Theodore M. Becker has a national practice in trial and appeals courts. He argues appeals before the United States Supreme Court, United States Circuit Courts of Appeals, and state appellate courts. Ted tries cases before juries, judges and arbitrators; defends clients in government investigations; and represents clients in mediation. He represents clients along the entire litigation continuum, from litigation avoidance, dispute resolution and pre-litigation planning, through dispositive motions, discovery, trial and appeal. Ted is chair of the National Employee Benefits and ERISA Litigation Team and a member of the Class Action Group.
Ted has extensive experience litigating claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), and defending investigations and audits relating to employee benefit, health and welfare, and retirement plans brought by the U.S. Department of Labor, the Internal Revenue Service, and the U.S. Department of Justice. He has special experience relating to Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) and has defended some of the highest profile lawsuits involving ESOPs. He represents ERISA plan sponsor companies, their directors and officers, ERISA plan fiduciaries, and service providers to ERISA plans and plan sponsors. He has defended health care companies and insurers in actions under ERISA and other federal and state laws, including claims for improper plan termination, denial of benefits, breach of contract, securities fraud, and unfair competition.
Ted has obtained a number of multimillion-dollar recoveries for his clients and has successfully defended many clients against multimillion-dollar claims. He achieved national recognition when he obtained a $52 million jury verdict for a breach of a "handshake" agreement.
Ted has represented clients in a wide variety of legal areas and industries, including business, commercial, contract and corporate disputes, civil rights, consumer law, e-commerce, employment, employee benefits, ERISA, ESOPs, false advertising, financial services, franchising, hospitality, health care, intellectual property, real estate, retail, RICO, securities, trademark infringement, unfair competition, and workouts. He has represented clients ranging from individuals and small companies to major financial institutions and the largest multinationals.
Ted’s extensive experience with ERISA and ESOP litigation and compliance includes the following representative matters:
- Lead counsel defending a national health care company and its present and former directors and alleged ERISA fiduciaries in a class action brought by participants of a 401(k) plan with over 33,000 participants and $2 billion in assets, alleging breach of fiduciary duty under ERISA in the selection and monitoring of investment options for the Plan, and in connection with fees paid and revenue sharing.
- Counsel defending an international medical supply company and other alleged ERISA fiduciaries in a class action brought by participants of a 401(k) Plan alleging breach of fiduciary duty under ERISA in allowing and encouraging participants to invest their retirement funds in the company’s common stock through the 401(k) Plan.
- Co-lead counsel defending a national trust company in a class action brought by participants of a retirement plan of a national media company, alleging that the trust company approved a prohibited transaction and breached its fiduciary duty under ERISA in connection with a transaction in which the company went from a publicly held corporation into one of the largest, wholly employee-owned companies in the country and subsequently filed for bankruptcy reorganization..
- Lead counsel defending a national trust company in a case brought by participants of a retirement plan claiming that the trust company engaged in prohibited transactions and committed breaches of fiduciary duty in violation of ERISA. The Court granted a motion to dismiss all claims against the trust company.
- Lead counsel representing one of the largest U.S. banks in a multidistrict class action brought by participants of a retirement plan of one of the largest wholly employee-owned companies in the country, claiming over $300 million in damages and alleging that the bank as ESOP Trustee breached its fiduciary duty under ERISA in connection with the company’s allegedly improper leveraged acquisition of a large competitor and by approving an allegedly improper valuation of the company’s stock.
- Lead counsel defending a national trust company in a case brought by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor, alleging that the trust company engaged in a prohibited transaction and committed breaches of fiduciary duty under ERISA in approving the ESOP’s purchase of stock for a price allegedly in excess of adequate consideration .
- Lead counsel defending the world’s largest privately owned cattle feeding company, its directors and officers, its ESOP and ESOP Trustee in an action brought by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor, alleging a prohibited transaction and breach of fiduciary duties under ERISA in connection with the ESOP’s purchase of company shares for a price allegedly in excess of adequate consideration in a transaction in which the company became 100 percent ESOP-owned..
- Lead counsel defending two former directors of a national investment banking company in a case brought by participants of a retirement plan, alleging that the directors violated ERISA by engaging in a transaction as part of the liquidation of the company.
- Lead counsel defending a national life insurance company in a case brought by a Bankruptcy Trustee alleging improprieties in the distribution of “demutualization” proceeds.
- Lead counsel defending a national trust company in a case brought by participants of a retirement plan and its successor trustee, alleging that the trust company committed breaches of fiduciary duty under ERISA.approving a stock redemption transaction in which the ESOP became owner of all the stock of the plan sponsor company that subsequently filed bankruptcy.
- Lead counsel defending a national trust company in a case brought by a Bankruptcy Litigation Trustee alleging that the trust company aided and abetted a breach of fiduciary duty under state law by company directors and officers in approving a transaction.
- Counsel defending a director of a company in an action brought by former and present participants of a retirement plan alleging breach of fiduciary duties under ERISA and state law in connection with the setting of compensation and grants of options and synthetic equity and a transaction in which all the assets of the company were sold.
- Lead counsel defending a national trust company in a class action brought by participants of a retirement plan claiming that the trust company engaged in a prohibited transaction and committed breaches of fiduciary duty in violation of ERISA.
Ted experience with Commercial Litigation includes the following matters:
- Represented a national car rental company as plaintiff in an action for an injunction against a worldwide internet travel agent to restore its placement on the website.
- Represented a division of a large U.K.-based company in a case brought by a company it acquired, alleging breach of contract relating to the purchase of the business and earn out calculation, and related counterclaims and third-party claims. This case also involved the question of whether the plaintiff's claim is subject to alternative dispute resolution.
Ted’s RICO experience includes the following:
- Defended various subsidiaries and employees of a New York investment company in a case in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and U.S. Supreme Court, brought by competitors alleging violations of the RICO statute and tortious interference relating to auctions for Cook County tax liens.
Ted has been involved in the following health care matters:
- Represented a large HMO as plaintiff in an action to enjoin the breach of a $27 million annual (oral) contract to provide group health care services to Chicago teachers and staff.
- Defended a large PPO that served, among other insureds, all of the Cook County, Illinois judges, in a class action by a competing PPO to enjoin and declare invalid a contract to provide group health care services.
- Defended a national physical therapy company in case brought by a large national competitor seeking injunctive relief and more than $10 million in damages for alleged improper recruiting of the competitor's managerial and physical therapist employees, and for alleged tortious interference with contract and prospective business relations.
Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business (2008–2010)
Who’s Who in the World
Who’s Who in America
Who’s Who in American Law
Leading Lawyers: The Top Business Lawyers in Illinois
Russell Sage Fellow, Yale Law School
Fellow, Northwestern University Program in Law and the Social Sciences
Awards Methodology (www.drinkerbiddle.com/content/awards)
America’s Leading Lawyers for Business (2008-2010)Chambers USA
- Northwestern University School of Law, J.D., summa cum laude, Northwestern University Law Review
- Northwestern University, Ph.D.
- Northwestern University, M.A.
- Washington University, A.B., summa cum laude
- U.S. Supreme Court
- U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit
- U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit
- U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
- U.S. Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit
- U.S. Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit
- American Bar Association
- Joint Committee on Employee Benefits
- Labor and Employment Law Section, Employee Benefits Committee
- Taxation Section, ESOP Subcommittee
- Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section, Employee Benefits Committee
- Illinois State Bar Association
- Chicago Bar Association
- Employee-Owned S Corporation Association, Advisory Committee
- The ESOP Association, Interdisciplinary Advisory Committee on Fiduciary Issues (Past Chair and Board of Governors)
- The ESOP Association, Legislative & Regulatory Committee, DOL / EBSA Subcommittee, Chair
- National Center for Employee Ownership