John A. Nixon practices in the area of employee benefits and executive compensation, counseling executives, plan sponsors and product providers in the design and operation of executive compensation, pension and retirement programs. He represents clients in a range of issues, including fiduciary duties; 409A and 457(f) compliance for nonqualified deferred compensation plans, supplemental executive retirement plans and executive employment agreements; federal tax issues applicable to government pension, defined contribution and 457(b) plans; tax qualification requirements under the Internal Revenue Code for employee retirement plans; equity and nonequity forms of executive compensation; and employer health, welfare and flexible benefits plans. He also advises employers and fiduciaries in benefits litigation matters.
Mr. Nixon is a frequent lecturer, commentator and author on executive compensation and employee benefits issues. He currently serves as Chair of the Tax Committee of the National Association of Public Pension Attorneys, and has served on the Advisory Panel on Employee Benefits for the American Law Institute ("ALI-CLE") Program Committee. He is also a member of the standing faculty of the ALI-CLE course of study, "Retirement, Deferred Compensation and Welfare Plans of Tax-Exempt and Governmental Employees."
Mr. Nixon is a 1988 graduate of the University of Michigan Law School and holds a Bachelor of Science in Business from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
- Represented former NFL Executive Vice President Ray Anderson in his contracting with Arizona State University to become their new Director of Athletics.
- Represented Chief Executives and other "C-Suite" officers in executive compensation and employment agreement negotiations in healthcare, higher education, financial services and energy industries.
- Obtained compliance letter under the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution Program (EPCRS) on behalf of a $51 billion public-sector pension fund.
- Obtained favorable determination letter on behalf of $44 billion teacher retirement system.
- Represented $24.5 billion defined benefit system in Internal Revenue Service audit. Responded to or defended 20 information document requests. Secured finding of "no action required."
- Represent executives of publicly traded company securing refund of local taxes paid on option exercise and restricted stock payouts.
- Negotiated custodial, securities lending and third party administration agreements on behalf of market leading bank holding company.
- Negotiated post-TARP executive employment agreements on behalf of publicly held manufacturing company, developing appropriate compliance strategies under IRC Sections 162(m), 280G and 409A.
- Advised publicly held energy company on strategic options with respect to qualified-plan transitions in connection with a $4.3-billion acquisition in which the client's workforce was split between acquiring corporation and related target company.
- Provided fiduciary-obligations training to the retirement board of a $34 billion defined-benefit fund.
- Advised $38 billion public-sector fund on fiduciary duties regarding the disclosure of member benefit data.
- Drafted plan document for public utility implementing optional defined contribution plan linked to eligible deferred compensation plan (457(b)).
- Drafted legislation implementing a defined contribution plan for newly hired employees of municipality.
- Advised the retirement-plans board of publicly held manufacturing company on fiduciary duties with respect to plans subject to participant self-direction under section 404(c) of ERISA.
- Drafted template 457(b) documentation for mutual fund provider.
- Drafted master and prototype defined contribution documents and related adoption agreements for publicly held financial services firm.
Areas of Practice
- Executive Compensation
- Public Sector Pension and Welfare Funds
- Fiduciary Compliance
- ERISA and Employee Benefits
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
- University of Michigan Law School, J.D., 1988
- The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, B.S., 1985
- National Association of Public Pension Attorneys
- Chair, Tax Committee
- ALI-CLE Employee Benefits Advisory Panel
- Philadelphia Bar Association
- Co-chair, Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Committee
Honors and Awards
- Listed in Pennsylvania Super Lawyers, 2010-2013
- Listed in Super Lawyers, Business Edition, 2010, 2013
- AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell
Civic and Charitable Activities
- Leadership, Inc. of Philadelphia
- Mayor's Transition Committee for Mayor Michael Nutter, 2008
- Quoted in "Unreleased Technical Advice Memoranda Illuminate IRS Position on Pension Deferral Plans," Tax Analysts Tax Notes Today, August 7, 2013
- Author, "The DOMA Decision and Employee Benefits: The 'Known Knowns'," The Philadelphia Business Journal, July 15, 2013
- Quoted in "Public Plans and Social Investing: When Doing the Right Thing Is Not Enough," Bloomberg BNA Pension & Benefits Daily," February 26, 2013
- Author, "IRS Extends Determination Letter Filing Deadline for Governmental Plans," Duane Morris Alert, November 27, 2012
- Co-author, "Deferred Compensation for Tax-Exempt and Governmental Executives," The Legal Intelligencer, September 29, 2010
- Co-author, "IRS Offers Relief for Government-Sponsored Pension Plans in Determination Letter Process," Duane Morris Alert, August 17, 2009
- Author, "Par for the Course in the Comp Game," Financial Week, November 2007
- Author, "Independent Contractor Alert – The IRS and State Labor Department Talk Aimed at Employee Misclassification," HR Advisor, February 2008
Selected Speaking Engagements
- Planning Chair, Tax Section Meeting of the National Association of Public Pension Attorneys 2014 Winter Seminar, Tempe, AZ, February 11-13, 2015
- Speaker, "Ethics Issues in Representing Governmental and Tax-Exempt Employers" and "Governmental Plans Update (other than litigation - DROP, proposed regs, NRA, DLs, 414(h) pickups)," ALI CLE's Employee Benefit Plans of Tax-Exempt and Governmental Employers, September 11-12, 2014
- Speaker, "Ethics," NAPPA 2014 Legal Education Conference, Nashville, June 26, 2014
- Speaker, "Developments in Workplace Law and Practice," Duane Morris' Developments in Workplace Law and Practice 2014, Philadelphia, May 8, 2014
- Speaker, "Pick-Up or CODA – A Key Question for Pension Reform" National Association of Public Pension Attorneys 2014 Winter Seminar, February, 2014
- Speaker, "Government Plans and Bankruptcy," The American Legal Institute Continuing Legal Education Group ("ALI-CLE") program on "Retirement, Deferred Compensation, and Welfare Plans of Tax-Exempt and Governmental Employers," Washington, D.C., September 26-27, 2013
- Panelist, "Tax Hot Topics," National Association of Public Pension Attorneys 2013 Legal Education Conference, Santa Fe, New Mexico, June 28, 2013
- Speaker, "Privatization and the Impact on Governmental Plans," 2013 NAPPA Winter Seminar Meeting, Washington, D.C., February 7, 2013
- Panelist, "Restraints on Benefit Cutbacks Under Governmental Plans—Who's Winning and Who's Losing?" and "Other Current Issues for Governmental Plans," ALI-CLE's program on Retirement, Deferred Compensation, and Welfare Plans of Tax-Exempt and Governmental Employers, Washington, D.C., September 20, 2012
- Speaker, "The Bells and Whistles of Persuasion: Perceived and Objective Power in Negotiations," Life in the Big City, City of Philadelphia Law Department CLE, July 20, 2012
- Speaker, "Member Information/Confidentiality," National Association of Public Pension Attorneys' (NAPPA) 2012 Legal Education Conference, June 28, 2012
- Speaker, "Tax Topics: Something Old; Something New," National Association of Public Pension Attorneys' (NAPPA) 2012 Legal Education Conference, June 27, 2012
- Speaker, "Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on Determination of Governmental Plan Status," National Association of Public Pension Attorneys 2012 Winter Seminar Meetings, Washington, DC, February 2012
- Speaker, "Current Issues for 401(k), 403(b) and Other Defined Contribution Plans" and "Governmental Plans Under Attack," ALI-CLE Silver Anniversary Advanced Course of Study, Washington, D.C., September 2011
- Speaker, "Ethical Questions for Attorneys Representing Governmental Retirement Plans," National Association of Public Pension Attorneys 2011 Legal Education Conference, Seattle, June 2011
- Speaker, "Fiduciary Obligations and Other Current Issues for 401(k), 403(b), and Other Defined Contribution Plans" and "Governmental Plans Update," 24th Annual ALI-ABA Advanced Course of Study, Washington, D.C., September 2010
- Speaker, "Vested Rights and Benefit Changes," National Association of Public Pension Attorneys 2010 Legal Education Conference, Asheville, North Carolina, June 2010
- Speaker, "Duane Morris' Developments in Workplace Law & Practice 2010," Washington, D.C., May 2010
- Speaker, "Employee Benefits and Healthcare Reform," Duane Morris' Developments in Workplace Law and Practice 2010, Philadelphia, April 2010
- Speaker, "Issues in Defined Contribution Plans, Deferred Compensation Plans, and Severance Arrangements," part of ALI-ABA Employment Seminar "Retirement, Deferred Compensation, and Welfare Plans of Tax-Exempt and Governmental Employers," September 2009
- Speaker, "Legal Issues Affecting Local Retirement Systems," Pennsylvania Association of Public Employees Retirement Systems 2009 Forum, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, May 2009
- Speaker, "Current & Emerging Trends in Fiduciary Litigation," Louisville Employee Benefits Council, Louisville, Kentucky, December 2008
- Speaker/Moderator, "Global Issues in Employment Law," NBA Commercial Law Section, New Orleans, February 2008
- Speaker, "Getting to the Number – the Design and Negotiation of Executive Compensation," Delaware Valley Human Resources Summit, October 2007
- Lecturer, "Tax Policy of Governmental Retirement System," Temple University LLM Program, 2007-2010