Image: Michael Williams
Michael
Michael S. Williams
Shareholder, New Orleans
Assistant
Hancock Whitney Center
701 Poydras Street
Suite 5000
New Orleans, Louisiana 70139

Overview

Michael Williams is a business lawyer who focuses on complex tax and employee benefits issues for companies in Louisiana and elsewhere throughout the U.S.  He helps corporate clients with the design and administration of tax-qualified retirement plans, such as 401(k) and 403(b) plans, ESOPs and defined benefit plans ­ including cash balance plans ­ as well as the employee benefit portion of mergers, acquisitions and asset purchase agreements. His clients range from major private universities to Fortune 500 companies to large non-profit corporations. 

Clients seek Mike's help with the design of nonqualified deferred compensation arrangements -­ including compliance with Code Section 409A.  He assists executives and companies in the design and negotiation of executive employment agreements, severance arrangements and incentive compensation plans.  Mike has represented clients who have established and maintained broad-based group welfare plans, including group health plans, cafeteria plans and wellness plans. Mike frequently advises clients on COBRA and HIPAA compliance, as well as compliance with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

He has extensive experience representing clients in tax controversies, counseled individuals and businesses on transactional tax matters and provided due diligence services.  He has counseled nonprofit and tax-exempt organizations on all aspects of their enterprise, such as tax matters and unrelated business income, intermediate sanctions and joint ventures, governance, foundations, endowment funds, charitable/planned giving programs, fundraising and collaborating with donors. 

Experience

"One of the things that sets me apart is that I explain what ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code mean in practical and efficient terms.”  Mike explains the concepts and the law, and then offers practical, understandable solutions when there are problems.  For example:

  • A major U.S. telecommunications company was facing an IRS Employee Plan Team Audit, covering aspects of the company's operations from employee hiring to employee separation and in between – such as matching contributions, the timing of employee contributions and systems interface.  Mike negotiated a detailed scope of the audit.  Over the course of a year, he walked the IRS through every step of the audit and designed solutions when there were issues.  The end result was a favorable ruling and settlement on issues and findings, dollar savings and avoidance of fines and penalties.  

  • A large non-profit institution was concerned that it had not given adequate attention to its plan and had lost control over it.  "We told the IRS that we have a problem and we have a way to correct it," Mike said.  He reviewed the plan and its operation in detail, spotting concerns and coming up with creative remedies to get the plan back on track and in compliance, filing a Voluntary Correction Program that regained the client's control over the plan's operation and effectively limited the client's potential liability.  The end result was that the IRS approved all of the offered solution without question.   

Involvement

Professional

  • American Bar Association, Cincinnati Bar Association, Louisiana State Bar Association – Member

  • Adjunct Professor at the Loyola University College of Law

  • American Bar Association – Co-chair, Section of Labor and Employment Law Committee on Employee Benefits Subcommittee on Regulation of Employee Health Care Benefit Plans Chapter 8

  • Loyola University College of Law – Adjunct Professor

  • Board of Directors for the Association of Employee Benefit Planners of New Orleans

  • Member of Gulf South Area TE/GE Council, Internal Revenue Service - Employee Plans Sub-groups 

Community

  • Chair of the Board of Directors of Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans

  • Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park – Former Board Member

  • Greater Cincinnati Minority Counsel Program – Former Board Member

  • Go Vibrant – Former Board Member

Recognition

  • Named a "Rising Star" of Louisiana Super Lawyers, 2017-2018

  • New Orleans Magazine's List of "Top Lawyers," 2016-2018

                           
 
                               Michael S. Williams
Selected in 2018
Thomson Reuters 

Presentations

Mike is a widely respected author and prolific speaker on employee benefit plan topics. He has spoken numerous times including to the Louisiana State Bar Associations on topics related to qualified retirement plans and has spoken on the Affordable Care Act, including a national address to the American Bar Association.