Emily Catherine Hootkins

Emily Hootkins

Emily Hootkins is a senior associate in the Atlanta office of Alston & Bird, where she focuses her practice on the defense of employee benefits disputes and counseling plan sponsors and fiduciaries on regulatory compliance issues and litigation avoidance strategies. Emily has extensive experience defending ERISA lawsuits, including class actions involving employer stock, service provider fees, plan investments, benefit terminations, retiree health and welfare benefits, private ESOP transactions, and severance matters. Emily also regularly advises clients on individual benefit claims, both during the administrative review process and litigation. She also frequently represents clients in government investigations for civil and criminal violations of ERISA.

In addition to her ERISA practice, Emily is committed to providing pro bono legal services. She is a VA accredited attorney and regularly performs pro bono work through referrals from Alston & Bird’s Wills Program and the Georgia Innocence Project.

Emily is the vice chair of publications for the TIPS Employee Benefits Committee of the American Bar Association. She is also on the board for National Women in Pensions Inc.

Education

  • Harvard Law School (J.D., cum laude, 2011)
  • Emory University (B.A., 2008)

Recent Representations

  • Obtained dismissal of all claims in a putative class action challenging service provider’s fee-sharing arrangement with Financial Engines. The plaintiffs alleged fiduciary breach and prohibited transaction claims related to service provider’s receipt of fees from Financial Engines, claiming that such fees were impermissible kickbacks for including Financial Engines as an investment advisor available through the recordkeeping platform. Motion to dismiss was granted in its entirety, and plaintiffs were denied further leave to amend. Chendes v. Xerox HR Solutions LLC, No. 2:16-cv-13980-RHC-SDD (E.D. Mich.). 
  • Obtained dismissal of all claims in a putative class action alleging that the 401(k) plan at issue included investments that were both more expensive and more poorly performing than comparable investment options. The Court found that plaintiffs did not have standing because they failed to allege that they invested in the criticized investment funds or paid the fees that they claimed were excessive. Plaintiffs did not file an appeal. Johnson v. Delta Air Lines Inc., et al. , No. 1:17-cv-02608-TCB (N.D. Ga.).
  • Prevailed on a motion for summary judgment in a dispute brought by a former American Basketball Association player regarding claims for pension benefits under the American Basketball Association Players’ Retirement Plan. The court determined that the committee’s benefit decision was both de novo correct and not arbitrary and capricious. The court also found that there was no breach of fiduciary duty and no basis to award statutory penalties based on the alleged failure to provide an earlier version of the plan document. Gilmore v. American Basketball Association Players Retirement Plan, No. 3:15-cv-00337 (M.D. Fla.).
  • Prevailed on a motion for final judgment on the administrative record on behalf of The Prudential Insurance Company of America in a case involving accidental death benefits. The court granted judgment in Prudential’s favor on the breach of fiduciary duty claim because Prudential did not have a duty to inform the plaintiff of changes to the plan. The court also granted judgment in Prudential’s favor on the benefits claim, supporting Prudential’s application of a legal intoxication exclusion. Winburn v. Progress Energy Carolinas Inc., et al., No. 4:11-cv-03527 (D.S.C.).
  • Prevailed on a motion to dismiss for an insurance company in a dispute involving the tax reporting of short-term disability benefits. This decision was affirmed on appeal. Stansel v. City of Atlanta, et al., No. 14-11232 (11th Cir.).
  • Obtained dismissal with prejudice of all claims against a mortgage processing company in a putative class action alleging that the fiduciaries of the plan breached their fiduciary duties under ERISA by failing to withdraw company stock as an investment option once it became an imprudent investment and by misrepresenting and failing to disclose the true risks associated with investing in the company stock. Zimlich v. Lender Processing Services Inc., et al., No. 3:13-cv-00205 (M.D. Fla.).

Awards and Honors

  • Super Lawyers Rising Star for Employee Benefits in Georgia in 2016, 2017, and 2018
  • Harvard Law School Dean’s Scholar Prizes in bankruptcy and corporate reorganization, evidence, and trusts and estates