Overview

Richard (“Rick”) Nowak is a partner in Mayer Brown's Chicago office and Co-Chair of the ERISA Litigation practice. He is an experienced trial attorney in state and federal court and also represents clients in arbitrations, mediations, and governmental and internal investigations. Rick’s practice focuses on complex class and derivative actions under ERISA, including fiduciary and others benefits actions. In 2021, Rick was named an ERISA Litigation “MVP” by Law360, a recognition reserved for an elite slate of attorneys who have distinguished themselves from their peers by securing hard-earned successes in high-stakes litigation. In addition, in 2020 Rick was named an ERISA Litigation “Rising Star”, a highly selective honor for “attorneys under 40 whose legal accomplishments transcend their age.”

Rick actively counsels and represents benefit plans, plan sponsors, fiduciaries, and service providers against claims relating to defined contribution (401(k) and 403(b)) plans, defined benefit plans, severance plans, top hat plans, and health plans under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). In addition, Rick actively represents clients in ERISA class actions alleging excessive fees, imprudent investments, and other claims relating to the administration of plan assets and fiduciary responsibilities. Rick also has specific experience relating to employee stock ownership plans (ESOP), representing plan sponsors and other interested parties in litigation and investigations relating to ESOP transactions. Rick also actively represents clients in audits and investigations brought by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA).

Rick also represents clients in employments disputes and investigations involving the Fair Labor Standards Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and National Labor Relations Act, among others. Rick also works closely him clients to develop and implement workplace policies and procedures relating to employee classification, confidentiality and non-compete agreements, whistleblowing, harassment and discrimination, employee monitoring, employee privacy, and employee social media activity.

Rick also has experience representing clients in antitrust investigations and litigation and other complex commercial litigation. These experiences include U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) grand jury investigations and multi-district class action litigation.

Prior to joining Mayer Brown, Rick was an attorney for the City of Chicago’s Department of Law, where he defended the City and its employees against constitutional and other civil rights claims in state and federal court.
Highlights
Employment Issues in Securities Investigations

Experience

  • In re: Diisocyanates Antitrust Litigation, MDL No. 2862 (W.D. Pa.) (pending).  Representing multinational corporation and North American subsidiary in multidistrict litigation alleging conspiracy and antitrust violations against global manufacturers of polyurethane chemicals.
  • Alas v. AT&T Services, et al., Case No. 2:17-cv-8106-VAP-RAO (C.D. Cal. Sept. 28, 2021). Granting AT&T Defendants’ motion for summary judgment in its entirety in ERISA class action alleging that the fiduciaries of the AT&T 401(k) plan breached their fiduciary duties and engaged in prohibited transactions. After reviewing the parties’ cross motions, the Court held that the undisputed evidence showed that the AT&T Defendants’ acted prudently and in the best interests of the plan’s participants in diligently monitoring the plan’s administrative and other fees.
  • Drake v. BBVA USA Bancshares, Inc., et al., 2021 WL 3851974 (N.D. Al. Aug. 27, 2021) and Ferguson v. BBVA Compass Bancshares, Inc., et al., 2:19-cv-01135 (N.D. Al. Sept. 3, 2021). Granting motions to dismiss with prejudice the plaintiffs’ breach of fiduciary duty claims against a plan service provider retained to assist the plan’s fiduciaries in selecting and monitoring the 401(k) plan’s investment options.
  • Lauderdale, et al. v. NFP Retirement, Inc. et al., 2021 WL 3828646 (C.D. Cal. Aug. 25, 2021). Granting motion to dismiss all of the plaintiffs’ breach of fiduciary duty claims against the plan administrator and plan fiduciaries challenging the selection the 401(k) plan’s investment manager and the selection and retention of certain of the investment manager’s proprietary funds in the plan’s investment lineup.
  • Klawonn v. Board of Directors for the Motion Picture Industry Pension Plans, 2021 WL 3508534 (C.D. Cal. Aug. 9, 2021). Granting motion dismiss all of the plaintiff’s claims alleging that the defendants breached their fiduciary duties by maintaining a retirement plan with a pooled-asset design and by causing a portion of the plan’s assets to be invested in hedge funds and alternative investments.
  • Bafford v. Northrop Grumman Corporation, et al., 994 F.3d 1020 (9th Cir. 2021), affirming 2020 WL 70834 (C.D. Cal., January 7, 2020).  Affirming district court’s granting motion to dismiss in a putative nationwide class action lawsuit alleging that Northrop Grumman Corporation and its benefit plan committee breached their fiduciary duties under ERISA to pension plan participants and violated ERISA’s disclosure requirements.
  • Harmon, et al. v. Shell Oil Company, et al., Case No. 3:20-cv-21 (S.D. Tex. Mar. 31, 2021).  Granting motion to dismiss fiduciary duty and prohibited transaction claims alleging that a retirement plan’s fiduciaries improperly permitted the plan’s recordkeeper to use participant data to market retail investment products outside of the plan.
  • J.L., et al. v. Northrop Grumman Health Plan, et al., 2020 WL 7768126 (D. Utah Dec. 30, 2020).  Granting defendants’ motion for summary judgment in an ERISA benefits lawsuit alleging that the Northrop Grumman Health Plan and its third party claims administrator violated the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and improperly denied coverage for the participant beneficiary’s continued stay at a mental health treatment center after progress in treatment established that 24-hour inpatient care was no longer medically necessary under the circumstances. 
  • Dean v. National Production Workers Union Severance Trust Plan, et al., 2020 WL 6894665 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 24, 2020). Granting motion to dismiss all of the plaintiffs’ breach of fiduciary duty claims and dismissing plaintiffs’ claim that federal law required defendants to roll over all of the former union members’ plan assets into a different benefit plan.
  • State of Illinois Department of Human Rights (Nov. 13, 2020).  Obtained dismissal of all charges brought by a former employee alleging harassment, retaliation, and constructive discharge against a large financial institution and six managers and executive-level employees. 
  • Griffin v. AT&T Umbrella Benefit Plan No. 3, 2020 WL 1185286 (E.D. Wi. Mar. 12, 2020).  Granting motion for summary judgment in an ERISA benefits lawsuit alleging that the AT&T health plan improperly denied the plaintiff’s claims for short-term and long-term disability benefits.
  • Rychorcewicz v. Welltec, Inc., 768 Fed. App’x 252 (5th Cir. 2019), affirming 2018 WL 3559102 (S.D. Tex. July 24, 2018) and 2018 WL 3559131 (S.D. Tex. June 22, 2018). Affirming district court’s granting Welltec’s motion for summary judgment after discovery in a certified wage and hour class action filed under the FLSA, and denying class plaintiffs’ related motion to strike portions of defendant’s supporting evidence.
  • Wilcox v. Georgetown University, et al., 2019 WL 132281 (D.D.C. Jan. 8, 2019). Granting motion to dismiss a class action lawsuit alleging that Georgetown University breached its fiduciary duties under ERISA by mismanaging its retirement plan for faculty and staff members.
  • FinishMaster, Inc. v. BASF Corporation, Case No.  1:18-cv-00970 (S.D. Ind. 2018).  Obtained a favorable resolution for our client in a commercial dispute relating to the parties’ nationwide distribution relationship.
  • In re: Rust-Oleum Restore Mktg., Sales Practices and Prods. Liab. Litig., MDL No. 2602 (N.D. Ill. 2017).  Obtained a favorable settlement for our client in multidistrict class action litigation alleging violations of consumer and warranty laws. 
  • Hardy v. City of Chicago, et al., Case No. 15-cv-1174 (N.D. Ill. 2017), affirmed 717 Fed. App'x 627 (7th Cir. 2018). Affirming summary judgment for defendants after discovery in a matter alleging due process violations with respect to the City's and former Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy's handling of the sergeant promotion process. 
  • Doyle, et al. v. City of Chicago, et al., Case No. 12-cv-6377 (N.D. Ill. 2016), affirmed 871 F.3d 540 (7th Cir. 2017). Affirming jury verdict and judgment as a matter of law in favor of defendants in a highly-publicized lawsuit alleging political and racial discrimination with respect to the selection of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's personal security detail. 
  • Professional Orthopedic Associates, PA., et al., v. Geico, et al., 2016 WL 1338597 (D.N.J. Apr. 5, 2016). Granting motion to dismiss with prejudice for defendant finding that the medical services provider lacked standing and the individual plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies in an ERISA lawsuit for unpaid medical benefits. 
  • Grayer v. Ford Consumer Finance, et al., Case Nos. 14-cv-10187, 14-cv-1765 (N.D. Ill. 2015). Granting motions to dismiss with prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction in lawsuit consumer fraud, tax fraud, and other common law claims relating to handling of the plaintiff's mortgage loan. 
  • Lane v. DuPage County School District No. 45, Case No. 13-cv-5386 (N.D. Ill.). Obtaining satisfactory settlement for pro bono client who alleged that the school district discriminated against her minor child. 
  • Langan v. The Big Ten Conference, Inc., et al., Case No. 13-L-9828 (Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, 2014). Granting motions to dismiss and for summary judgment as to all claims in six-count lawsuit by a former football official alleging defamation, breach of contract and tort claims. 
  • Lattas v. ING Bank, FSB, Case No. 12-CH-18897 (Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, 2013). Granting motion to dismiss with prejudice as to all claims in a class action lawsuit alleging that its mortgage refinancing practices violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act. 
  • Austin, et al. v. CitiMortgage, Inc., Case No. 10-cv-13185 (E.D. Mich. 2012). Granting motion to dismiss with prejudice community organization plaintiff's claims for lack of standing in action alleging that CitiMortgage's mortgage refinance practices were discriminatory and violated the Fair Housing Act, Civil Rights Act, and the Consumer Credit Protection Act. 
  • Davis v. City of Chicago, et al., Case No. 07-L-7680, affirmed 2014 IL App (1st) 122427. Affirming jury verdict in favor of defendants in wrongful death lawsuit alleging that police-involved shooting was an unjustified homicide. 
  • Johnson v. Arroyo, et al., Case No. 09-cv-1614 (N.D. Ill. 2011). Jury verdict in favor of defendants in federal lawsuit alleging violations of the plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights. 
  • Dishman v. Cleary, et al., Case No. 07-cv-5626 (N.D. Ill. 2011). Jury verdict in favor of defendants in federal lawsuit alleging excessive force and violations of the plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights. 
  • White v. City of Chicago, et al., Case No. 07-cv-2539 (N.D. Ill. 2011). Jury verdict in favor of defendants in federal lawsuit alleging excessive force and violations of the plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights. 

Education

University of Illinois College of Law, JD, summa cum laude
Articles Editor, University of Illinois Law Review; Order of the Coif

University of Illinois, BS, with high honors
Dean's List

Admissions

  • Illinois

Court

  • US District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin
  • US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
  • US District Court for the Central District of Illinois
  • US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
  • US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

Activities

  • American Bar Association, Sections on Labor and Employment Relations and Litigation
  • American Bar Association, Employee Benefits Committee, Member and Co-Editor Employee Benefits Committee Newsletter
  • Chicago Bar Association, Employee Benefits and Class Action Committees