Deborah L Grace

Deborah L. Grace

Ms. Grace counsels private companies and equity funds on the benefit plan implications of business acquisitions and dispositions, including due diligence review and advising on the integration of benefit programs based on the structure of the business deal.  Her experience includes advising non-US entities on the unique tax rules that require separate legal entities under common control to be treated as one employer for US non-discrimination rules.  She has counselled clients on how to correct retirement plan administration errors, including late transfer of deferrals and failure to timely amend plan documents.   She has extensive experience in advising plan sponsors on the design, implementation, and administration of various types of retirement plans, including 401(k), profit sharing, defined benefit, ESOP, 403(b), and 457 plans, and advises investment committees on their ERISA fiduciary responsibilities with respect to these plans.  She also advises companies on the design, implementation and administration of insured and self-insured medical plans, dental plans, life insurance, disability, and cafeteria plans, including pre-tax premium plans and flexible spending account plans, and compliance with the Affordable Care Act.

Education & Credentials


Kalamazoo College

B.A., 1979

Wayne State University School of Law

J.D., 1983

Bar Admission

  • Michigan1983


  • Listed in Best Lawyers in America - Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law (2010-Present)
  • Listed in Michigan Super Lawyers - Employee Benefits/ERISA (2010-Present)
  • DBusiness Top Lawyers Employee Benefits Law (2013-Present)
  • Chambers USA, America's Leading Lawyers for Business (2009)

Representative Clients

  • Active Interest Media, Inc.
  • FANUC Robotics America, Inc.
  • Gestamp North America
  • Hino Motors Manufacturing U.S.A., Inc.
  • Lawrence Technological University
  • Rose Hill Center
  • Wayne State University

Prominent Assignments

Represented US Company in its sale of operating subsidiary for $133 million dollars to a London-based global business; sale involved restructuring plans so that subsidiary had appropriate benefit plans in place after closing.

Represented private equity firm, and its fund company, in the sale of one subsidiary; sale involved advising seller on issues associated with its ‘employees’ who were co-employees with a “professional employer organization.” 

Advised plan sponsor on correction of missing documents evidencing participation in plan sponsor’s 401(k) by sister corporation’s employees.  

Advised plan sponsor on correction of late transfer of missed deferrals due to errors caused when payroll provider was changed. 

Advised governmental entity on tax and employee benefits consequences of its practice of allowing employees to retiree, begin collecting benefits, and then rehire them without a break in service.

Advised client on purchase of target company that was owned by an ESOP.
Advised governmental entity on correction of improper purchase of credited service and excess benefits arising under an early retirement program.

Advised higher educational institution on application of Affordable Care Act’s rules regarding coverage of part-time faculty.

Counsel to defined benefit plan offering lump sum window benefits to terminated vested participants, thereby reducing company’s market risk.

Negotiated favorable results for clients correcting retirement plan administration errors using the IRS’ Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System.

Substantial experience advising companies on the Affordable Care Act, COBRA and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Guided school district in auditing service records of individuals who were misclassified as independent contractors and negotiated with representatives of the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System on the proper method to report service and pay missing contribution.

Advised governmental employer on establishing and administering a FICA replacement plan.


Professional Involvement

  • Past, Chairman of the Employee Benefits Committee of the Oakland County Bar Association
  • Michigan Bar Association, member of the Employee Benefits Committee of the Tax Section
  • American Bar Association Member, active on the Employee Benefits Committee of the Tax Section
  • Member, ASPPA Governmental Affairs Committee

Community Involvement

  • Legal Counsel to Angels' Place, a Michigan non-profit corporation


  • Author, “Keeping the End in Mind When Managing Employee Benefits at a Company Owned by a Private Equity Fund”, Dickinson Wright HR Blog, 2018
  • Author, “Confidential Settlements of Sexual Harassment Claims Are No Longer Deductible by a Company”, Dickinson Wright HR Blog, February, 2018
  • Author, “Do your employees pay for their company sponsored medical coverage with pre-tax dollars?”, Dickinson Wright Tax Blog, November 2017
  • Co-presenter at seminar for International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists on “Retirement Plans – Things we wished our Clients Had Asked Us Ahead of Time” (Livonia, Michigan), June 2017
  • Author, “Company Liable for Not Providing Accurate Information about Benefit”, Dickinson Wright Tax Blog, April 2017
  • Author, “April 18, 2017 is the Deadline to Make Contributions to a Health Savings Account for 2016”, Dickinson Wright Tax Blog, April 2017
  • Presenter, “Covering Your Assets – Tough Talk and Best Practices about Your 401(k)” Webinar with Clayton & McKervey, December 2016
  • Presenter, “Fiduciary Best Practices & Department of Labor Updates”, Seminar sponsored by Morgan Stanley, Detroit, MI, July 2016
  • Presenter, “ERISA Fiduciary Duty for Retirement Plan Investment Decisions”, a Dickinson Wright Sunrise Seminar at Automation Alley, April 2016
  • Author, “New Department of Labor Rule Helps Plan Sponsors and IRA Owners Determine If Their Advisor is a Fiduciary Providing Impartial Investment Advice”, Dickinson Wright Tax Blog, April 2016
  • Author, “Affordable Care Act Update – Some Questions Answered, Some Relief Granted”, Dickinson Wright Client Alert, December 2015
  • Author, “Businesses under Common Control are Treated as one Entity under Certain Retirement and Welfare Plan Rules”, Dickinson Wright Tax Blog, October 2015
  • Author, “Time to Check the “Qualified” Status of a Company’s 401(k) or Profit Sharing Plan”, Dickinson Wright Tax Blog, September 2015
  • Presenter, "The Affordable Care Act," Webinar for members of Middle Tennessee chapter of the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) (2014)
  • Presenter, "The Affordable Care Act - Preparing for 2014," Sunrise Seminar (2013)
  • Author, "Determining if the Affordable Care Act "Play or Pay" Rules Apply to a Business," Dickinson Wright Client Alert (January 2013)
  • Author, "Penalties and Measuring Periods for Large Employers," Dickinson Wright Client Alert (February 2013)
  • Co-Author, "The HIPAA "Omnibus" Final Rule," Dickinson Wright Client Alert (January 2013)
  • Co-Author, "Participant Fee Disclosure Deadline Approaching," Dickinson Wright Client Alert (April 2012)
  • Co-Author, "New Rules Aid Plan Fiduciaries," Dickinson Wright Client Alert (April 2012)
  • Presenter, "Know Your Role and Control Your Risk: What Every CEO, CFO or Human Resources Director Should Know About Their Responsibilities In Administering a Retirement Plan," Sunrise Seminar (2011)
  • Presenter, "Yes, You Can Navigate the Maze of the New Health Care Reform Act," Sunrise Seminar (2010)
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