John A. Wilhelm

Wilhelm John

John Wilhelm counsels clients on a variety of employee benefits and executive compensation issues. This includes compliance with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), qualification of retirement plans under the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), structuring of equity compensation to meet clients' needs, and drafting nonqualified deferred compensation and other executive compensation plans to comply with numerous applicable tax laws, including IRC Section 409A. He represents clients through all stages of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) audits. John assists prominent nonprofit organizations, collective investment trusts, government contractors, financial service providers, corporations, and emerging companies.

John has extensive experience with:

  • Pensions, 401(k) plans, and employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs); stock option, stock purchase, and restricted stock plans for corporations; and profits interest and other forms of equity compensation for partnerships and limited liability companiesIssues under ERISA and the Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT) for group trusts and other collective investment funds
  • Handling and addressing employee benefit plans and executive compensation arrangements in mergers, acquisitions, and other transactions, including dealing with the golden parachute rules
  • Structuring nonqualified deferred compensation plans to comply with Internal Revenue Code Section 409A and meet requirements for "top hat" plans or bonus plans under ERISA

John also assists clients with employee benefit plan compliance, by utilizing government agency correction plans, including the IRS Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System, IRS Voluntary Correction and Self Correction Programs, the DOL Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program, and the DOL Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance Program.



Government Experience

    Representative Matters

    • Represented Guthy-Renker LLC in connection with employee benefits issues in the 2016 sale of a majority interest of its worldwide Proactiv business, the world's leading nonprescription acne brand, to Nestlé Skin Health
    • Assisted a company in connection with a joint IRS audit and Labor Department investigation of its employee stock ownership plan
    • Corrected significant problems in the 401(k) plans of several clients, using the various correction programs put in place by the IRS
    • Advised clients on the application of the Section 409A rules for nonqualified deferred compensation, equity compensation, and executive employment agreements
    • Represented directors, writers, and actors in connection with Section 409A issues in their entertainment contracts 
    • Represented collective investment trusts with employee benefit investors in complying with ERISA and avoiding UBIT in connection with investment activities Assisted  companies in granting equity ownership to management personnel and other employees on a tax-favored basis, through the establishment of employee stock ownership, stock purchase, stock option, and/or restricted stock plans




    • LL.M. Taxation Georgetown University 1987
    • J.D. Memphis State University 1981
    • B.A. magna cum laude Theil College 1969

    Bar Admissions

    • Virginia
    • District of Columbia
    • Tennessee

    Professional Memberships and Activities

    • Member, American Bar Association, Section of Taxation, Employee Benefits Committee and Administrative Practice Subcommittee and National Center for Employee Ownership


    • The Best Lawyers in America, 2024
    • Martindale-Hubbell, AV® Peer Review Rated
    • Legal 500, Tax – Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation, 2011


    Personal Activities

    Actively involved in organizations related to his profession, John is a member of the Section of Taxation, Employee Benefits Committee and its Administrative Practice Subcommittee, American Bar Association.