Francisco “Cisco” Palao-Ricketts

Francisco “Cisco” Palao-Ricketts

Francisco “Cisco” Palao-Ricketts
Silicon Valley
+1 650 752 3291

Cisco Palao-Ricketts is a partner in the firm’s Business Law department and ERISA/Executive Compensation practice. He handles the full range of executive compensation and benefits matters, but has had a particular focus on the executive compensation and benefits aspects of M&A, IPO and SPAC transactions.

Cisco is experienced in advising start-up, emerging growth and public companies regarding compensation and employee benefit issues. Specifically, his practice includes counseling on:

  • equity compensation, including incentive stock options (ISOs) and nonqualified stock options (NSOs), restricted stock, performance share and restricted stock unit awards (RSUs), stock appreciation rights, employee stock purchase plans (ESPPs), profits interests and phantom equity arrangements
  • all types of compensation and employee benefits issues that arise in M&A, spin-offs and other complex corporate transactions, including with respect to executive retention and post-transaction employee transition matters
  • employment, retention, change of control and severance arrangements, as well as bonus and commission plans
  • the design, implementation, tax aspects, operation and any related fiduciary obligations with respect to tax-qualified retirement plans, including defined benefit and 401 (k) retirement plans, nonqualified deferred compensation arrangements and employee welfare benefit plans, including compliance with Section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and recent healthcare reform laws

Professional Experience

Cisco has been counseling companies in the technology and life sciences sectors in Silicon Valley since 2006. Prior to joining Goodwin, Cisco formerly was a partner and co-head of the U.S. Executive Compensation and Benefits practice at DLA Piper. Prior to DLA Piper, Cisco was at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.

Professional Activities

Member, Board of Advisors, Syracuse University College of Law.




Georgetown University Law Center


Syracuse University College of Law

BA, Political Science1999

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign



  • California
  • District of Columbia
  • Illinois

Recognition & Awards

Cisco is recognized by The Legal 500 US in Employee Benefits, Executive Compensation & Retirement Plans: Transactional and Capital Markets: Equity Offerings. He is also recognized by Chambers USA in Northern California for Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation.

Client reviews:

"He's terrific, he is commercially minded and nimble."

"He advocates well for his clients."


Cisco's recent publications and speaking engagements include:

  • Quoted, “Tech start-ups face dilemma over expiring staff share awards”, The Financial Times, February 2023
  • Quoted, “Stripe Walks Tightrope to Stay Private. Could Other Firms Follow?” The Information, February, 2023
  • Quoted, “No way out: Stripe's share rescue plan not an option for most startups,” PitchBook News & Analysis, March 2023
  • Speaker, “Double-Trigger RSUs and Stock Options in Private Companies: Key Provisions, Tax Implications, Risks, and More,” Strafford Publications Webinar, November 2022
  • Speaker, “Compensation Considerations in de-SPAC Transactions, American Bar Association, Joint Committee of Employee Benefits, March 2021
  • Author, “ERISA Equity: The Myth of a Remedy and the Reality of Inequity,” Journal of Pension Planning and Compliance
  • Author, “Navigating the Waters of Severance Compensation,” Journal of Deferred Compensation
  • Co-Author, “Double Vest RSUs,” Journal of Deferred Compensation