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John E. Schembari


John's client service principle: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough."

John leads the firm's national employee benefits and executive compensation group and focuses his practice primarily on minimizing his client’s legal risks while ensuring that their employee benefits and executive compensation programs align with their goals. 

He works with private, public and governmental employers on qualified and nonqualified retirement plans, employee stock ownership plans, insured and self-funded health plans, executive and incentive compensation programs, and other equity-based compensation arrangements. He advises compensation committees, ERISA fiduciaries, in-house counsel, and finance and human resources executives from companies of all sizes, including several of the largest employers in the U.S.

John is a nationally-recognized speaker on employee benefits, executive compensation, tax and privacy matters, speaking several times each year throughout the U.S. to crowds numbering in the thousands. John also presents webinars on various health and welfare topics to hundreds of employers each month. In addition, he is a frequently-sought author and contributor to industry law journals, magazines and digital media outlets.

Recent Publications
Recent Speaking Engagements
  • “You’re a Fiduciary – Now What?” IFEBP 69th Annual Employee Benefits Conference, Boston, MA, October 2023 (Presenter)
  • “Fiduciary Training,” IFEBP 68th Annual Employee Benefits Conference, Las Vegas, NV, October 2022 (Presenter)
  • “What’s Changing with Your Retirement Plan?,” DC Retirement Strategies 14th Annual Plan Sponsor Conference, October 2022 (Presenter)
  • "Fiduciary Refresher," IFEBP 66th Annual Employee Benefits Conference, November 2020 (Presenter) 
  • "Compliance Tools for Benefit Administration," IFEBP 65th Annual Employee Benefits Conference, San Diego, CA, October 2019 (Presenter) 
  • "Key Diligence and Mergers & Acquisitions Issues with Employee Benefit Plans," American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries (ASPPA), Benefits Counsel, Detroit, MI, March 2019 (Presenter)
  • "Refresher on Fiduciary Responsibility," IFEBP 64th Annual Employee Benefits Conference, New Orleans, LA, October 2018 (Presenter)
  • "Another Look at Supplemental Unemployment Benefit (SUB) Programs," IFEBP 62nd Annual Employee Benefits Conference, Orlando, FL, November 2016 (Presenter)
  • "Keeping Your Wellness Program Legal," Annual Nebraska Safety Council Conference, September 2016
  • "Advice About Advice: How Your Retirement Plan Will be Impacted by the New Department of Labor Fiduciary Role," State Human Resource Group, La Vista NE, August 2016 (Presenter)
  • "Qualified Retirement Plans: How to Fix Common Errors," Webinar, Clear Law Institute, August 2016
  • "Keeping Your Wellness Program Legal," Omaha, NE, March 2016
  • "Legal and Legislative Update," 2016 PSCA Omaha City Event Symposium, March 2016
  • "A View of the Legal Landscape (ERISA)," Regional Plan Sponsor Council of America Conference, Omaha, NE, April 2015

  • Serving as ERISA and employee benefits counsel for Fortune 500 companies with hundreds of thousands of employees around the world.
  • Training hundreds of fiduciaries annually on ERISA’s fiduciary duties.
  • Serving as ESOP counsel in more than 500 million of leveraged ESOP transactions involving Code section 1042 rollovers, proxy votes and subchapter S elections.
  • Serving as counsel to governmental entities in connection with the maintenance and operation of defined benefit, defined contribution and health and welfare plans.
  • Representing Taft-Hartley (multiemployer) funds, including pension, self-funded health and welfare and 401(k) plans.
  • Designing, drafting and implementing nonqualified deferred compensation plans and equity incentive plans for key management employees of private and publicly traded companies. 
  • Conducting dozens of fiduciary and tax compliance reviews for employee benefit plans with over $10 billion in assets.
  • Serving as an independent fiduciary to ERISA-governed employee benefit plans.
  • Serving as lead counsel to state-sponsored college savings, prepaid tuition programs and ABLE plans under Code sections 529 and 529A.

Best Lawyers in America®
Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law
2007 – Current

“Lawyer of the Year”
Omaha Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law
2012, 2018, 2020, 2023


Chambers USA®
Leading ERISA Attorney

AV Preeminent Rating

Thomson Reuters
"Stand-out Lawyer"

Since 2007, John has been selected by his peers for The Best Lawyers In America® listings for Employee Benefits Law. In 2012, 2018, 2021 and 2023 he was recognized by Best Lawyers® as the Omaha Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law "Lawyer of the Year." John is also one of only three lawyers identified by Chambers and Partners as a leading ERISA attorney in the state of Nebraska. Chambers and Partners lists John as a “notable practitioner” and notes that “he is highly regarded by clients who praise his 'fantastic level of expertise,' describing him as 'outstanding' and 'an amazing person to work with.'” The 2021 Chambers ranking includes the comment, "He is tremendous, very responsive and practical."

For its 2019 rankings, Chambers and Partners listed John as the only Band 1 ERISA lawyer in Nebraska. A client comments: "He is phenomenal. John is brilliant and is able to guide us in solving whatever issues may arise. His negotiating skills are right on target and his work and professionalism are top-notch." 

Previously, Chambers reported that he "is an expert on employee benefits, deferred compensation and tax matters . . . [and] enjoys a formidable reputation, and sources affirm that he 'is very well respected and does very good work.'" The 2016 Chambers and Partners report adds that John "is very well known within the benefits sector and is a go-to resource for his knowledge in this area - he adds tremendous depth to any conversation.” Clients note that he is “an outstanding partner to work with." Additionally, John has a peer review rating of “AV” by Martindale-Hubbell®.

John is listed as a “Stand-Out Lawyer” by Thomson Reuters. Each year, Thomson Reuters surveys more than 2,000 senior in-house counsel regarding the legal service providers they have worked with in the last three years and to name the ones who have stood out.