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A Better Partnership

Mary Jo Larson

Partner | Email

  • Detroit

    t. +1.313.546.6183

    f. +1.248.603.9783


Mary Jo Larson puts her 35 years of benefits experience to work on her clients' 401(k)s, pension plans, nonqualified deferred compensation plans and executive compensation. She also advises fiduciaries responsible for the investment of plan assets. Mary Jo is a fellow of the American College of Employee Benefits Council (ACEBC) and has been a member of the organization since 2005. In addition to her speaking and writing for the employee benefits community, she supports the Detroit area larger community through her board service for Forgotten Harvest, one of the largest food rescue organizations in the United States. "I am passionate about helping clients quickly solve their benefits and compensation challenges, so they can get on with the business of running their business."


  • University of Michigan Law School J.D. 1982 cum laude
  • University of Michigan B.A. 1979 high distinction


  • 1982, Michigan

Bar Associations

  • American Bar Association
    Labor & Employment Law Section, Taxation Section
  • State Bar of Michigan
    Employee Benefits Committee, Taxation Section (1990-Present); Chair (2001-03)


Tax-Qualified Retirement Plans

  • Consulted on de-risking options for $500 million plan
  • Managed all legal aspects of lump-sum window to de-risk $150 million pension plan
  • Implemented several lump-window programs for pension plans ranging in size from $100 million + to $1 billion + to reduce PBGC premiums and address funding volatility
  • Prepared unifying plan document simplifying the merger of four dissimilar and complex defined benefit pension plans with $220 million in assets, including consolidation of multiple benefit forms and actuarial assumptions in view of the anti-cutback rules
  • Carried out an operational audit of all of client's pension, 401(k)/profit-sharing, welfare and executive compensation plans (including a nonqualified deferred compensation plan and match plan); developed a work plan to resolve all the issues uncovered
  • Determined and helped implement corrections and completed IRS voluntary compliance program process on multiple 401(k) loan violations in four plans with more than $1 billion in assets
  • Terminated a $100 million pension plan, including IRS submission, PBGC filings and various required participant notices
  • Analyzed and prepared reportable event filings and PBGC 4010 filings for dividends paid to Japanese parent by a sister company and funding shortfall for a $150 million defined benefit plan
  • Designed and implemented top-to-bottom governance process for a 401(k) plan and pension plan with combined $1.8 billion in assets
  • Designed RFP process and negotiated new vendor agreements for client with combined 401(a) profit-sharing, 403(b) and 457(b) assets of $50+ million in assets
  • Revised investment adviser's service agreements for compliance with the reporting requirements under ERISA 408(b)(2)
  • Counseled investment adviser on risks associated with trying to capture participant rollovers from plan already under advisement
  • Resolved issues with respect to Puerto Rico employees participating in U.S. 401(k) and pension plans

Executive Compensation

  • Advised on and drafted an equity-type incentive compensation plan and grants for a significant start-up joint venture organized as an LLC
  • Advised a large tax-exempt entity on disposition of a nonqualified 457(b) plan upon the entity's acquisition by a taxable entity
  • Prepared documentation for incentive compensation plan for bank client based on achievement of financial targets
  • Helped correct, under 409A correction procedures, an employer's failure to properly determine SERP benefits
  • Prepared restricted stock unit plan and related grant agreements for a large real estate company
  • Reviewed and updated bank company incentive compensation plans to comply with TARP
  • Revised grants under an omnibus stock plan for stock options and restricted stock units for a publicly traded company
  • Updated executive incentive compensation plan of mutual insurance company (with more than $5 billion in underwritten premiums) with units based on paid-in surplus
  • Worked with UK counsel on determining whether deferred compensation by U.S. citizen earned for work in UK but paid by U.S. company should be treated as "disguised remuneration" under UK law when assets are in a U.S. rabbi trust
  • Resolved 409A treatment of global retirement plans with an offshore rabbi trust

Honors & Awards

  • "Notable Women in Law," Crain's Detroit Business, 2019
  • Lawyer of the Year, Best Lawyers' Detroit Employee Benefits (ERISA) 2021, 2017 and 2014
  • Michigan Super Lawyers, 2006-Present
  • One of the Leading "Women in the Law," Michigan Lawyers Weekly, 2013
  • Fellow, American College of Employee Benefits Counsel, 2005-Present
  • Top 100 Michigan Super Lawyers, 2010
  • Top 50 Women Michigan Super Lawyers, 2017, 2008-14, 2020-21
  • Chambers USA America's Leading Lawyers, 2006-Present
  • DBusiness, Top Lawyers in Metro Detroit, Employee Benefits Law, 2011-17, 2019-22
  • Emerging Leadership Award, Detroit Chamber of Commerce
  • Best Lawyers in America, Employee Benefits Law, 2001-Present
  • PulteGroup awarded Warner Norcross the honor of "Law Firm of the Year" for work led by Mary Jo Larson
  • Martindale-Hubbell, AV Preeminent Rated - Peer Review Rating 



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Professional Affiliations

  • American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries (ASPPA) Member
  • Michigan Employee Benefits Conference
    Executive Committee and Secretary (2000-01); Executive Committee and Programs Co-chair (2001-02); Board of Directors and Treasurer (2002-04); Board of Directors and President (2004-05); Board of Directors and Immediate Past President (2005-06)
  • IRS Great Lakes Tax-Exempt and Governmental Entities Council
    TE/GE Council (January 2007-Present)

Community Affiliations

  • Quest University Canada
    Board of Governors, Chair (2016-20); Board Member (2013-Present)
  • Forgotten Harvest
    Board of Directors (2012-18)
  • Inforum - A Professional Women's Alliance (2005-Present)
  • Leadership Detroit
    Graduate, Class XXXII
  • Race & Reconciliation Task Force
    Facilitator (2011-15)

Speaking Engagements

  • "Fiduciary Duties Under DOL PTE 2020-02 and Rollover Practices," Warner Virtual CCO Roundtable (September 1, 2021) 
  • "SEC Exams During COVID-19," Warner Virtual CCO Roundtable (June 2, 2021)
  • "Tips and Traps: Executive Compensation and the Tangled Web of 409A," FEI Detroit (October 8, 2019)
  • "Employee Benefits Panel," Warner 2019 HR Executive Panels, Midland, Michigan (October 1, 2019)
  • “Retirement Plan Communications,” Warner Human Resources Seminar, Grand Rapids, Michigan (May 7, 2019)
  • “Employee Benefits Panel,” Warner 2018 HR Executives Panel, Midland, Michigan (September 19, 2018)
  • "Myth or Truth: Employee Benefits Panel," Warner Labor & Benefits Executive Panels, Midland, Michigan (October 6, 2017)
  • “Engaging Your Employees,” Warner Human Resources Seminar, Grand Rapids, Michigan (May 23, 2017)
  • "Managing an Evolving Workforce" and "Attracting and Retaining Millennials," Warner Labor & Benefits Executive Panel, Midland and Novi, Michigan (October 25 and November 2, 2016)
  • "Legal Update," Detroit Chapter ISCEBS, Livonia, Michigan (October 13, 2016)
  • "Corrections Program" and "Structuring an Effective Retirement Committee," Warner Human Resources Seminar, Grand Rapids, Michigan (June 9, 2016)
  • Labor & Benefits Executive Panel, Warner Seminar, Midland, Michigan (October 7, 2015) and Troy, Michigan (October 26, 2015)
  • "Worker Classification - Do You Have the Full Story?," Warner Human Resources Seminar, Grand Rapids, Michigan (April 20, 2015)
  • Employee Benefits/Executive Compensation Panel, Labor and Benefits Executive Panel-Government Enforcement Initiatives, Midland, Michigan (September 23, 2014) and Southfield, Michigan (October 2, 2014)
  • “Target Date Funds – Not So Simple,” ASPPA Benefits Council of Detroit and State Bar of Michigan (May 7, 2014)
  • “Exposing the Intricacies of Managed Account Programs and the Evolution of Lifetime Income Products,” ERISA Workshop sponsored by DiMeo Schneider & Associates, LLC (April 23, 2014)
  • “HR and Benefits Executive Panel,” Warner Human Resources Seminar (October 9, 2013), Midland, Michigan and  Birmingham, Michigan (October 15, 2013)
  • “Regulatory Updates,” DiMeo Schneider & Associates, LLC Investor’s Conference (September 25, 2013)
  • "6 Steps to Better Governance of Benefit Plans," Employment Outlook & Strategy Seminar (October 2, 2012)
  • "2012 - The Year of the ERISA Fiduciary," Warner Human Resources Seminar 2012 (May 2, 2012)
  • "2011 Fiduciary Changes - What Is An Employer To Do?," joint webinar with Westminster Consulting, LLC (April 12, 2011)
  • "Employer Stock in 401(k) Plans," Warner Human Resources Seminar 2010 (March 23, 2010)
  • "Employee Benefits in Challenging Times" presented to TEC 19 (March 26, 2009)
  • "Changes Affecting Incentive Compensation and Equity-Based Compensation," Institute of Continuing Legal Education (October 9, 2007)
  • "The Long Reach of 409A – Complying with the New Deferred Compensation Rules and the Newly Issued Final Regulations," Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants CPE Mega Conference (May 23, 2007)
  • "The Staggered Remedial Amendment Period," Great Lakes Area TE/GE Council Panel Presentation (April 2007)

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