Kelly L. Bley is an attorney in Holland & Knight's Philadelphia office who concentrates on all aspects of employee benefits law. Her primary focus is on the legal issues associated with tax-qualified retirement plans. She represents domestic and international employers of all sizes, both public and private, with regard to compliance with the Internal Revenue Code and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).

Ms. Bley has significant experience working with large, multinational companies and advising them on the benefit plans that they sponsor. Ms. Bley partners with her clients to understand their business, culture and goals so that she can provide tailored advice with an eye toward the big picture. She has in-depth knowledge of compliance and corrections, drafting plan documents and amendments of 401(k), profit sharing defined contribution and defined benefit pension plans, governance and fiduciary structure, drafting board materials and employee communications, advising plan sponsors on plan design issues, benefit claims and dispute resolution, and corporate transactions. Ms. Bley routinely advises clients on benefits design and strategy, de-risking options and company stock issues. She routinely presents for and advises fiduciary committees regarding their duties as ERISA fiduciaries.

Employers call on Ms. Bley to represent them before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), as well as advise them regarding the complex issues associated with plan administration, both in a preventative capacity through the creation of administrative procedures and best practices, and with regard to IRS and DOL correction programs. Ms. Bley also regularly advises employers on day-to-day plan administration.

Ms. Bley previously served as in-house counsel for a bank holding company, where she served as head of the Compensation and Benefits Practice Group for the legal department. In this capacity, she served as the main internal point of contact for the human resources and compensation groups regarding qualified, non-qualified and welfare benefit plans for the organization. That familiarity with experiencing plan administration on a day-to-day basis makes Ms. Bley particularly well-suited to crafting successful solutions to real-life benefits issues in a practical, efficient manner. Prior to joining Holland & Knight, she was a partner in a large international law firm.

Representative Experience

  • Drafted plan documentation, corporate documentation and new fiduciary structures for original and spin-off companies for client that split up into three separate, publicly traded companies
  • Strategized and drafted documentation for benefits harmonization for corporate mergers involving large companies with multiple benefit plans
  • Drafted and implemented conversion of existing pension plan into a contributory plan
  • Analyzed cash balance and other hybrid plan issues, and drafted documentation for same
  • Advised client regarding PBGC Early Warning Program participation, and worked directly with PBGC on behalf of client
  • Advised clients regarding DOL and IRS audits, and worked directly with regulators to resolve audits and investigations
  • Advised client on treatment and disposition of 401(h) assets in connection with pension plan de-risking projects
  • Regularly presented before administrative and investment fiduciary committees
  • Run claims and appeals process for plan administrator, including analysis of claim files, drafting of summary, presenting to committee and drafting of claim decision letters
  • Set up pension plan de-risking programs, such as lump sum windows
  • Advised clients on annuity buy-ins and buy-outs, which included application of DOL standards for annuities
  • Draft and review employee communications regarding plan changes, ERISA-required documentation
  • Assisted clients with the freezing of pension plans
  • Addressed company stock issues for 401(k) plan; terminated company stock fund as an investment option, and provided guidance and documentation permitting same
  • Filed delinquent filer program filings with the DOL and analyzed necessity of various DOL correction programs
  • Coordinated and completed IRS 401(k) Compliance Check Questionnaire, a 46-page survey requiring extensive data manipulation and coordination across departments and business lines; failure to complete the questionnaire was 100 percent certain to result in an IRS audit for the client
  • Successfully obtained compliance statement under the IRS voluntary correction program for defined contribution plan with complicated operational compliance issues
  • Prepared and submitted favorable determination letter filings to the IRS, and successfully negotiated with IRS agents regarding the tax-qualified status of retirement plans during the determination letter process
  • Advised clients on the ability to use the IRS self-correction program
  • Advised clients on transition to new service provider, including the transfer of assets from various annuity contracts
  • Assisted clients on the termination of plans
  • Merged acquired plans into existing 401(k) plans, and performed benefits, rights and features/benefits preservation analysis
  • Designed plan administration manual for client, which provides all forms, notices and procedures for the day-to-day administration of pension plan
  • Prepared and revised materials relating to duties and responsibilities of plan fiduciaries
  • Drafted plan documents, plan amendments for compliance and plan design issues, summary plan descriptions, summaries of material modifications and various required employee notices
  • Analyzed third-party administrator (TPA) plan administration manual, during the course of which a number of operational issues were discovered and addressed


  • Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, J.D., magna cum laude
  • University of Missouri-Columbia, B.A., Journalism, cum laude
Bar Admissions/Licenses
  • Indiana
  • Pennsylvania