“‘a go-to person for ERISA litigation,’” and “‘thorough in her preparation and skilled in negotiation’... ‘an absolutely excellent ERISA litigator...’"Chambers USA
Nancy G. Ross is a partner in Mayer Brown's Chicago office and Chair of the ERISA Litigation practice. She focuses her practice primarily on the area of employee benefits class action litigation and counseling under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). Nancy is consistently recognized as a leader in ERISA litigation. In 2020, she was named a Benefits 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. Nancy has extensive experience in counseling and representing employers, boards of directors, plan fiduciaries and trustees in matters concerning pension and welfare benefit plans. Her experience includes representation of pension and 401(k) plans, ESOPs, trustees and employers concerning their administration of plan assets and fiduciary responsibilities before the courts and the Department of Labor. Nancy frequently represents directors and officers who are named as defendants in ERISA litigation over 401(k) plans and other employee benefit plans. She also has extensive experience in assisting employers seeking to reduce their retiree health benefits exposure. Nancy has also been approved by various insurance companies to represent directors and officers in fiduciary litigation.
Nancy is consistently recognized as a leader in ERISA litigation by the most highly regarded legal directories and industry publications in the United States. In 2020, she had a banner year. Not only was she was named a Benefits MVP by Law360, she was also listed in Chicago Magazine’s “Top 50 Women Attorneys in Illinois,” and named to the Hall of Fame by Legal 500 USA in ERISA Litigation. She was also recognized as a leading lawyer in ERISA Litigation by Best Lawyers. In 2019, she was named an Employment Trailblazer by The National Law Journal, which recognizes lawyers who have impacted employment law and the overall legal industry through new types of strategies and innovative court cases. Since 2006, Chambers USA has recognized Nancy as a leader in ERISA litigation and benefits litigation. In Chambers USA 2019, clients speak highly of her technical knowledge of the area saying “not many people have the depth of expertise she has.” Legal 500 has recognized her as a leader in ERISA litigation since 2008 and refers to her as an authority on employee and benefits disputes, stating, “Nancy Ross is ‘just a total expert’ on employee benefits disputes, and ‘understands the implication of every issue.’” She was named a 2019 “Lawyer of the Year ERISA Litigation - Chicago” by Best Lawyers. She was also listed in Benchmark Litigation’s 2018 “Top 250 Women in Litigation” list, which highlights the nation’s leading women who participate in the “most impactful litigation matters in recent history[.]” Nancy has also been named among the top lawyers in the field of employee benefits/ERISA by Illinois Super Lawyers since 2005. She has also been named one of the top 50 women lawyers in Illinois consistently since 2008, and was named among the top 100 lawyers in Illinois in 2017 and 2018. Best Lawyers also selected Nancy as the 2016 “Lawyer of the Year Honoree, Litigation – ERISA” in addition to selecting her as a 2014 “Lawyer of the Year ERISA Litigation - Chicago.” Best Lawyers named Nancy a nominee for their inaugural 2017 “Women of Influence” Award stating, “Nancy’s confidence in herself and her abilities, whether in the courtroom, on a client call, or at a firm meeting, always shines through, setting a wonderful example for women around her.”
- Secured in important victory for an electric power holding company and its Benefits Committee in a nationwide ERISA class action challenging the administration of its 401(k) plan, with more than 39,000 participants and $8.6 billion in assets. The claims alleged breach of fiduciary duty by causing the plan to pay allegedly excessive recordkeeping and administrative fees and managed account services fees. After two years of hard-fought litigation, the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their case with prejudice, withdrawing all claims against our client and the company.
- Successfully defended an aerospace and defense technology company in a nationwide putative class action over severance benefits claimed to be owed under a severance policy after a reduction in force. The nearly decade-long case involved novel questions of law related to the scope of ERISA’s provisions prohibiting “interference” with employees’ benefits and the scope of plan administrators’ fiduciary duties. We also represent the company in a benefits action challenging the terms of the plan under the Mental Health Parity Act and the claim administrator’s denial of benefits for the participant’s stay at a residential treatment center.
- Represented a global telecommunications company in a nationwide class action challenging the administration of its 401(k) plan with more than 240,000 participants and an excess of $34 billion in assets. The claims challenged various administrative and investment actions taken by our client in administering and operating the benefit plan. We were successful in convincing the district court to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims against our client and the individual fiduciary defendants.
- Convinced a California federal court to dismiss all of the plaintiff’s claims alleging that the Board of Directors of the Motion Picture Industry Pension Plans (“MPI”) breached their fiduciary duties by offering a retirement plan with a pooled-asset design and by investing a portion of the plan’s assets in hedge funds and other alternative investments. In granting MPI’s motion to dismiss, the court found that the plan’s pooled-asset design complied with ERISA and that investing in the alternative investments was consistent with the plan’s stated purpose of generating consistent returns in all market environments.
- Convinced an Alabama federal court to dismiss all of the plaintiff’s claims alleging that a wealth management technology provider breached its fiduciary duties as an investment advisor to the 401(k) plan by allegedly failing to properly monitor certain of the plan’s investments. In granting the provider’s motion to dismiss with prejudice, the court found that our client was not acting in a fiduciary capacity because its contracted services were limited to supporting and providing recommendations to the plan’s retirement committee, which retained responsibility for the selection and monitoring of the plan’s investments.
- Secured a win for an aerospace and defense technology company in a nationwide class action over pension benefits. In one of the first cases in the Ninth Circuit to address a pension plan’s right to recoup benefit overpayments to plan participants, the team convinced a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit that alleged claims involving breach of fiduciary duty and violations of ERISA’s disclosure requirements.
- Secured a major victory for Cornell University in a pending class-action lawsuit about the university’s retirement plan. A New York federal court deemed two of the plaintiffs' expert witnesses to be unreliable and granted summary judgment to Cornell on claims accounting for more than 99.9% of the plaintiffs’ asserted damages.
- Obtained a complete dismissal of an ERISA class action accusing George Washington University (GWU) of mismanaging its retirement plan. A federal judge found that the plaintiff had previously released all of her claims against GWU and that the release’s narrow exclusion for claims brought “under” the university’s employee benefits plans did not preserve the plaintiff’s statutory claims under ERISA.
- Secured a major victory for Georgetown University by obtaining dismissal of a class action lawsuit alleging they had mismanaged its retirement plan for faculty and staff. Plaintiffs alleged that they were entitled to hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, but we convinced the court that the claims did not warrant discovery.
- Obtained an important win for the National Production Workers Union (NPWU) Severance Trust Fund and its board of trustees in an ERISA case alleging that the NPWU and the board were required to transfer the plaintiffs’ 401(k) plan assets to their new union following a change in their collective bargaining representative. The court granted our motion to dismiss all claims with prejudice, holding that ERISA imposes no such duty to transfer assets from one defined contribution plan to another.
- Secured a victory before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, in high-profile ERISA litigation against the State of Vermont. Liberty Mutual challenged a state regulation requiring the disclosure of individuals' private and confidential medical claims history from health insurers within the state. Self-funded health plans such as the one Liberty Mutual provides to its employees are included in the definition of "health insurers" under the regulation enforcing the statute. Liberty Mutual maintained that such a state law runs afoul of ERISA's preemptive scope.
- Secured a victory for Northrop Grumman Corporation, avoiding exposure over $1 billion, in a nationwide class action over the calculation of pension benefits under its defined benefit plan.
- Secured an important victory for Chrysler through the negotiation and successful litigation of the transfer of Chrysler LLC's retiree healthcare liability to a VEBA established and administrated by the UAW.
- Obtained dismissal with prejudice in a class action against State Street Bank as trustee of the Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan (SRP) offered by Chrysler Corporation prior to its bankruptcy. The plaintiffs, some 400 former Chrysler executives, alleged numerous state law claims against former Chrysler owners Daimler and Cerberus Capital and State Street, claiming that defendants raided the SRP's assets, thereby depriving plaintiffs of their rightful benefits.
- Secured a victory for State Street Bank in an employee benefits class action stemming from the failure of Delphi Automotive. Prior to the Delphi bankruptcy filing, State Street served as the trustee and investment manager for a block of Delphi stock held in Delphi's retirement plans. State Street refused to join the other defendants in a "global settlement," arguing that it would eliminate State Street's contract rights to be indemnified by Delphi for litigation defense costs. The court ordered reimbursement totaling $2.23 million from a class action settlement fund to pay for State Street's successful defense.
- Obtained significant reductions in medical benefits through class actions and out-of-court negotiations for companies such as Farley Industries Inc., John Morrell & Company, Bell + Howell, Chrysler LLC, FreightCar America, Inc., GEICO Insurance Company and AXA Equitable, among others.
- Obtained dismissal with prejudice for AT&T Services Inc. in precedent-setting ERISA litigation surrounding its third-party insurer offsetting payments with overpayments made by other fully insured plans.
- Achieved a mid-trial settlement for a global security company in a highly publicized class action lawsuit challenging the plan administration of its 401(k) plan.
- Secured a settlement for Liberty Mutual Insurance Company in a significant class action lawsuit over the administration of a pension plan following the acquisition of another company.
- Successfully resolved a complex investigation by the Department of Labor concerning a number of benefit plans for a global security company, avoiding costly litigation.
- Successfully negotiated a resolution of a Department of Labor investigation for a nationwide manufacturer, importer and distributor of ingredients and baked goods over their defined benefit and profit sharing plan.
- Successfully represented a global security company in a putative class action over severance benefits claimed to be owed under a severance policy after a reduction in force.
- Representing the plan sponsor of an employee stock ownership plan (“ESOP”) in a putative class action alleging that the ESOP Trustee breached its fiduciary duties by causing the ESOP to engage in a prohibited transaction by paying above market value for shares in the company.
Loyola University Chicago School of Law, JD
University of Colorado, BA
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- 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 District of Columbia Circuit
- US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
- US District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin
- US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
- Fellow of the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel, in recognition of her distinguished service and professional attainment in the field of employee benefits
- Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, recognizing outstanding dedication to the welfare of the community, the traditions of the profession and the advancement of the objective of the American Bar Association (ABA)
- Apointee of the Policy Board Advisory Council for The American Benefits Council, one of the leading industry organizations advancing the interests of corporations in providing employee benefits
- Global Advisory Board Member of the Women in Law Empowerment Forum (WILEF)
- Former Board Member of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois
- Former co-chair of the Fiduciary Responsibility Committee of the ABA Employee Benefits Committee in the ABA’s Labor and Employment Section
- Regular speaker at the ACI Conference on ERISA Litigation
- Former Member of the Board of Directors of the Chicago Bar Foundation
- Former Member of the Grants Committee of the Chicago Bar Foundation
- Member of the Advisory Council and former board member of the Judge James P. Moran Center For Youth Advocacy, which provides legal and social services to minors
- Editor of the Benefits Law Journal, a preeminent publication featuring articles addressing important issues in benefits litigation
- Taught Litigation Procedure and Strategy as an Adjunct Professor at Loyola University School of Law
- Benefits Editorial Advisory Board
- Law360: In 2020, Nancy was named a Benefits MVP by Law360. Mayer Brown was honored by Law360 as a Benefits Practice Group of the Year in both 2019 and 2020.
- National Law Journal: Nancy has been named to The National Law Journal’s (NLJ) list of 2019 “Employment Law Trailblazers.” This inaugural list recognizes “agents of change” – legal professionals who have impacted employment law and the overall legal industry through new types of strategies and innovative court cases.
- Best Lawyers: In 2020, she was recognized as a leading lawyer in ERISA Litigation by Best Lawyers. Nancy was also named a 2019 “Lawyer of the Year ERISA Litigation – Chicago.” Selected as a nominee for the “Women of Influence” Award by Best Lawyers (Spring 2017 Business Edition). In nominating Nancy, her peers write: “Nancy’s confidence in herself and her abilities, whether in the courtroom, on a client call, or at a firm meeting, always shines through, setting a wonderful example for women around her.” Selected as a “Lawyer of the Year Honoree, Litigation – ERISA” by Best Lawyers (Spring 2016 Business Edition). Also selected as a 2014 “Lawyer of the Year ERISA Litigation - Chicago.” Only one lawyer in each specialty, in a designated metropolitan area, is selected for this prestigious honor. Also selected by her peers for inclusion in the 2015 edition in the field of Litigation – ERISA.
- Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business. Since 2006, Nancy has been recognized as a leader in ERISA litigation and benefits litigation. Chambers notes that, “The ‘talented and engaging’ Nancy Ross is a top-flight practitioner who has played a major role in driving the practice forward.” She is an “’extraordinarily approachable and accessible’ lawyer, who ‘understands the issues, not just the final legal points,’ of complex ERISA matters.” She “works with clients to find realistic solutions. She is an innovative thinker.”
- Illinois Super Lawyers: Nancy has been named among the top lawyers in the field of employee benefits/ERISA since 2005. She has also been named one of the top 50 women lawyers in Illinois consistently since 2008, and was named among the top 100 lawyers in Illinois in 2017 and 2018.
- Legal 500 United States: Nancy has been recognized, since 2008, as a leader in ERISA litigation. In 2020, she was named to the Hall of Fame in the category of ERISA Litigation and has continued to be recognized for the third consecutive year. Sources say, she is “‘fantastic.’ She is described as an ‘expert in this area and able to break things down for non-ERISA attorneys to understand.‘” She is described as having, “celebrity status within the ERISA legal community.” She is a “‘lead lawyer’...”who is ‘very imaginative and creative and writes extremely persuasively’ and has ‘a nice rapport with the judge’.” The publication refers to Nancy as an authority on employee and benefits disputes, stating, “Nancy Ross is ‘just a total expert’ on employee benefits disputes, and ‘understands the implication of every issue.’”
- Benchmark Litigation: Nancy was listed in Benchmark Litigation's 2018 "Top 250 Women in Litigation" list, which highlights the nation's leading women who participate in the "most impactful litigation matters in recent history[.]"
Nancy’s reputation as a leader in ERISA litigation has earned her recognition as a top employment lawyer in the following additional publications:
- Expert Guides' 2016 Guide to Women in Business Law
- Human Resource Executive Magazine
- The Best Lawyers in America