Michelle M. McCarthy is partner and practice group leader of the Southern California-based employee benefits and executive compensation practice. Michelle focuses her practice on the representation of numerous multiemployer and other collectively bargained pension, health, and welfare plans, as management-appointed ERISA plan counsel. Michelle advises boards of trustees on matters regarding ERISA compliance, tax-qualification, plan design, documentation, modification and termination.
She also counsels both single-employer and multiemployer plans on issues pertaining to plan administration and operation (including claims and appeals), participant communications, plan investments, fiduciary obligations, prohibited transactions, funding issues, service provider contracts, negotiating side letters that contain provisions that afford greater protection to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) plans that she represents, ERISA litigation (including deadlock arbitrations), and withdrawal liability matters.
As management-appointed counsel, Michelle has guided some of the largest multiemployer funds in the United States through plan mergers and has assisted in agency investigations and audits, including those involving the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the US Department of Labor (DOL), and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), as well as internal audits.
Michelle also advises corporate counsel, company executives, and HR professionals in all aspects of the employee benefit plans sponsored by their organizations. She advises retirement plan fiduciaries regarding their responsibilities under ERISA and regularly meets with investment and compensation committees to ensure they are fulfilling these responsibilities. Michelle has worked extensively on structuring employee benefit plans and amending those plans to comply with various, and ever changing, federal laws.
In addition, Michelle has spent a large percentage of her career representing both single and multiemployer plan sponsors in controversies before the IRS, DOL, and PBGC. She has negotiated the resolution of compliance issues for retirement plans through IRS remedial programs such as VCP, Audit CAP, and SCP. Michelle also has considerable experience in the DOL’s remedial programs such as the DFVC and VFC programs.
Michelle also represents employers with respect to multiemployer pension withdrawal liability issue, in a variety of contexts, including litigation, collective bargaining, workforce restructuring, subcontracting, corporate transactions and plan relocations and closures. Michelle’s representations span a wide variety of industries, including maritime, international delivery systems, entertainment, transportation, construction, manufacturing, hospitality and textiles.
Michelle frequently speaks on employee benefit plan compliance issues and has presented to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, the American Bar Association, Pensions & Investments, the California State Bar, the Los Angeles County Bar Association and the Beverly Hills Bar Association.
Before joining Morgan Lewis, Michelle was with the employee benefits and compensation practice of a Los Angeles-based law firm.
University of San Diego School of Law, 1998, LL.M., Taxation
University of San Diego School of Law, 1998, J.D.
University of California, Riverside, 1995, B.A., cum laude
Awards and Affiliations
Recognized, Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law, Los Angeles, The Best Lawyers in America (2020)
Member, Law Firm of the Year, Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation, Chambers USA (2019)
Member, Law Firm of the Year, Employee Benefits (ERISA Law), US News/Best Lawyers – Best Law Firms (2019)
Chair, Compensation and Benefits Committee, State Bar of California
Member, Taxation Section, American Bar Association
Member, Women's Lawyers Association of Los Angeles
Member, Board of Directors, Free Arts for Abused Children