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Ellan Spring

Senior PBGC Benefits Advisor


Washington, D.C.

Practice Areas


Ellan Hamilton Spring works closely with the firm’s lawyers in advising clients on a variety of issues relating to how PBGC determines and pays benefits when it takes over a terminated pension plan.

Ellan had a 27-year career at PBGC, where she played a leading role in developing the agency’s pension benefit policies. Among other things, she created the agency’s central benefit policy office, the Operations and Policy Support Staff, and managed that office from 1994 until her retirement in 2002. Shortly after her retirement, she began serving as a consultant to PBGC and remained in that role from 2002 until May 2010.

As the agency’s primary program official on benefit policy, she worked closely with PBGC attorneys and corporate policy staff to develop and document both case-specific and general policy decisions. She also provided training for operating staff throughout PBGC, authored much of the PBGC’s Operating Policy Manual during her tenure, presented regular briefings on policy developments, and oversaw development of a technical training curriculum.

Ellan was the driving force in developing PBGC’s regulation on benefit payments, which greatly expanded the benefit forms available to participants in PBGC-trusteed plans. She served as a mentor, managed several highly successful Combined Federal Campaigns, and served as president both of the PBGC Chapter of the Federal Managers’ Association and of the PBGC Recreation Association. Ellan received the agency’s highest honorary award, the prestigious Distinguished Career Service Award, in 2001.

Earlier in her PBGC career, Ellan drafted a multiemployer regulation on mass withdrawal terminations, developed specifications for other regulations and policies, and was responsible for coordinating corporate-wide implementation of portions of several major pieces of legislation.

She also served as PBGC’s dispute resolution specialist and as ombudsman in a pilot project, and she chaired the task force that developed PBGC’s merit pay system. Previously, while at the Department of Labor, she prepared the termination insurance and fiduciary standards portions of the legislative history of ERISA.

Ellan received an AB in economics from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College. She has an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, where she concentrated in labor relations and pensions and was elected to Beta Gamma Sigma, the international honor society for Business Schools.

Ellan served as Senior PBGC Benefits Advisor at Keightley & Ashner LLP, the nation’s premier PBGC-focused law firm, from 2010 until she joined the Wagner Law Group with the rest of the Keightley & Ashner team in January 2022.