Adam Thomas is of counsel and a member of Best Best & Krieger’s Business and Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation practice groups. He has more than 10 years of experience in employee retirement benefits, health and welfare regulations, labor and employment matters for private and public sector employers and collectively bargained, multi-employer trust funds. He works with clients subject to ERISA, and non-ERISA clients including governmental and church retirement plans resolving complex legal issues under HIPAA, the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid regulations, COBRA and DOL regulations. Adam also has a deep understanding of various IRS codes and regulations and has represented clients before the IRS through Voluntary Compliance Program.
Adam enjoys guiding non-profit business entities, and their leadership, through all phases of the non-profit lifecycle - design, implementation, tax exempt status registration, ongoing administration, fiduciary compliance, dissolution and liquidation of assets - all to ensure successful maintenance of federal and state tax-exempt status. Adam is passionate about mediating and helping resolve intra-leadership disagreement within non-profit entities and builds on his experience and passion for conflict resolution.
Before joining BBK, Adam served as senior in-house counsel for a public sector group health plan in Southern California advising on a wide range of compliance issues under the Affordable Care Act, COBRA, Cal-COBRA and other employee benefit laws. He also served as of counsel for a business and insurance law firm handling matters involving ERISA regulatory compliance and litigation.
Prior to pursuing a legal career, Adam was a flight attendant for a U.S. commercial airline that filed for bankruptcy after 9/11. The airline sought to terminate its employee defined benefit pension plans as part of the bankruptcy restructuring. During this time, Adam independently studied employee rights under ERISA, and sought to help his fellow flight attendants understand the implications of the plan termination. In 2005, he successfully campaigned for Local Union President for the Association of Flight Attendants, Local Council 27 in Boston, Massachusetts and, during this time, participated in collective bargaining with the airline over an employee retirement plan to replace the terminated defined benefit pension plans. During law school, Adam served as a legal intern with the Massachusetts Teachers Association and three Boston area law firms. He was also recognized as attorney advocate at the 2011 International Academy of Dispute Resolution in London, England, was selected for the ABA Labor & Employment Moot Court Team and the 2012 & 2013 Intl Mediation Competition Team.
Adam is a proud dog-dad to Dexter and Dixie, enjoys trying new restaurants, cooking, long-distance cycling throughout San Diego’s eastern mountains, camping, gardening, pickle ball and DIY home improvement projects. Most recently, he completed a 545 mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles as part of the AIDS/Lifecycle 2023 fundraiser, helping to raise over 11 million dollars to end AIDS and new HIV infections in California communities.
- Resolved several significant operational defects for a client pension plan through an application to the IRS Voluntary Compliance Resolution program.
- Oversaw DOL negotiations over a prohibited transaction exemption application filed by an ERISA-regulated client seeking prospective and retroactive relief from potential fiduciary violations, and authorization to sale an $8 million dollar property to a “Party-In-Interest.”
- Defended two clients against lawsuits brought under Section 502 of ERISA (alleged breach of fiduciary duty and wrongful benefit denials), and Section 515 of ERISA for an alleged failure to pay $1.2 million dollars in fringe benefit contributions to a multi-employer, collectively bargained pension fund.
- Handled civil cases brought under section 515 of ERISA to compel an audit of employer payroll records and payment of delinquent contributions.
- Developed an enhanced organizational compliance program for use by a public sector group health plan including policies and training related to HIPAA, COBRA, ADA and other applicable statues and regulations.
- Lead attorney in an ERISA class action alleging breaches of fiduciary duty and prohibited transactions (case settled).
- Secured non-profit status for a new 501(c)(9) employee benefit fund.
- Litigated two unfair labor practice charges before the National Labor Relations Board seeking relief for a client subjected to unlawful, coercive conduct by a labor union.
- Between 2017 and 2019, simultaneously handled over 70 labor arbitrations, achieving a 55% win 23% settlement ratio and total back pay of $600k awarded.
- Successfully defended against a defamation claim through anti-SLAPP litigation.
- International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans, Member, 2015 - present
- American Bar Association, Member, 2022 - present
- ABA TIPS Leadership Academy, Nominee, 2023-2024
- Tom Homann LGBT+ Law Association, Board of Directors, 2023 - present
- ”Secure Choice: State-Based Retirement Plans Move Forward Despite Regulatory & Legal Headwinds,” Benefits Magazine, October 2018
- Introduction to ERISA and the Governmental Plan Exemption, 2023
- HIPAA Compliance Overview for ERISA Plan Trustees, 2018