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Michael J. Francese

As a partner in Covington’s employee benefits practice group, Mike Francese focuses on counseling clients in matters arising under their employee benefit plans and executive compensation arrangements with respect to ERISA, the Internal Revenue Code, and related federal and state laws. He also represents clients before agencies and courts on both the federal and state level, and consults with them in connection with mergers, acquisitions, and other corporate transactions.

Mike's practice covers a broad spectrum of employee benefit plans and programs, as well as a variety of executive compensation arrangements, such as:

  • tax-qualified defined benefit and defined contribution plans, including traditional and hybrid pension plans, 401(k) plans, profit-sharing plans, and ESOPs;
  • non-qualified deferred compensation arrangements, including top-hat plans, 457(f) arrangements for employees of non-profit employers, and other types of nonqualified deferred compensation arrangements;
  • equity-based compensation arrangements, including stock options, restricted stock, and phantom equity awards;
  • health and welfare plans, including cafeteria, medical, disability, and severance plans and arrangements; and
  • executive employment and consulting agreements, including change in control, and parachute payment arrangements.

On January 5, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) issued a groundbreaking proposed rule that would, if finalized:

  • prohibit most employers from entering into non-compete clauses with workers, including employees and individual independent contractors;
  • prohibit such employers from maintaining non-compete clauses with workers or representing to a worker that the worker is subject to a non-compete clause; and
  • require employers to rescind any existing non-compete clause with workers by the compliance date of the rule and notify the affected workers that their non-compete clause is no longer in effect.

The FTC’s notice of proposed rulemaking explains that the FTC considered possible limitations on the rule—such as excluding senior executives or highly paid employees from the ban—but it ultimately proposed a categorical ban on non-competes.  The only exception is for non-competes related to the sale of a business.  However, even this exception is unusually narrow: it would only apply to selling business owners who own at least 25% percent of the business being sold.  (The proposal also would not apply to most non-profits, certain financial institutions, common carriers, and others who are also outside the scope of FTC regulation.)

As discussed in Covington’s January 5 client alert, the FTC explained that it issued the proposed rule due to its belief that non-competes reduce wages, stifle innovation and business, and are exploitative and unnecessary. Continue Reading FTC Proposes Rule to Ban Most Non-Competes