & Speaking Engagements

Joe has written for leading employee benefits and executive compensation publications such as the Pension Plan Fix-It Handbook, Guide to Assigning and Loaning Benefit Plan Money, Executive Compensation Strategies, Beyond Stock Options/Equity Alternatives, and Domestic Partner Benefits: An Employer’s Guide. Joe also has contributed to national publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Business Week, The Chicago Tribune, Bloomberg, Kiplinger, CFO.com, and Investment News

Joseph S. Adams

Partner in Chicago

Joe Adams advises companies, service providers, and individuals regarding executive compensation and employee benefits programs, including the following areas:

  • Advises on the design, drafting, and ongoing operation of 401(k) and profit sharing plans, employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), cash balance, and other defined benefit pension plans
  • Addresses issues such as how to best demonstrate compliance with the comprehensive fiduciary duty requirements of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), how to successfully resolve comprehensive Department of Labor (DOL) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) audits, and how to address complex participant claims for benefits
  • Drafts short-term and long-term incentive compensation arrangements such as bonus plans, “omnibus” long-term incentive plans (LTIPs), stock options and stock appreciation rights (SARs) agreements, restricted stock and restricted stock unit (RSU) agreements, and other phantom and actual equity arrangements
  • Designs nonqualified retirement plans such as deferred compensation plans, top hat plans, and supplemental executive retirement plans (SERPs), and ensures compliance with Internal Revenue Code Section 409A (regarding nonqualified deferred compensation)
  • Represents employers, executives, and compensation committees with respect to employment agreements and separation agreements
  • Advises on the impact of mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, and spin-offs on employee benefit plans, executive compensation arrangements, and individual executive employment agreements
  • Analyzes the need for executive compensation programs and employee benefit plans to comply with Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requirements (proxy rules, 8-Ks, S-8s, 11-Ks, etc.), IRS rules (including Code Section 162(m), 280G and 409A), Sarbanes-Oxley, Dodd-Frank, and other corporate governance standards, and listing exchange (NYSE or NASDAQ) requirements

Honors and Awards

Fellow
American College of Employee Benefits Counsel
Best Lawyers
The Best Lawyers in America©
Chambers USA
Chambers and Partners
Legal
500
The Legal 500 United States
Lawyer of
the Year
The Best Lawyers in America©
  • Fellow, The American College of Employee Benefits Counsel (ACEBC)
  • The Best Lawyers in America, "Lawyer of the Year", Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law (2013, 2018, 2020)
  • The Best Lawyers in America, Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law (2010-2021)
  • Chambers USA for Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (2008-2019)
  • Leading Lawyers, Leading Employee Benefits Lawyer (2019)
  • Legal 500 US, Employee Benefits, Executive Compensation and Retirement Plans: Design (2020)

Activities

  • Camp Kesem – Chicago Board of Directors
  • Former Trustee – Village of Winnetka

Joe received his B.A. in Economics, with honors, from the University of Chicago, and he received his J.D., cum laude, from Cornell Law School where he served as an editor for the Cornell Law Review

Education

Cornell University
JD, 1992
University of Chicago
BA, 1990

Admissions

IL
Illinois
  • Assisted large public company in obtaining ground-breaking IRS ruling regarding retirement contributions for employees struggling with student loan debt.
  • Advised several large public companies on the employee benefits and executive compensation aspects of a spin-off of a portion of their assets into separate public companies.
  • Advised large service provider on the application of the DOL fiduciary proposal to certain products.
  • Advised numerous clients on similar aspects of mergers, acquisitions, and other business combinations.
  • Helped companies with defined benefit pension plans successfully implement complex initiatives such as the contribution of non-cash assets to their plans and pension “de-risking” programs.
  • Advised large sponsor of consolidated recordkeeping system on all aspects of DOL and IRS compliance. 

Joe has written for leading employee benefits and executive compensation publications such as the Pension Plan Fix-It Handbook, Guide to Assigning and Loaning Benefit Plan Money, Executive Compensation Strategies, Beyond Stock Options/Equity Alternatives, and Domestic Partner Benefits: An Employer’s Guide. Joe also has contributed to national publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Business Week, The Chicago Tribune, Bloomberg, Kiplinger, CFO.com, and Investment News

Thought Leadership

Joseph S. Adams

Partner in Chicago

Joe focuses his practice exclusively on executive
compensation and employee benefits. He has
significant experience advising clients regarding
executive compensation and employee benefits
programs, including advising on the impact of mergers,
acquisitions, divestitures, and spin-offs on employee
benefit plans, executive compensation arrangements,
and individual executive employment agreements. Joe
also has experience analyzing the need for executive
compensation programs and employee benefit plans
to comply with Securities and Exchange Commission,
IRS, Sarbanes-Oxley, Dodd-Frank, and other corporate
governance standards, as well as listing exchange (NYSE
or NASDAQ) requirements. He has previously been
recognized as Chicago Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law
“Lawyer of the Year” by The Best Lawyers in America.

Experience

  • Assisted large public company in obtaining ground-breaking IRS ruling regarding retirement contributions for employees struggling with student loan debt.
  • Advised several large public companies on the employee benefits and executive compensation aspects of a spin-off of a portion of their assets into separate public companies.
  • Advised large service provider on the application of the DOL fiduciary proposal to certain products.
  • Advised numerous clients on similar aspects of mergers, acquisitions, and other business combinations.
  • Helped companies with defined benefit pension plans successfully implement complex initiatives such as the contribution of non-cash assets to their plans and pension “de-risking” programs.
  • Advised large sponsor of consolidated recordkeeping system on all aspects of DOL and IRS compliance. 

Honors & Awards

  • Fellow, The American College of Employee Benefits Counsel (ACEBC)
  • The Best Lawyers in America, "Lawyer of the Year", Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law (2013, 2018, 2020)
  • The Best Lawyers in America, Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law (2010-2021)
  • Chambers USA for Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (2008-2019)
  • Leading Lawyers, Leading Employee Benefits Lawyer (2019)
  • Legal 500 US, Employee Benefits, Executive Compensation and Retirement Plans: Design (2020)

Activities

  • Camp Kesem – Chicago Board of Directors
  • Former Trustee – Village of Winnetka

Credentials

Joe received his B.A. in Economics, with honors, from the University of Chicago, and he received his J.D., cum laude, from Cornell Law School where he served as an editor for the Cornell Law Review

Publications & Speaking Engagements

Joe has written for leading employee benefits and executive compensation publications such as the Pension Plan Fix-It Handbook, Guide to Assigning and Loaning Benefit Plan Money, Executive Compensation Strategies, Beyond Stock Options/Equity Alternatives, and Domestic Partner Benefits: An Employer’s Guide. Joe also has contributed to national publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Business Week, The Chicago Tribune, Bloomberg, Kiplinger, CFO.com, and Investment News

Joseph S. Adams

Partner in Chicago

Joe focuses his practice exclusively on executive
compensation and employee benefits. He has
significant experience advising clients regarding
executive compensation and employee benefits
programs, including advising on the impact of mergers,
acquisitions, divestitures, and spin-offs on employee
benefit plans, executive compensation arrangements,
and individual executive employment agreements. Joe
also has experience analyzing the need for executive
compensation programs and employee benefit plans
to comply with Securities and Exchange Commission,
IRS, Sarbanes-Oxley, Dodd-Frank, and other corporate
governance standards, as well as listing exchange (NYSE
or NASDAQ) requirements. He has previously been
recognized as Chicago Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law
“Lawyer of the Year” by The Best Lawyers in America.

Honors and Awards

Fellow
American College of Employee Benefits Counsel
Best Lawyers
The Best Lawyers in America©
Chambers USA
Chambers and Partners
Legal
500
The Legal 500 United States
Lawyer of
the Year
The Best Lawyers in America©
  • Fellow, The American College of Employee Benefits Counsel (ACEBC)
  • The Best Lawyers in America, "Lawyer of the Year", Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law (2013, 2018, 2020)
  • The Best Lawyers in America, Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law (2010-2021)
  • Chambers USA for Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation (2008-2019)
  • Leading Lawyers, Leading Employee Benefits Lawyer (2019)
  • Legal 500 US, Employee Benefits, Executive Compensation and Retirement Plans: Design (2020)

Activities

  • Camp Kesem – Chicago Board of Directors
  • Former Trustee – Village of Winnetka

Joe received his B.A. in Economics, with honors, from the University of Chicago, and he received his J.D., cum laude, from Cornell Law School where he served as an editor for the Cornell Law Review

Education

Cornell University
JD, 1992
University of Chicago
BA, 1990

Admissions

IL
Illinois
  • Assisted large public company in obtaining ground-breaking IRS ruling regarding retirement contributions for employees struggling with student loan debt.
  • Advised several large public companies on the employee benefits and executive compensation aspects of a spin-off of a portion of their assets into separate public companies.
  • Advised large service provider on the application of the DOL fiduciary proposal to certain products.
  • Advised numerous clients on similar aspects of mergers, acquisitions, and other business combinations.
  • Helped companies with defined benefit pension plans successfully implement complex initiatives such as the contribution of non-cash assets to their plans and pension “de-risking” programs.
  • Advised large sponsor of consolidated recordkeeping system on all aspects of DOL and IRS compliance. 

Joe has written for leading employee benefits and executive compensation publications such as the Pension Plan Fix-It Handbook, Guide to Assigning and Loaning Benefit Plan Money, Executive Compensation Strategies, Beyond Stock Options/Equity Alternatives, and Domestic Partner Benefits: An Employer’s Guide. Joe also has contributed to national publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Business Week, The Chicago Tribune, Bloomberg, Kiplinger, CFO.com, and Investment News