We are ecstatic to announce that the entire team from Keightley & Ashner, the nation’s premier PBGC-focused law firm, will be joining our Washington, D.C. office, where partner and former PBGC Chief Counsel Israel Goldowitz is located. Keightley & Ashner’s attorneys, Harold Ashner, Linda Rosenzweig and Deborah West, along with John Langhans (Senior Actuarial Advisor), Ellan Spring (Senior PBGC Benefits Advisor) and Jon Henkel (Senior PBGC Negotiations Advisor), will be part of our firm starting January 24, 2022.
The knowledge and insight our expanded PBGC team will have about PBGC rules, policies, and procedures is simply unparalleled in the industry. In the aggregate, our PBGC team has 165 years of experience working for PBGC, in roles such as Chief Counsel, Deputy General Counsel, Senior Assistant General Counsel for ERISA/Bankruptcy Matters, Assistant General Counsel for Legislation and Regulations, Deputy Manager of PBGC’s Actuarial Services Division, Supervisory Auditor for PBGC’s Plan Termination Insurance Program, and PBGC’s primary program official on benefit policy. And beyond their time working for PBGC, the team members, in the aggregate, have 100 years of experience in providing legal or other professional services to employers and others facing PBGC issues.
Our PBGC practitioners address issues arising under Title IV of ERISA, and work with employers and their actuarial or other advisors to identify the correct legal approach to a PBGC problem and to deliver practical and effective solutions. Matters addressed by our PBGC practitioners include: standard, distress and involuntary terminations; post-termination audits; PBGC coverage of private-sector defined benefit pension plans; PBGC flat- and variable-rate premiums; reportable events affecting either the plan sponsor’s controlled group or the plan; PBGC annual filings; participant notices and disclosures, partial and complete withdrawal liability with respect to multiemployer plans; abatement of withdrawal liability; merger and acquisition due diligence regarding PBGC and plan funding status; and representation of clients before PBGC. Our clients include defined benefit pension plan sponsors of all sizes, actuarial consulting firms, financial institutions, investment banking firms, and plan participants. Our firm’s PBGC practice also addresses complex merger, acquisition, private equity, and financial restructuring issues that involve defined benefit pension plans.
The Keightley & Ashner Team:
Harold J. Ashner, who joins our firm as a partner, advises and represents clients on a wide variety of employee benefits matters, with an emphasis on PBGC issues. He served as Assistant General Counsel for Legislation and Regulations at PBGC, where he drafted or supervised virtually all regulations and policies issued by PBGC from 1988 until he left the agency in 2005, along with Jim Keightley (1942-2021), PBGC General Counsel, and Bill Beyer (1945-2018), PBGC Deputy General Counsel, to form Keightley & Ashner. His practice includes advising clients on a broad range of PBGC issues, such as those relating to PBGC’s Early Warning Program, M&A transactions, bankruptcy matters, premiums, reportable events, annual employer reporting, standard, distress, and involuntary terminations, settlements of PBGC liabilities, and valuation and payment of PBGC benefits.
Harold has been recognized as a Washington, D.C., Super Lawyer every year since 2008 in the field of Employee Benefits, has been selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© list in the field of Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law every year since 2016, and has a Peer Review Rating of AV® preeminent™ 5.0 out of 5.0 from Martindale-Hubbell. He is the author of several publications on PBGC and related matters, is a frequent speaker on such matters at professional conferences sponsored by the American Bar Association, the American Academy of Actuaries, the Conference of Consulting Actuaries, and other organizations. He is a Fellow of the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel and has served as a member of its Board of Governors; he also serves in a number of leadership positions in the American Bar Association.
Linda E. Rosenzweig advises and represents clients on a broad range of employee benefits and employment matters, including PBGC matters, having practiced in these areas for more than 40 years. Her broad-based practice covers the entire range of employee benefits matters. She has represented employers in administrative and court proceedings arising under ERISA and federal employment laws, and has handled private litigation (including U.S. Supreme Court and federal court cases) on behalf of employers as well as on behalf of PBGC during her PBGC tenure.
Linda was for several years the President of the Greater Washington Metropolitan Area Chapter of the Worldwide Employee Benefits (“WEB”) Network. She is a Charter Fellow of the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel, was the Chair of the Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Interest Group of the American Bar Association Health Section, and completed two terms as the Chair of the Employee Benefits Committee of the ABA’s Tort and Insurance Practice Section (“TIPS”). She was the 2001 recipient of TIPS’ Edmund S. Muskie Pro Bono Service Award. Linda has been recognized as a Washington, D.C., Super Lawyer every year since 2014 in the field of Employee Benefits, has been selected annually by her peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© list in the field of Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law since 2020, and has a Peer Review Rating of AV® preeminent™ 5.0 out of 5.0 from Martindale-Hubbell. She has published numerous articles on ERISA and was the author of the COBRA Handbook (Second Edition) and the Pension Answer Book (Fifth Edition). She has spoken nationally on all aspects of employee benefits.
Linda is active in Washington, D.C., metropolitan area community affairs. She is the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Olney Theatre Center for the Arts, and the President of the Washington, D.C. Regional Board of the American Jewish Committee (AJC). She previously served on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the Jewish Council for the Aging of Greater Washington and the now-defunct Washington Chamber Symphony.
Deborah West advises clients on a wide variety of PBGC-related issues, drawing on her 12 years of experience with Keightley & Ashner and her 25-year tenure with PBGC. She 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.
Throughout her time at PBGC, she 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, and 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.
John F. Langhans, FSA, MAAA, works closely with the firm’s attorneys in advising clients on a variety of actuarial issues, with an emphasis on those arising under Title IV of ERISA. John served as Deputy Manager of PBGC’s Actuarial Services Division for most of his 14 years at the agency, thereafter joining Keightley & Ashner as Senior Actuarial Advisor in 2008. During his tenure at PBGC, John was involved extensively in the Early Warning Program and in bankruptcy litigation, was responsible for estimating PBGC claims in and out of bankruptcy, advised and assisted PBGC attorneys on a broad range of actuarial issues in litigation cases, served as an expert witness for PBGC on a wide variety of actuarial matters, and played a key role in supervising the work of PBGC actuaries and of outside actuarial firms responsible for calculating liability amounts for the agency. Prior to his employment with PBGC, John had more than 20 years of experience as a consulting actuary to a variety of corporate and government organizations that sponsored pension plans, acting as enrolled actuary and advisor to plan sponsors in plan design and funding and in the termination of over 100 plans.
Ellan Hamilton Spring works closely with the firm’s attorneys in advising clients on a variety of issues relating to how PBGC determines and pays benefits when it takes over a terminated pension plan. Prior to joining Keightley & Ashner as its Senior PBGC Benefits Advisor in 2010, she had a 27-year career at PBGC and another eight years as a consultant to PBGC. During her tenure at PBGC, she served as the agency’s primary program official on benefit policy, created and headed the agency’s central benefit policy office, worked closely with PBGC attorneys and corporate policy staff to develop policy decisions, authored much of PBGC’s Operating Policy Manual, and served as PBGC’s dispute resolution specialist. Previously, while at the Department of Labor, she prepared the termination insurance and fiduciary standards portions of the legislative history of ERISA. Ellan received PBGC’s highest honorary award, the prestigious Distinguished Career Service Award, in 2001.
Jonathan L. Henkel consults with the firm’s attorneys in advising clients about PBGC distress terminations, PBGC’s pursuit of termination and other liabilities, and other matters involving negotiations with PBGC. Before joining Keightley & Ashner as its Senior PBGC Negotiations Advisor in 2016, he had a 30-year career at PBGC, and another seven years as a senior financial analyst with Deloitte (a major PBGC contractor), where he supported PBGC’s Corporate Finance and Restructuring Department by negotiating and valuing employer liability settlements. During his tenure at PBGC, he worked closely with PBGC attorneys, actuaries and corporate policy staff in making plan termination and trusteeship recommendations and negotiating settlements on behalf of PBGC for employer liability, unpaid contributions, premiums, and other amounts owed to PBGC in connection with failed pension plans and also in connection with ongoing pension plans so as to provide enhanced protections to guard against possible future PBGC losses. He made significant contributions to PBGC’s plan termination and trusteeship program, having served as Supervisory Auditor for PBGC’s Plan Termination Insurance Program, and having developed key guidance for PBGC’s Termination and Reportable Events Program relating to audit guidelines, processing procedures and financial valuation.