David A. Thornton
David Thornton helps employers deliver retirement, health and welfare benefits to their executives and employees. With more than 30 years of experience, he has developed a diverse practice counseling hundreds of public and private employers and non-profit organizations in drafting, maintaining and administering retirement plans ranging from $1 million to several billion dollars in assets, including many in the $100 million to $500 million asset range. He has deep experience in ESOP transactions, successfully navigating the significant fiduciary duty considerations and tax code requirements involved with these transactions.
In response to heightened focus on ERISA fiduciaries by the U.S. Department of Labor and plaintiffs’ attorneys, David spearheaded an effort to launch a comprehensive fiduciary compliance program for clients. The program includes a self-audit process, fiduciary training, documentation package and service provider RFP support, which has resulted in approximately $6.5 million in administrative fee savings over a two year period for one client.
With a keen ability to help clients reach prudent business decisions while weighting the cost/benefit analysis against various creative alternatives, David’s practice involves:
- Designing, implementing and administering retirement plans, including pension, profit sharing, 401(k) plans and ESOPs, as well as other non-qualified plan alternatives.
- Implementing and administering health and welfare plans, including self-funded and fully insured health benefit plans, including compliance with the ACA.
- Assisting with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) compliance, cafeteria plans and medical reimbursement plans.
- Counseling clients with regards to compliance with IRS and Department of Labor laws and regulations applicable to employee benefit plans as the fiduciary responsibilities of employers and trustees of employee benefit plans.
- Plan design, amendments and compliance advice to municipalities on all forms of qualified and nonqualified benefit plan matters, including state law issues governing benefits under a pension plan, as well as code sections 457 and 409A.
As a former ERISA litigator, David helps companies navigate the intersection of litigation and business concerns. He successfully defended a case, Osborne v. Hartford Life & Accident Ins. Co., that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and resulted in a change to the interpretation of the word “occupation” under ERISA. The new definition still stands today. His deep understanding of ERISA allows David to provide practical advice in the complex landscape of employee benefits law.
Memphis Bar Association — Treasurer (1992), Director (1991), Young Lawyers Division
Tennessee Bar Association — Corporation and Business Law Section
American Bar Association — Business Law Section
American Health Law Association (AHLA)
Media Mentions & Firm News
The Best Lawyers in America© — Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law; Litigation: ERISA (2006-2024)
Best Lawyers® — Memphis Litigation: ERISA “Lawyer of the Year” (2024, 2022); Memphis Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law “Lawyer of the Year” (2023, 2021, 2019)
Mid-South Super Lawyers (2006, 2010-2022)
Memphis Business Journal “Best of the Bar” — Private Firm, Large (2018 overall winner)
MBQ: Inside Memphis Business “Power Players”
Beta Gamma Sigma
Phi Eta Sigma
Phi Kappa Phi
Phi Alpha Delta
American Jurisprudence Award in Family Law