Produce[s] jaw-droppingly good work and [is] a joy to work with.”
Legal 500


Brian Netter is a partner in the Washington DC office of Mayer Brown's Litigation & Dispute Resolution practice and Co-Chair of the ERISA Litigation practice.

Brian's innovative work has been recognized by numerous leading publications. In 2019, he was named a Benefits MVP by Law360 for winning dismissals in a series of ERISA class action lawsuits. He has received accolades from The National Law Journal for his work in appellate and benefits litigation, including his recognition as a 2020 Employment Trailblazer and inclusion in the NLJ’s "Appellate Hot List" on four separate occasions. He has also been recognized as an emerging star in appellate and ERISA litigation by Washington DC Super Lawyers, The Legal 500 and Chambers USA.

Brian's practice spans trial-court and appellate proceedings in a broad range of substantive areas.  On ERISA questions, Brian litigates class-action disputes and advises clients on issues prompting such litigation, particularly as it relates to ERISA’s fiduciary standards, and is a frequent commentator on the Supreme Court’s ERISA docket.  Beyond ERISA, Brian litigates other financial services disputes and cases involving administrative law, constitutional law, and tax law. Earlier in his career, Brian served as a law clerk to Associate Justice Stephen Breyer on the US Supreme Court and to Judge Judith W. Rogers on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

Brian also maintains a robust pro bono practice. He won a landmark constitutional law victory for the District of Columbia Council in litigation concerning the District's right to spend local tax dollars. For criminal defense clients, he succeeded in winning one client’s release from death row and achieved the vacatur of another client’s sentence of life imprisonment.

Brian is the Washington DC office's hiring partner. Prior to his career as a lawyer, Brian earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in Industrial & Operations Engineering.

Spoken Languages

  • English


  • Secured a major victory for Cornell University at summary judgment in a pending class-action lawsuit about the university’s retirement plan.
  • Obtained a complete dismissal, prior to the initiation of discovery, in an ERISA class action accusing George Washington University of mismanaging its retirement plan, and affirmance on appeal.
  • Secured a major victory for Georgetown University by obtaining dismissal of a class action lawsuit alleging that the University had mismanaged its retirement plan for faculty and staff.
  • Defending additional universities in putative ERISA class actions regarding the administration of retirement plans offered to faculty and staff.
  • Representing a global energy company against broad challenge to the administration of its retirement plan and selection of investment options.
  • Representing telecommunications company in challenge to actuarial assumptions in defined-benefit pension plan.
  • Representing a global security company against multi-pronged challenge to the administration of its retirement plan and to the investment options offered therein.
  • Representing telecommunications company in challenge to COBRA notices.
  • Achieved mid-trial settlement on behalf of defense contractor in ERISA class action alleging more than a billion dollars of damages.
  • Council of the District of Columbia v. Gray: Brought declaratory judgment action against Mayor and Chief Financial Officer of the District of Columbia to require their adherence to a referendum on the District’s budgeting process.  Prevailed in the D.C. Circuit and again in the D.C. Superior Court, permitting the District to take control of its local budget.
  • Altera v. Commissioner: Won a high-profile victory in the U.S. Tax Court on behalf of taxpayer in challenge to Treasury Regulations concerning the allocation of stock-based compensation among related companies.
  • CSX Transportation Inc. v. General Mills Inc.: Secured reversal of a decision to dismiss an indemnification claim against a multinational manufacturer of consumer foods.
  • Chen v. Wai ? Cafe: Obtained reversal of wage-hour judgment against a restaurateur in the Second Circuit and, subsequently, won dismissal of the case on remand in the district court.
  • Farina v. State: Argued successful habeas appeal in Eleventh Circuit on behalf of death-row inmate.
  • Abramovich, et al. v. Allen, et al.: Secured a favorable settlement in a discrimination case for a West-Virginia same-sex couple who was harassed while applying for a marriage license by a county clerk citing religious objections to marriage equality.
  • Vendura v. Northrop Grumman Corp.: Defended a victory in the First Circuit in an ERISA case concerning the standards that apply when a court reviews a plan administrator’s construction of an ERISA plan in the context of a non-ERISA settlement agreement.
  • Sandoz v. Cingular Wireless: Prevailed in the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in a case concerning the time limit for collective action certification under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
  • Fenkell v. Alliance Holdings: Petitioned the US Supreme Court to decide whether an individual found liable for breach of fiduciary duty could seek indemnity from another fiduciary that he claimed was primarily responsible.  After the Supreme Court called for the views of the United States government, the parties entered into a settlement agreement.
  • Barchock v. CVS; Ellis v. Fidelity: Represent the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) as amicus curiae in two cases challenging the appropriateness of stable value funds offered within 401(k) plans.
  • Abbott v. Lockheed Martin Corp., and In re Lockheed Martin Corp.: Represented defense contractor in challenge to class certification in one of the largest ERISA class actions related to excessive fees. 
  • Clements v. CSX Transportation, Inc., and Pollard v. CSX Transportation, Inc.,: Represented railroad in successful defense of claims alleging violations of federal regulations.
  • Local Search Ass'n v. City & County of San Francisco,: The Ninth Circuit summarily reversed the district court's denial of our client's motion for preliminary injunctive relief in a First Amendment challenge to a municipal ordinance, directing the court to apply the appropriate legal standard on remand.
  • Arkema, Inc. v. EPA: The D.C. Circuit vacated, as impermissibly retroactive, an EPA rule allocating allowances for the production of ozone-depleting refrigerants. This case was featured in The National Law Journal's 2011 "Appellate Hot List."
  • Martin v. Bartow: In an appointment by the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, convinced the court to reverse the district court's ruling that appellant's petition was untimely.
  • Polar Tankers, Inc. v. City of Valdez, Alaska: The Supreme Court held that a tax levied against petitioner was unconstitutional under the Constitution's Tonnage Tax.
  • Republic of Philippines v. Pimentel: The Supreme Court held that sovereign immunity protected petitioners from an interpleader action that would complicate efforts to recover assets stolen by the Marcos regime). This case was featured in The National Law Journal's 2009 "Appellate Hot List."


Yale Law School, JD
Reviews Editor, Yale Law Journal; Thurman Arnold Prize (best oralist) and Potter Stewart Prize (best team) in Morris Tyler Moot Court of Appeals, John M. Olin Prize (law and economics) and Margaret Gruter Prize (ethology and the law) for outstanding papers and William K.S. Wang Prize for excellence in corporate law

University of Michigan, MSE

University of Michigan, BSE, Industrial & Operations Engineering, summa cum laude


  • District of Columbia
  • Illinois


  • US Supreme Court
  • US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
  • US District Court for the District of Columbia
  • US District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin
  • US District Court for the Western District of New York
  • US Tax Court