Nossaman Adds Prominent Public Pensions and ERISA Attorneys, Michelle Mellon-Werch and Don Meaders, to Pensions, Benefits & Investments Group

Nossaman News Release

Austin, TX and Los Angeles, CA – We are pleased to announce that Michelle Mellon-Werch and Don Meaders have joined our Pensions, Benefits & Investments Group. Michelle will serve as a partner in the Austin office and Don will serve as a partner in the Los Angeles office. Michelle joins from the Texas Municipal Retirement System and Don joins from Manatt.

Michelle advises pensions, benefits and investment plans on fiduciary duties, plan governance, administration and compliance. She has counseled government entities and other organizations on retirement plans and other institutional trust funds for 18 years. She has experience analyzing legislative proposals and assisting systems with compliance with applicable Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) regulations. Her experience includes more than 20 years of contract drafting, review and negotiations including technology and intellectual property concerns. Before joining Nossaman, Michelle served as Assistant General Counsel for 14 years and Director of Communications for two years for the Texas Municipal Retirement System. As Assistant General Counsel, she advised management on compliance issues, regulatory filings with the IRS, drafting regulations, policies and procedures and working with auditors and other outside consultants. 

Don’s practice focuses on employee benefits and ERISA, with a broad range of experience within the specialty. He has advised clients on critical issues related to institutional pension and welfare plans, both private and public. Don is versed in fiduciary matters, tax compliance considerations as to both pension and welfare plans, and the concerns of institutional health plans as acquirors of managed and other health care services. He is familiar with institutional investment fiduciary processes and the separate account or pooled investment vehicles required to express conventional, alternative and specialty allocations such as real estate. Don has served as counsel to both private and public plans and has a comprehensive background in collectively bargained plans, including multiemployer plans, with respect to which he has represented boards of trustees for more than 35 years.

“Michelle and Don have extensive experience in the institutional plan space, which complements the ERISA and tax-compliance expertise we added to our bench during 2023 and builds on the strengths of our practice serving pension plan boards and systems, as well as other institutional investors, nationally,” said Ashley Dunning, co-chair of the Pensions, Benefits & Investments Group. “Their skillsets will offer immediate benefits to our clients.”

“We are thrilled that Michelle and Don are joining,” added Yuliya Oryol, co-chair of the Pensions, Benefits & Investments Group. “They are uniquely qualified to assist our clients as they navigate the ever-changing industry landscape.”

Nossaman’s Pensions, Benefits & Investments Group works alongside the people entrusted to administer and protect the pension, health and welfare benefits of employees in their plans. The practice leverages decades of experience in the public retirement plan sector along with the private and non-profit sectors, to offer thoughtful, independent advice on the legal and business issues affecting plans and their members. The accomplished team provides diverse legal services to pension, health and welfare benefit plans, as well as other institutional investors, throughout the United States. Clients turn to us for fiduciary, governance, administration, investments and benefits counsel. When disputes arise, the practice represent funds and their boards in litigation. In addition to Michelle and Don, the Group recently added Michelle McCarthy as a partner in the Los Angeles office. 

Commenting on her move to Nossaman, Michelle said, “I look forward to helping the group grow its Pensions, Benefits & Investments practice in Texas and nationally, as well as the opportunity to help the firm’s diverse client base with its pensions needs.”

Don added, “I am excited and energized by this move, and proud to be joining a group of public pensions and benefits lawyers that are at the top of their game.” 

Michelle holds a J.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, School of Law; an M.P.Aff. from the University of Texas at Austin, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs; and an M.A.-B.A. in Economics from Brandeis University. She frequently presents to peers at the National Association of Public Pension Attorneys’ Legal Education Conference and has presented at the Center for American and International Law Institute for Law and Technology Conference, the Texas Municipal Retirement System Annual Conference and the Texas Association of Municipal Information Officers Annual Conference.

Don holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and an A.B. from Harvard College. He has been perennially recognized by Best Lawyers for his work, including being named as the “Lawyer of the Year” in its Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law category in 2023. Additionally, he has been recognized by SuperLawyers in the Southern California market. He is a Fellow of the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel; Past Chair of the Employee Benefits Committee, Tax Section, Los Angeles County Bar Association; Past President of the Western Pension and Benefits Conference, Los Angeles Chapter; and was a Member of the Planning Committee for the University of Southern California Tax Institute.

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