Peter E. Haller

Peter E. Haller, who died in 2021 at age 55, was a respected employee benefits lawyer and a Fellow of the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel (the “College”), having been inducted into the College in 2019. He was nominated by College Fellows Andrew Oringer and Melanie Nussdorf.

Peter earned his undergraduate degree in accountancy at Bentley College in Waltham, MA in 1988 and his law degree at Boston College Law School in Newton Centre, MA in 1993. Over the course of his career, his practice focused on a wide range of employee benefits and executive compensation issues. He earned special recognition as a leader and skilled advisor in the area of Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) fiduciary issues.

After law school, he began as an associate at Drummond Woods & McMahon in Portland, ME and in 1995 moved to Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, a New York law firm. Peter then worked at Morgan Lewis & Bockius in New York from 1997 to 2000. Peter joined Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP in New York as an associate in 2000 and was promoted to special counsel in 2006. In 2007, he took an in-house position and served as a director and counsel for Credit Suisse also in New York, where he was the global head of the ERISA and Executive Compensation practices, and head of the U.S. Bank Regulatory practice, before returning to Willkie as a partner in 2015 through the rest of his life. Peter was a partner in the Executive Compensation & Employee Benefits Department of Willkie and leader of the ERISA fiduciary practice.

Peter advised clients on their employee benefit plans and programs, with an emphasis on the fiduciary responsibility and prohibited transaction rules under ERISA, including the Department of Labor guidance and court decisions arising out of the fiduciary rules and related exemptions. He had significant experience with ERISA issues raised by hedge funds, private equity funds, and financial institutions. He wrote and spoke extensively, including numerous presentations for the Practicing Law Institute.

Peter chaired the New York City Bar Association subcommittee on ERISA Fiduciary Duties and also served as an adjunct professor and guest lecturer at Georgetown University Law Center and Howard University Law School teaching the ERISA module for several courses. Peter also completed a research report for the Federal Canadian Government on comparative treatment of pensions in bankruptcy.

Peter left a strong impression on those he met in the employee benefits world. Smart, knowledgeable, humble, and generous, he deflected credit quickly and was always open to sharing information and perspectives. A College Fellow noted that his “presentations [were] very deep and thorough; it [was] rare that he [hadn’t] found some piece of authority that most practitioners would miss.” Another College Fellow remarked that Peter was “an incredibly quick study, with tremendous insight and judgment.” Through his work as inside and outside counsel and his substantial high-profile speaking engagements, he became a go-to person for advice and comments in his area of practice. He was careful to consider unintended consequences and more subtle meanings of statutory and regulatory provisions. Colleagues also noted that he operated at the absolute highest of ethical standards and was a tremendous mentor.

Photo Source: Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP Website