Joan M. Neri



Joan Neri provides counsel to employer plan sponsors and plan service providers in fulfilling their obligations under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and complying with the Internal Revenue Code rules governing employee benefit plans. Joan advises on ERISA fiduciary status and responsibilities, avoidance of prohibited transactions, the considerations associated with structuring, developing and offering investment products and services to ERISA plans, and day-to-day plan operational and compliance issues.

ERISA Compliance

Plan Service Providers: Joan advises plan service providers (including registered investment advisers, broker-dealers, third-party administrators and record-keepers) in fulfilling their obligations under ERISA including:

  • Providing counsel on ERISA reporting and disclosure obligations
  • Advising on the implications of ERISA fiduciary status and assisting clients in developing services, products, programs, service agreements, disclosure documents and marketing materials consistent with status as either a fiduciary or nonfiduciary under ERISA
  • Advising on the circumstances in which prohibited transactions are implicated and, when one has occurred, advising on the correction of the violation
  • Providing counsel on the ERISA compliance considerations with structuring and developing investment products and services offered to ERISA plans, including assistance with service agreements, disclosure documents and marketing materials
  • Assisting turnkey asset managers in structuring investment services offered to ERISA plans and drafting the disclosure documents and service agreements
  • Drafting and reviewing investment policy statements
  • Drafting and reviewing policies and procedures and compliance manuals to reflect ERISA compliance considerations
  • Designing and presenting customized fiduciary training sessions for plan service providers

Employer Plan Sponsors: Joan also provides counsel on ERISA compliance responsibilities to employer plan sponsors, management and plan fiduciary committees of publicly held corporations, private companies, U.S. affiliates of foreign corporations and tax-exempt organizations, including:

  • Advising on ERISA fiduciary considerations in selecting and monitoring plan investments, investment advisers and investment managers, and developing customized due diligence checklists to support ERISA compliance
  • Reviewing and negotiating agreements with plan service providers
  • Conducting fiduciary compliance reviews
  • Advising on and assisting with changes to plan governance structures to minimize fiduciary liability exposure
  • Developing comprehensive documentation of fiduciary responsibilities and procedures to support compliance with ERISA requirements
  • Developing and presenting ongoing fiduciary training programs to minimize ERISA fiduciary liability exposure

Plan Design and Transaction Planning

Joan advises on the design of qualified retirement plans (including 401(k) plans, profit sharing plans and defined benefit plans), nonqualified deferred compensation plans for executives and welfare benefits plans, as well as on day-to-day administrative issues. Joan also provides counsel on transaction planning involving benefit plan acquisitions, plan mergers and plan terminations. She helped a U.S. subsidiary of a German corporation reorganize its benefits plan structure, which included various plan mergers and terminations as well as the development of nonqualified deferred compensation plans for management. In this engagement, she served as the corporation’s lead benefits counsel during the transition period, working with both union and management on plan governance and compliance matters under the Internal Revenue Code and ERISA.

IRS Compliance

Joan assists plan sponsors and plan committees in addressing plan operational issues. She has obtained Internal Revenue Service (IRS) compliance statements for plan sponsors of qualified retirement plans under the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (EPCRS) in connection with plan operational defects in order to preserve the tax-qualified status of such plans.

Speaking and Writing Experience

Joan speaks frequently throughout the U.S. on legislative and regulatory developments that impact plan service providers, plan sponsors and other fiduciaries to employee benefit plans. She has also authored numerous articles on these topics, and is a contributor to the firm’s Broker-Dealer Law Blog, which provides practical insights on litigation, regulatory, compliance and fiduciary issues impacting broker-dealers, and Spotlight on Benefits Blog, which provides practical insights on legal developments that impact benefit plans.

Personal Interests

Joan enjoys swimming, cooking, playing piano and raising golden retrievers.


Bar Admissions

New Jersey

Court Admissions

U.S. Tax Court
U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey


New York University School of Law
LL.M. in Taxation (1989)

Seton Hall University School of Law
J.D. Seton Hall Law Review (1986)

Rutgers University - Douglass College
B.A. with high honors, Phi Beta Kappa (1983)

Insights & Events

Other Perspectives

Firm Blog Contributions

  • Broker Dealer Law Blog – a resource that provides practical insights on litigation, regulatory, compliance and fiduciary issues impacting broker-dealers
  • Discerning Data – a forum that discusses developments in privacy, cybersecurity, information governance and data analytics
  • Spotlight on Benefits – a blog offering practical insight on legal developments which impact benefit plans

Leadership & Community

Professional Associations

  • National Association of Plan Advisors (NAPA)
  • American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries (ASPPA)
  • Plan Sponsor Council of America — Legal and Legislative Committee
  • Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA)


  • Chambers USA — Band 1, New Jersey, Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation, 2023
  • Chambers USA — Band 2, New Jersey, Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation, 2020-22
  • Chambers USA — New Jersey, Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation, “Recognised Practitioner,” 2019
Awards Methodology
No aspect of these recognitions has been approved by the highest court of any state.
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