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Joseph E. Clark is a senior counsel in the Labor & Employment Law Department and a member of the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group where he focuses on complex employee benefits litigation.

Joe represents a diverse range of clients from the time a claim is asserted through trial or arbitration, whether it is defending plan fiduciaries against class action claims of fiduciary breach or prohibited transactions or in connection with government investigations, or defending employers against multiemployer pension plan claims for withdrawal liability.  These clients include financial service providers, investment managers, Fortune 500 corporations, and benefit plan committees.

Outside of the context of litigation, Joe also advises fiduciary clients regarding their fiduciary responsibilities and employers regarding various withdrawal liability issues.

A co-editor of Proskauer’s Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation blog, Joe has authored pieces on employee stock ownership plans, excessive fee claims, fiduciary breach, investigation and determination of benefits claims, and best practices for plan drafting. He has also published several articles regarding these issues in BNA Insights.

Defense counsel frequently lament the difficulties of defending 401(k) investment and recordkeeping fee litigation when different judges render conflicting rulings on motions to dismiss seemingly indistinguishable complaints.  Even when the judges purport to apply the same legal standards, the outcomes can differ.  For that reason, we thought it would be interesting to track the decisions

The decision in Bolton v. Inland Fresh Seafood Corp. of America Inc., No. 22-cv-4602 (N.D. Ga. Dec. 5, 2023)should serve as a reminder to all ERISA practitioners that, if litigating in courts of the Eleventh Circuit, participants must exhaust a plan’s claims procedures before commencing a lawsuit—regardless of the type of ERISA claim asserted.

In Su v. Fensler, No. 22-cv-01030, 2023 WL 5152640 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 10, 2023), the court granted the Department of Labor’s motion for a preliminary injunction to replace with an independent fiduciary the trustees of the United Employee Benefit Fund, who are accused of breaching their fiduciary duties by using Fund assets to engage

A third district court has dismissed with prejudice a complaint alleging that defendants breached their fiduciary duties under ERISA by offering 401(k) plan participants the option to invest in BlackRock LifePath Index Target Date Funds (the “Funds”).  Beldock v. Microsoft, Case No. 22-cv-1082 (W.D. Wash. Apr. 24, 2023).  Although the outcome of the court’s ruling here is consistent with earlier decisions, the rationale underlying the Beldock decision arguably goes further than in prior rulings, thus providing additional food for thought.

A district court in New York recently refused to enforce an arbitration provision in an ERISA fiduciary breach lawsuit challenging the valuation of an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (“ESOP”).  The ruling in Lloyd v. Argent, No. 22-cv-4129, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 219964 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 6, 2022), exposes the continued uncertainty as to the enforceability

In a pair of report and recommendations issued the same day, a Magistrate Judge in Wisconsin recently recommended that the district court (i) grant motions for reconsideration of prior denials of motions to dismiss claims challenging defined contribution plans’ fees, and (ii) grant the motions to dismiss in their entirety.  Underpinning the recommendations is the

In Matousek v. MidAmerican Energy Co., 2022 WL 6880771, __ F.4th __ (8th Cir. 2022), the Eighth Circuit joined the Sixth and Seventh Circuits in affirming dismissal of ERISA breach of fiduciary duty claims alleging that the plan fiduciaries allowed the plan to pay excessive recordkeeping and administrative fees and offered imprudent investment options.

A recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Wit et al. v. United Behavioral Health and Alexander et al. v. United Behavioral Health) exemplifies the challenge in balancing a desire to cover evolving treatments for mental health and substance abuse disorders against plan sponsors’ and insurers’ general authority

On April 1, 2021, the Ninth Circuit became the third circuit court to conclude that a forum-selection clause in an ERISA 401(k) plan is enforceable.  The Ninth Circuit thus denied a petition for mandamus seeking to overturn a district court decision transferring an ERISA action from the Northern District of California to the District of

proskauer benefits brief podcastIn this episode of the Proskauer Benefits Brief, Paul Hamburger, co-chair of Proskauer’s Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group, and associate Joe Clark discuss how the attorney-client privilege rules apply in an employee benefit plan context. The attorney-client privilege allows for the free flow of information between an attorney and a client in order to insure that the client gets the best possible representation. We discuss the various specific rules that apply in the employee benefit plan context where information is often shared between attorneys and plan fiduciaries.


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