Rick Pearl



A trusted authority on ERISA matters, Richard Pearl is passionate about representing trustees, plan sponsors, boards of directors, shareholders and service providers in high-stakes and complex ERISA matters. Rick has earned national recognition for his thought leadership, particularly in employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) litigation matters. He has an extensive knowledge of ERISA legislative history and complex issues such as:

  • ERISA standards for ESOP purchases and sales of stock
  • Valuation standards for an assessment of fair market value
  • ERISA 406 and 408 prohibited transactions provisions and exemptions
  • ERISA 502(a) causes of action and burdens of proof
  • The scope of ERISA’s fiduciary and co-fiduciary obligations under ERISA 404 and 405
  • ERISA 502(a)(3) equitable claims and equitable remedies
  • ERISA 410(a) and the difference between exculpation and permissible indemnification

Rick has written several papers on ERISA issues and has a published piece in the academic Journal of Employee Ownership on permissible indemnification under ERISA. He also has written extensively about fiduciary liability insurance and advises clients on insurance procurement and renewal issues.

Thought Leadership

A prolific researcher, writer and speaker, Rick focuses on ERISA/ESOP litigation trends. He is a regular fixture at national conferences and his insights have been featured in outlets such as the National Center for Employee Ownership, the American Bar Association, Business Valuation Resources, The ESOP Association, the Journal of Employee Ownership, Law360 and The National Law Review.

Rick also is a member of the Valuation Advisory Committee of The ESOP Association and a member of The ESOP Association’s Public Policy Council.

Personal Interests

In addition to his legal practice, Rick has written, produced and designed sounds for Lady Gaga and Pitbull, and wrote and produced the CLIO-award-winning music for a Superbowl commercial.


Bar Admissions


Court Admissions

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
Pennsylvania Courts of Common Pleas, Cumberland County
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
U.S. District Court for the Central District of California
U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

Insights & Events

Other Perspectives
  • Thinking ESOPs: Fourth Circuit Narrows Equitable Relief Under ERISA
    Republished in Employee Benefit Plan Review, March-April 2024, Vol. 78, No. 3
  • ESOP Association National Conference 2022
    Key Panelist, May 2022
  • DOL Cybersecurity Guidance: Where Does it Fit Within ERISA’s Legal Framework?
    Author, The ESOP Association’s ESOP Report, July 2021
  • Legal Update
    Presenter, The ESOP Association, Valuation Advisory Committee, December 2021
  • Presentation on DOL Fiduciary Rule
    Presenter, The ESOP Association Vegas Conference, November 2021
  • ESOP Company-Side Fiduciary Duties: What are the Risks to Boards of Directors and Selling Shareholders
    Presenter, National Center for Employee Ownership, Fall 2021
  • ERISA Plans and Cyber Security
    Presenter, Hosted by Finspire, October 2021
  • ESOP Company Board Issues: Political, Legal, and Regulatory Considerations
    Presenter, Private Directors Association® webinar, November 16, 2021
  • Retirement Plans Cybersecurity
    Co-presenter with Cristin Obsitnik, Finspire LLC, October 19, 2021
  • Valuation in ESOP Transactions: What Are the ERISA and IRC Requirements?
    Co-presenter with Kim Blaugher, The Beyster Institute at UC San Diego's Rady School of Management, June 8, 2021 
  • ERISA Litigation and Employee Stock Ownership Plans
    Co-panelist, American Bar Association, Webinar, January 14, 2021
  • American Bar Association Webinar
    Panelist, ERISA Litigation and Employee Stock Ownership Plans, January 2021
  • DOL’s PRO Good Guidance Rule: Rule Clarifies Which Materials are Binding, Which Are Not
    Author, ESOP Report, September 2020
  • Lessons From Recent Litigation: Amicus Brief Filed in Lee v. Argent Trust Co. Provides Court With New Information
    Co-panelist, Webinar, July 28, 2020
  • Indemnification of ESOP Fiduciaries
    Author, Journal of Employee Ownership, Summer 2020
  • Class Action Litigation Involving ERISA/ESOP Valuation Issues
    Co-panelist, Business Valuation Resources Webinar, July 9, 2020
  • The Fair Market Value Standard: Are the DOL and Some Courts Getting It Wrong?
    Speaker, NCEO 2020 Employee Ownership Virtual Conference, April 20-22, 2020
  • NCEO 2020 Employee Ownership Virtual Conference
    Speaker, Fair Market Value: Are the DOL & Some Courts Getting it Wrong?
  • Multnomah Group
    Presenter, Class Action Litigation Against Fiduciaries: How Current litigation Impacts You and Your Plan, 2016
  • A Buyer’s Guide to Insurance for Fiduciaries of ESOPs and Other Benefit Plans
    Author, National Center for Employee Ownership, 2011

Firm Blog Contributions

  • Spotlight on Benefits – a blog offering practical insight on legal developments which impact benefit plans

Leadership & Community

Professional Associations

  • The ESOP Association — Public Policy Council (2021-22), Valuation Advisory Committee (2020-present), Public Policy Committee (2020-present)
  • Western ESOP Summit Group, The Beyster Institute, Rady School of Management, 2019-present


  • The Legal 500 — 2019
Awards Methodology
No aspect of these recognitions has been approved by the highest court of any state.
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