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Deborah West

Senior Counsel—PBGC Matters


Washington, D.C.

Practice Areas

  • PBGC
  • Bankruptcy & Restructuring
  • Mergers & Acquistions
  • Legislative, Regulatory & Policy Services


Deborah West advises clients on a wide variety of issues relating to Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation matters, drawing on her 25-year tenure with PBGC and, thereafter, her 12 years of experience with Keightley & Ashner, which throughout its existence was the nation's premier PBGC-focused law firm.

Deborah served as PBGC Senior Assistant General Counsel for ERISA/Bankruptcy Matters from 1996 until her retirement from government practice in 2005, supervising hundreds of cases involving the full gamut of PBGC issues, including cases involving employer liability in and out of bankruptcy; standard, distress and involuntary terminations; participant benefit entitlement; conflicts between ERISA and other federal laws; fiduciary breaches; evasion and avoidance transactions; and PBGC's Early Warning Program.

As PBGC Senior Assistant General Counsel (and from 1987 to 1996, as PBGC Assistant General Counsel), Deborah supervised and conducted litigation on behalf of PBGC in bankruptcy courts, district courts, and courts of appeals in cases involving ERISA, bankruptcy, and administrative law issues. During her career at PBGC, Deborah litigated numerous employer liability cases, including a seminal controlled group liability case, PBGC v. East Dayton Tool & Die, 14 F.3d 1122 (6th Cir. 1994) which she argued. Deborah also litigated several cases involving ERISA's distress termination provisions, including In re: Resol Mfg. Co., 110 B.R. 858 (Bankr. N.D. Ill. 1990).

Deborah worked on some of PBGC's largest and most significant cases, including General Motors Corporation, Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corporation, New Valley Corporation (Western Union), Global Crossing Ltd., Smith Corona, McLouth Steel, and Grand Union. From 1994 until she left the agency, Deborah was the senior lawyer on the steering committee for the interdepartmental working group responsible for making pension plan termination recommendations. And, as a PBGC staff attorney, Deborah advised the agency's Appeals Board regarding employer liability and participant benefit appeals. While in law school, Deborah clerked at the National Senior Citizens Law Center in Los Angeles, working on pension benefit entitlement cases.

From 2009 until she joined the Wagner Law Group along with the rest of the Keightley & Ashner team in January 2022, Deborah was with Keightley & Ashner, where she served as Senior Counsel-PBGC Matters.


  • UCLA Law School
    • J.D.

Bar Admissions

  • District of Columbia

Professional Associations

American Bar Association (Administrative Law,  Labor and Employment Law, Real Property, Trust and Estate Law, and Taxation Sections)

D.C. Bar –  Administrative Law and Agency Practice, Labor and Employment Law, and Taxation Sections


  • Retirement Industry People Moves – PLANSPONSOR, January 14, 2022 (PDF)
  • “Start preparing for increased reporting to PBGC,” Employee Benefit News Legal Alert, January 8, 2010 – Co-author
  • “Distressed Employers Facing Skyrocketing Pension Contributions: A Non-Bankruptcy Solution,” Journal of Pension Benefits (Winter 2010) (Aspen Publishers) – Co-author
  • “A Non-Bankruptcy Solution for Resolving Unaffordable Pension Liabilities,” Employee Benefit News Legal Alert, March 5, 2010 – Co-author
  • “PBGC Announces 4062(e) Enforcement Pilot Program: Who Will Qualify for Relief?,” Pension & Benefits Reporter, published by The Bureau of National Affairs, November 13, 2012 – Co-author
  • “Section 4062(e) Liability In Transition: Planning For An Uncertain Future,” Pension & Benefits Daily, published by The Bureau of National Affairs, August 27, 2014 – Co-author
  • “Section 4062(e) Liability Reformed: A Summary and Analysis of the New Law,” Pension & Benefits Daily, published by The Bureau of National Affairs, February 27, 2015 – Co-author
  • “PBGC Expands Scope of Early Warning Program,” Pension & Benefits Daily, published by The Bureau of National Affairs, January 10, 2017 – Co-author
  • “Mediation of PBGC Disputes: A New and Welcome Option,” Pension & Benefits Daily, published by The Bureau of National Affairs, November 27, 2017 – Co-author
  •  “PBGC’s Claimed Global Reach: A Practical Guide for Navigating Through the Uncertainty,” Journal of Pension Benefits, published by Wolters Kluwer, Summer 2021 – Co-author