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Orin D. Brustad

Of Counsel




Harvard Law School, J.D., 1968

Yale University, M.A. 1964, B.A. 1963

Bar Admissions

Orin's practice is primarily focused on ERISA and on state laws which provide ERISA-like protection to public employees and retirees.  He has appeared as an expert witness for the City of Detroit in labor arbitrations and in litigation related to fiduciary responsibility.  He has represented numerous municipal entities, public universities, charities and public-private ventures in situations where ERISA compliance was optional and has drafted legislation for several foreign governments which established mandatory defined contribution retirement plans and voluntary employee contribution arrangements. 

Orin also provides counsel in the following areas:

Claims and Disputes -- He assists employers in handling benefit claims and appeals under both retirement and welfare plans, and advises clients through all phases of litigation, as necessary.

Tax-Qualified Plans -- He advises clients on all aspects of their qualified pension plans, profit-sharing plans, 401(k) plans, 457 plans and ESOPs. Services include plan design and drafting; compliance advice; service provider selection (including investment advisers); and employee communications.

Health and Welfare Benefits -- He assists clients with the documentation of service provider contracts, assessing financial reporting valuations (FAS 106), negotiations with insurance carriers, and designing and drafting welfare plans.

Executive Compensation and Benefits -- He negotiates and drafts employment and severance agreements, deferred compensation plans and SERPs, rabbi trusts, stock options and other arrangements. 

Mergers and Acquisitions -- He actively supports the firm's transactional practice, performing both legal benefits diligence, negotiating the benefits-related aspects of the deal, and following through with plan set-ups, spin-offs, and/or terminations as needed.

Representative Matters

Orin prepared an amicus curiae brief on behalf of several public universities in a case decided by the Michigan Supreme Court. The cases dealt with whether health benefits for retired faculty and staff were protected by the Michigan Constitution against impairment or could be modified to increase cost-sharing by retirees. The Court ruled favorably, permitting public employers to increase deductibles and co-pays and expand cost-sharing.

This helped our clients gain control over what had been runaway health-care costs for their retirees and allowed them to maintain substantial health coverage for these retirees and their families at a time when many private-sector employers have been forced by economic conditions to reduce coverage.

Representative public-sector clients (with client permission to identify them): Northern Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University, Lansing and Mott Community Colleges, cities of Detroit, Flint, Pontiac et al., Plaintiffs' counsel in Michigan Judges Association et al. vs. Treasurer of Michigan et al., E.D. Mi S.D. (Case #98-DT-72771-CV). amicus brief in Studier v Michigan Pub. School Employees' Retirement Bd., 472 Mich. 642 (2005).

Representative private-sector clients (with client permission to identify them): La-Z-Boy Incorporated, Domino's Pizza, Inc., Tecumseh Products Company, Comerica, Inc.; Defendants' counsel in First Nat'l Bk of Chicago, Trustee vs Acco USA, Inc. IBT Ret. Plan, et al., 842 F.Supp. 311 (ND IL, ED, 1994).


Chambers USA: America's Leading Business Lawyers, Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation, 2006-2019

Best Lawyers in America, Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law 1995-present; 2013 Detroit Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law Lawyer of the Year

National Law Journal, 1998 Top Benefits Lawyers in the U.S.

Who's Who in America

Michigan Super Lawyers, Employee Benefits/ERISA 2006-present

DBusiness Magazine, Top Lawyers, Employee Benefits 2011-present

Professional Activities

American Bar Association, Executive Compensation Committee; Employment Taxes Committee; Fiduciary Responsibility Committee

State Bar of Michigan since 1968, Taxation (Employee Benefits) Section; Labor and Employment Section

Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association

Charter Fellow of American College of Employee Benefits Counsel

Benefits Law Journal, Member of Editorial Advisory Board, 1996-98

Michigan Association of Public Employee Retirement Systems

Midwest Employee Benefits Conference


"Thailand," chapter of Pension Systems in East and Southeast Asia: Promoting Fairness and Sustainability, Asian Development Bank, 2012

"Thailand – Pension System Overview and Reform Directions," chapter of Pension Systems and Old-Age Income Support in East and Southeast Asia, Routledge, 2011

"Governmental Pension Plans," chapter of Michigan Municipal Law Handbook, Michigan Association of Municipal Attorneys, 1999

"Health Plans that Don't Comply with ERISA and the Code," 10 Benefits Law Journal 1Winter 1997

Employee Benefits Answer Book (Forms & Checklists), Aspen Publishers, Inc., 1996 and 1997

"Selective Coverage Cutbacks: Navigating Uncertain Waters," 7 Benefits Law Journal 152, Summer 1994

"Litigation Trends under ERISA," Plan Sponsor, September 1994 (p. 70)

"Retirement Benefits for Government Employees," 1 ERISA and Benefits Law Journal 295, November 1992

"Effect of Participants' Insolvency," The National Law Journal, January 20, 1992

"Contingent Workers: Employment Tax and Employee Benefits Issues," 3 Benefits Law Journal 79, Spring 1990

"New 401(k) Hardship Distribution Regulations," 68 Michigan Bar Journal 644, July 1989

"Gold, Silver, and Tin: Elements of Parachutes," 2 Benefits Law Journal 25, Spring 1989