Retirement Industry People Moves

ESOP and ERISA Litigators Join McDermott Willl & Emery as Partners; IRI Names New President and CEO; Callan Adds Team Member to Capital Markets Group; and more.

Theodore Becker and Richard Pearl have joined as partners at McDermott Will & Emery, in the firm’s Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Practice Group in the Chicago office. Becker and Pearl assist clients in navigating the steadily increasing litigation that targets all types of benefits plans and has put employers at heightened financial and legal risk.

Becker focuses on high-stakes Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) litigation. Former chair of Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP’s Employee Benefits and ERISA Litigation Team, he has a national practice that includes arguing before the United States Supreme Court and United States Circuit Courts of Appeals, and trying cases and class actions in federal and state courts.

Becker focuses his ERISA litigation practice on the representation of corporate plan sponsors, their directors and officers, and ERISA plan fiduciaries in litigation matters and regulatory agency investigations. This includes matters involving breach of fiduciary responsibility, improper plan termination, denial of benefits, securities fraud and unfair competition. Becker regularly serves as lead counsel in high-profile ESOP lawsuits against large plan sponsors and fiduciaries, and frequently writes and speaks on legal issues relating to ESOPs. He has been recognized by Chambers USA as one of America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, and he has also been listed in Who’s Who in the World, Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in American Law.

Pearl has represented companies and plan fiduciaries in ERISA litigation and counseling plan sponsors, internal and external fiduciaries, and others on ERISA insurance-procurement, insurance, and indemnification issues. He has worked on number of ESOP lawsuits, including defending clients against claims for breaches of fiduciary duties and benefits due under ERISA.

“Employers trust McDermott to handle ‘bet-the-company’ matters, and Ted and Rick have a proven track record of success in complex, high-stakes litigation for clients across a range of industries, including health and life sciences and financial services,” said Todd Solomon, head of the firm’s Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Practice Group. “With employers increasingly concerned about exposure from litigation in ESOP and ERISA matters, it’s important for us to be able to offer a comprehensive package of services – from planning and audit through dispute resolution and trial and appeal.”

IRI Names New President and CEO

The Insured Retirement Institute (IRI) named Wayne Chopus as the organization’s next president and CEO, effective January 1.

Chopus succeeds Cathy Weatherford, who is retiring from IRI after 10 years of leading the organization. He holds nearly 25 years of industry experience, with his former role being senior vice president for Strategic Relationship Management, Individual Solutions Group at Prudential Financial. He has worked at Prudential since 2011.

In addition to his relationship management responsibilities at Prudential, Chopus has also concurrently led Sales Operations, which included supervisory and operational controls for the Sales and Distribution functions. He also ran the Sales Strategy and Business Intelligence team, which focused on competitive intelligence and the use of data and technology. Chopus also led the Annuities business’ strategy and implementation efforts on the Department of Labor (DOL) fiduciary rule.

“I am thrilled that the IRI Board chose Wayne as IRI’s next leader,” said Ben Huneke, IRI chairman of the Board of Directors. “He has the industry experience and, as a member of IRI’s Board of Directors, he has extensive knowledge of IRI and will truly be able to hit the ground running.”

In selecting Chopus as IRI’s next leader, the IRI Search Committee noted that Chopus “has distinguished himself as a Board member and is intimately familiar with the both the challenges and the opportunities with IRI. He has an impressive career of business leadership and client facing market leadership with Prudential and The Hartford. Because of the focus of his client work, he is equally well known and connected in the broker/dealer adviser and asset manager communities. His advocacy experience is extensive as a result of his Board role at IRI.”

Chopus is a graduate of American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts.

California State Teachers’ Retirement System Hires ESG Director

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System announced Kirsty Jenkinson has been hired as the director of corporate governance and will start in January 2019. Jenkinson replaces Anne Sheehan, who retired in March of 2018.

Jenkinson comes to CalSTRS from Wespath Benefits and Investments in Illinois, where she led Wespath’s sustainable investment strategies team since 2014. She also directs Wespath’s environmental, social, governance (ESG) integration, corporate engagement, portfolio screening and proxy voting activities.

“Ms. Jenkinson brings great value to CalSTRS via her stellar experience and rich global perspective,” said CalSTRS Chief Executive Officer Jack Ehnes. “CalSTRS commitment to long-term sustainability for California’s educators is bolstered by having Kirsty onboard.”

At CalSTRS, Jenkinson will lead an ESG portfolio of more than $4.1 billion. “Kirsty is the ideal person to lead CalSTRS’ ESG investment policies into the future,” said CalSTRS Chief Investment Officer Christopher J. Ailman. “It is a high-performing team forged by her predecessor, Anne Sheehan, and I’m confident Kirsty is poised to lead our ESG efforts as we grow, adapt and change to meet the investment challenges ahead.” 

Prior to Wespath, Jenkinson was director of the markets and enterprise program at the World Resources Institute (WRI), a Washington, D.C.-based global research organization. She spent eight years as a director of governance and sustainable investment at F&C Asset Management (now BMO Global Asset Management) and six years in the fixed income division of Goldman Sachs International in London. Jenkinson currently sits on the board of the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre; the Investor Advisory Group of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB); and WRI’s Sustainable Investment Advisory Council. She received a master’s degree in international history from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

Callan Adds Team Member to Capital Markets Group

Callan hired Sweta Vaidya, to the Capital Markets Research group based in the firm’s Summit, New Jersey office.

Vaidya joins Callan from Willis Towers Watson where she was recently the director of investment strategy, primarily focusing on asset/liability modeling and pension investment strategy analysis. Vaidya is a chartered financial analyst (CFA), has an actuarial accreditation (FSA), and is an enrolled actuary (EA). She is a graduate of New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business with majors in finance and actuarial science.

The Capital Markets Research group helps Callan’s fund sponsor clients with strategic planning, conducting asset allocation and asset/liability studies, developing optimal investment manager structures, evaluating defined contribution plan investment lineups, and providing custom research on a variety of investment topics. Earlier this year, the group also added Callan team member Gary Chang, CFA, to its roster and will make another internal transfer to grow the Capital Markets Research group to eight professionals.

PBGC Appoints Leadership Officials for OBA Management Department 

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) has appointed two officials to its leadership team. Janice Brown-Taylor has been named deputy chief of Benefits Administration and Michael Hutchins is the director for the Plan Asset & Data Management Department.

Taylor and Hutchins complete the management team in the Office of Benefits Administration (OBA). OBA manages the termination process for defined benefit (DB) plans, provides participant services (including calculation and payment of benefits) for PBGC-trusteed plans, provides actuarial support for PBGC and carries out PBGC’s responsibilities under settlement agreements

In his role, Taylor is responsible for oversight of the day-to-day operation and management of OBA, which includes providing executive management direction of organizational resources and monitoring program activities across the organization. He earned a bachelor’s in mathematics from Alcorn State University and is a certified project management professional (PMP). 

Hutchins now oversees audits of both plan assets and participant data, such as using auditor judgment and other analytical procedures, overseeing evidence preservation that supports individual participant calculations, and financial reporting. Hutchins earned a bachelor’s in Accounting from Frostburg State University and is a licensed certified public accountant (CPA).