Reed Smith has brought on a three-lawyer group from Steptoe & Johnson for its public pension fund and tax wealth planning practices.

Donald Wellington, who joins the global legal giant along with Jennifer Krengel and Ed Gregory, will work out of Reed Smith’s offices in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Gregory, who comes aboard as senior counsel, will also work out of Los Angeles, while Krengel will be based in San Francisco. Krengel and Wellington will be partners in Reed Smith’s global corporate group.

“There aren’t a lot of firms that focus on public pensions,” said Wellington, who has been involved in the practice for more than 26 years. “Reed Smith is really the leader in the area.”

Wellington said his team was drawn to Reed Smith’s existing pension practice, whose California arm is led by San Francisco-based partner Harvey Leiderman. Reed Smith hired Leiderman in mid-2006 from Steefel, Levitt & Weiss, a midsize firm from San Francisco that was absorbed two years later by Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.

“Our practice is really more tax-focused, and Harvey Leiderman’s practice is really more fiduciary advice-focused and litigation,” Wellington said. “Those are two important pieces you need—the fiduciary advice side and the tax side—[and] that’s why this really just made for a perfect combination for us.”

Don Wellington

Wellington was previously an associate benefits tax counsel for the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Tax Policy for four years before joining Steptoe & Johnson in 2000. As a son of a public servant, Wellington has dedicated most of his legal career to public pension services. He has represented many of the largest public pension plans in the country, which together have more than 3.5 million participants and more than $700 billion in assets.

“Don is nationally recognized for his work with public pension plans and is a trusted adviser on tax-related issues and in dealings with the U.S. Department of Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service,” said a statement about the group’s arrival from Matthew Petersen, co-chair of Reed Smith’s global corporate group. “Jenni’s background in private practice and her prior experience as in-house counsel for the largest pension plan in the United States puts her at the intersection of fiduciary and tax issues, which are especially important in the context of global investing. We are thrilled to have them join the firm.”

Krengel has previously served as assistant chief counsel and acting deputy general counsel for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the largest public pension system in the country. She has particular experience in matters related to the tax and fiduciary issues impacting public pension funds, including governmental plan status and vested rights.

Gregory, however, is a litigator who represents public employee retirement systems and boards in class actions and other court and administrative cases. His experience also extends to representing private sector ERISA plans, plan fiduciaries and plan sponsors, as well as a management adviser to California employers.

“When public funds invest overseas, they want to be steered capably through the foreign tax thicket,” said a statement from Leiderman about the Steptoe & Johnson hires. “This experienced team rounds out our integrated offering of pension services, which now includes fiduciary, litigation, tax, investments, health care funding, labor and employment and cybersecurity.”

According to the firm, Reed Smith currently has 301 lawyers in its global corporate group, including 128 partners. The 1,550-lawyer firm, which saw gross revenue and partner profits rise in 2017, has four offices in California comprising nearly 200 lawyers, 86 of them partners. Reed Smith’s Golden State operations took a hit two years ago when a large group of lawyers moved to McGuireWoods, which set up shop in San Francisco.

Reed Smith also made news this week for launching a technology program for select summer associates in the U.S. and U.K.