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A Better Partnership

Vernon P. Saper

Partner Emeritus | Email

  • Grand Rapids

    t. +1.616.752.2116

    f. +1.616.752.2500

    m. +1.616.485.9913


Vern Saper focuses his practice in employee benefits law, representing public, privately held and professional corporations, partnerships and individuals. For many years he has specialized in the legal aspects of employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs). He has extensive experience in design and preparation of ESOPs and ESOP transactions of all types.


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  • Wayne State University Law School J.D. 1972 summa cum laude
  • Western Michigan University B.A. 1968


  • 1972, Michigan

Bar Associations

  • American Bar Association
    Taxation Section; Employee Benefits Committee (1972-Present)
  • State Bar of Michigan
    Taxation Section; Employee Benefits Committee; Governing Council Member

Teaching and Lecturing

  • Adjunct Professor (Employee Benefits Taxation) with Grand Valley State University’s Master of Science in Taxation Program
  • Frequent speaker on employee benefits law, including speaker for seminars presented by The ESOP Association of America


  • Prepared first ESOP in Michigan in 1974
  • Implemented more ESOPs than any other attorney in State of Michigan
  • Established ESOPs for companies with employee population of 15 to several thousands
  • Representing ESOP companies, trustees and other fiduciaries in both purchase and sale transactions of employer stock
  • Assisting ESOP companies and ESOP fiduciaries successfully resolving Department of Labor examinations and IRS audits of ESOPs
  • Designing and drafting all types of qualified retirement plans
  • Specializing in design of qualified retirement plans to benefit executives and key management employees
  • Assisting employers with IRS submissions to correct retirement plan operational errors
  • Assisting employers with design and implementation of non-qualified deferred compensation plans and executive incentive plans, including phantom stock
  • Advisor in all matters concerning ESOPs, safe harbor 401(k) plans, defined benefit plans and defined contribution plans of all types
  • Counsel for non-qualified retirement plans and other executive compensation programs for numerous publicly held and private corporations
  • Extensive experience in analyzing and writing all types of qualified retirement plans for numerous financial institutions, medical corporations, manufacturers and other businesses throughout Michigan and surrounding region
  • Highly regarded for introducing innovative and lucrative retirement plans designs for maximizing benefits to clients

Honors & Awards

  • Named the Professional Member of the Year for 2007 by the ESOP Association of America
  • Best Lawyers in America, Employee Benefits Law, 1987-Present
  • Named to Michigan Super Lawyers 2006-Present
  • AV Preeminent Peer Review Rated, Martindale-Hubbell
  • Leading Lawyers Michigan, 2014



  • "Employee Stock Ownership and Estate Planning for the Business Owner"
  • "The Advantages of an ESOP to a Closely Held Corporation and Its Shareholders"
  • "What is an ESOP (and Why Should I Care?)"
  • "Using Your ESOP to Acquire Another Company"
  • "401(k) + ESOP = KSOP, A Winning Formula"
  • "Do You Really Save Money Using a Prototype Retirement Plan"
  • "Explanation of Different Types of Qualified Retirement Plan Documents"
  • "Getting More for Less Through Innovative Defined Contribution Plan Design"
  • "How to Avoid Return of Excess 401(k) Contributions"
  • "New and Improved 401(k) Safe Harbor Plan"
  • "New Benefits Law -- Again!"
  • "Non-Qualified Deferred Compensation Plans"
  • "Participant Directed Retirement Plans Under Section 401(k)"
  • "Retirement Plans for the 21st Century"
  • "Use of Qualified Retirement Plans in Business Acquisition"
  • "What's New and Important in Employee Benefits"


Professional Affiliations

  • Employee Stock Ownership Plan Association of America
    Professional Member
  • West Michigan Pension Conference
  • National Center for Employee Ownership
    Professional Member
  • CCH's Executive's Tax & Management Report
    Advisory Board Member

Community Affiliations

  • Grand Rapids Downtown Alliance Board (2011-2012)
  • Goodwill Industries of Grand Rapids
    Director Emeritus; Past Chairman of the Board
  • Goodwill Industries of Grand Rapids Foundation
    Member, Board of Trustees; President and Chairperson (2004-06)

Speaking Engagements

  • "ABC's of ESOPs," Warner Human Resources Seminar, March 23, 2010, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • "The 'Perfect' Retirement Plan for Small Businesses," Warner Human Resources Seminar, September 11, 2008, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • "The PPA and Defined Contribution Plans," Warner Human Resources Seminar, May 10, 2007, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • ESOP Half-Day Workshop, cosponsored with The Association for Corporate Growth (ACG) Western Michigan Chapter, October 15, 2008, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • "What is an ESOP (and Why Should I Care)?," December 12, 2007, Southfield, Michigan

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