Gretchen Obrist provides her clients with a clear voice in complex cases. Gretchen is a member of Keller Rohrback’s nationally recognized Complex Litigation group whose work as a dedicated advocate dates back nearly two decades to her role at a nonprofit organization focused on impact litigation. Gretchen works closely with clients to help them understand the processes of litigation and negotiation. Her hands-on approach to legal strategy helps her identify and achieve her clients’ goals and right the wrongs they have experienced.
With her work as a law clerk and as a litigator, Gretchen has significant experience with a broad range of federal cases at all stages. Her nationwide practice focuses on Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”) fiduciary breach and prohibited transaction cases. Gretchen’s work has helped curtail excessive and conflict-ridden fees in the multi-trillion dollar retirement savings industry and provide recourse to retirement plan participants and beneficiaries who have faced pension reductions, misrepresentations, and other unfair practices related to their retirement plan benefits. Gretchen’s ERISA experience includes a successful appeal to the Eighth Circuit in Braden v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. reversing dismissal of the lead plaintiff’s excessive fee case, significant contributions to cases challenging cash balance pension plan conversions by Washington Mutual and JPMorgan, and representation of the employees who lost nearly all of their ESOP savings with the collapse of Bear Stearns.
Gretchen’s breadth of practice extends to consumer protection and financial fraud claims, civil rights issues, and qui tam relator representation. She has played a key role in class action and multi-district cases arising out of the collapse of the mortgage securities industry and the residential mortgage modification and foreclosure crisis, including several ERISA actions and a consumer MDL against JPMorgan Chase. Gretchen has made significant contributions to the firm’s cases against other large companies, such as Procter & Gamble and Merrill Lynch.
Prior to joining Keller Rohrback, Gretchen served as a law clerk to the Honorable John C. Coughenour, U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Washington. Before obtaining her law degree, she worked at a public defender’s office, the Nebraska Domestic Violence Sexual Assault Coalition, and the Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest—where she recently was profiled for Nebraska Appleseed’s 20th Anniversary celebration as an innovator in the organization’s earliest days.
Gretchen is a Plaintiff Co-Chair of the ABA Employee Benefits Committee’s Fiduciary Responsibility Subcommittee and a Chapter Editor for the ERISA treatise Employee Benefits Law (Jeffrey Lewis et al. eds., 3d ed. BNA 2012), whose 4th edition is forthcoming. She frequently speaks at conferences and CLEs, is quoted in pension-related publications, and has published a number of articles related to her practice areas.
Bar and Court Admissions
2007, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington
2008, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
2008, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
2010, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
2011, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington
2011, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
2011, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
University of Nebraska—Lincoln – B.S., with distinction, 1999, Women’s Studies, UNL Honors Program
University of Nebraska—Lincoln, College of Law – J.D., with high distinction, 2005, Order of the Coif, Editor-in-Chief, Nebraska Law Review, 2004–2005
Professional and Civic Involvement
The William L. Dwyer American Inn of Court, Member
American Constitution Society, Puget Sound Lawyer Chapter, Member
King County Bar Association, Member
Washington State Bar Association, Member
American Bar Association, Member, Litigation / Labor and Employment Sections
Honors and Awards
Recipient of the 2004 Robert G. Simmons Law Practice Award (first place)
Theodore C. Sorensen Fellow, 2004–2005
National Association of Women Lawyers Outstanding Law Student Award, 2005
Selected to Rising Stars list in Super Lawyers – Washington, 2010
Articles & Presentations
Quoted in Jacklyn Wille, “Ninth Circuit Adopts Pro-Worker Pension Framework,” Pension & Benefits Daily, Bloomberg BNA (Apr. 22, 2016) (www.bna.com).
Speaker, ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law, Employee Benefits Committee – Mid-Winter Meeting, Las Vegas, NV, 2016 (Will Class Actions Live After This Supreme Court Term?).
Lynn L. Sarko, Erin M. Riley, and Gretchen S. Obrist, Brief for Law Professors as Amici Curiae in Support of the Petitioners, Tibble, et al. v. Edison International, et al., No. 13-550 (U.S. 2014).
Erin M. Riley and Gretchen S. Obrist, Contributors, “Attorneys Reflect on 40 Years of ERISA’s Biggest Court Rulings” Pension & Benefits Daily, Bloomberg BNA, discussing CIGNA Corp. v. Amara, 131 S.Ct. 1866, 50 EBC 2569 (U.S. 2011) (95 PBD, 5/17/11; 38 BPR 990, 5/24/11) (BNA Sept. 9, 2014) (www.bna.com).
Erin M. Riley and Gretchen S. Obrist, “The Impact of Fifth Third Bancorp v. Dudenhoeffer: Finally, a Court Gets it Right!” Pension & Benefits Daily, Bloomberg BNA (154 PBD, 8/11/2014) (BNA Aug. 11, 2014) (www.bna.com).
Speaker, ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits – 24th Annual National Institute on ERISA Litigation, Chicago, IL, 2014 (Fiduciary Litigation: Disclosure & Investment; Ethical Considerations in ERISA Litigation).
Speaker, Western Pension & Benefits Council – 2014 Spring Seminar, Seattle, WA, 2014 (What’s New in Fiduciary Litigation?).
Quoted in Jacklyn Wille, “High Court to Address Statute of Limitations for Suits Challenging Retirement Plan Fees,” Pension & Benefits Daily, Bloomberg BNA (Oct. 3, 2014) (www.bna.com).
Quoted in Jacklyn Wille, “High Court Seeks Government View in Tibble; Limitations Period, Deference Level at Issue,” Pension & Benefits Daily, Bloomberg BNA (Mar. 25, 2014) (www.bna.com).
Speaker, ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits – 23rd Annual National Institute on ERISA Litigation, Chicago, IL, 2013 (Fiduciary Litigation Part 1: Disclosure & Investment; Fiduciary Litigation Part 2: Cutting Edge Issues).
Speaker, ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law, Employee Benefits Committee – Mid-Winter Meeting, Charleston, SC, 2013 (ERISA 408(b)(2) and 404(a) Disclosures and the Ongoing Fee Litigation).
Contributing Editor and Writer, Foreclosure Manual for Judges: A Reference Guide to Foreclosure Law in Washington State, A Resource by Washington Appleseed (2013).
Gretchen S. Obrist, “‘Class of Plans’ Actions Could Be Next Wave of ERISA Litigation, Gretchen Obrist Says,” ERISA Litigation Tracker: Litigator Q&A, Bloomberg BNA (June 19, 2013) (www.bna.com).
Gretchen S. Obrist, “ERISA Fee Litigation: Overview of Developments in 2012 and What to Expect in 2013,” Benefits Practitioners’ Strategy Guide, Bloomberg BNA (Mar. 26, 2013) (www.bna.com).
Gretchen S. Obrist, “ERISA Fee Litigation: The Impact of New Disclosure Rules, and What’s Next in Pending Cases,” Pension & Benefits Daily, Bloomberg BNA (Feb. 21, 2013) (www.bna.com).
Speaker, ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law, Employee Benefits Committee – Mid-Winter Meeting, Savannah, GA, 2011 (Update on ERISA Fee Litigation and the Impact of the Regulations).
Gretchen S. Obrist, Note, The Nebraska Supreme Court Lets Its Probation Department Off the Hook in Bartunek v. State: “No Duty” as a Non-Response to Violence Against Women and Identifiable Victims, 83 Neb. L. Rev. 225 (2004).