ERISA Litigation - Home
2019.09.12 Single Document Can Serve as ERISA Plan Document and SPD. This excellent Wagner Law alert begins . . . The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, in MBI Energy Services v. Hoch, has held that a self-insured medical plan is entitled to reimbursement because its summary plan description ("SPD") was also the plan document. With this ruling, the Eighth Circuit has joined the Fifth, Sixth, Ninth, and Tenth Circuit Courts in concluding that the Supreme Court's ruling in Cigna v. Amara does not prevent an SPD from functioning as the plan document in the absence of a "formal" plan document. A combined plan and SPD often works well for an ERISA-fied severance plan - more info here.
2019.08.26 Disclaimers of Coverage - Another Object Lesson. Playing loose with insurance companies has an awful back-end risk, because premiums may be paid for years, and then coverage may be disclaimed if there were prior inaccuracies. The 8th Circuit just made such a ruling in this MetLife decision, finding that "There is substantial evidence in the record to support MetLife's reliance upon the plan administrator's representations that Jose would not have been automatically enrolled in the OLI program if he had truthfully answered the high blood pressure question in the screening questionnaire. Thus, we reverse the district court's order awarding OLI benefits." Employer's should also take heed, because it may be tempting on occasion to shoehorn an ineligible person into an insured health, life, or other plan. For instance, non-employee directors are sometimes added to an insured health plan that covers employees. Before ever extending coverage to a questionable person or class of employees, employers should receive written approval from the insurer's representative. Otherwise, they risk a perfect storm from offering coverage, collecting and paying premiums, and then being sure to provide the benefits if an insurer disclaims coverage.
2017.09.29 Diligence Checklist for ESOP Fiduciaries. Whether you are an ESOP fiduciary or doing diligence focused on a company that sponsors an ESOP, it is worth considering the itemized list of fiduciary standards and processes that the Department of Labor has imposed in settling recent ESOP litigation. For further information, see this ESOP Fiduciary Checklist.
2017.09.21 "Piggly Wiggly Execs Can't Nix Suit Alleging Stock Plan Missteps" -- This Law360 article begins as follows:
2017.01.10 Top Hat Forfeiture Enforced for Executive's Refusal to Sign Non-Compete (WD Penn). As a general matter, employers win when they seek to enforce the unambiguous terms -- and forfeiture provisions - of their top hat and other executive-only ERISA plans. Good faith administration by the employer is ordinarily sufficient. Case in point: a Penn. district court upheld forfeiture of top hat benefits where an executive refused to sign a non-competition agreement that the underlying plan required as a condition for benefits. The court's decisions are worth review because they dig into . . . continued at Vesting and Forfeiture.
2016.08.25 ESOP Participants Avoid Dismissal of Claims vs Independent Trustee. In Misty v. GreatBanc, the 7th Circuit found viable ERISA claims by ESOP participants, with this paragraph giving a good sense of the litigation:
2016.07.21 ESOP Investor Held Liable as Functional Fiduciary. In Chesemore c. Fenkell, the Seventh Circuit described the fiduciary breach as involving "a complicated leveraged buyout to off-load the company onto Tranche's employees" [at the desired price for which the investor's sale efforts had come up "empty-handed"]. As an equitable ERISA remedy, the court ordered the investor, who was owner and president of the parent company, to indemnify the ESOP trustees because they were mere musicians, and "Fenkell was the unquestioned conductor."
2016.06.16 Pension Plan Participant Held a Fiduciary re Mistaken Payment. In Alcatel-Lucent v. Borlabi, a New Jersey District Court entered a default judgement in favor of a pension plan, reasoning that "Defendant became a plan fiduciary because she retained control over plan assets that she was not entitled to. The [pension plan] mistakenly transferred $233,691.92 of its assets to Defendant's personal money market account, and she refused to return the assets after the [pension plan' informed her of the erroneous transfer and requested repayment of the funds."
2016.06.16 Document Retention Duty of Employers under ERISA. See Estate of Barton (9th Cir.).
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