SAN FRANCISCO — The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on June 23 affirmed a lower court’s summary judgment that a pair of online driving schools failed to show that third-party administrators of the schools’ retirement plans were acting as fiduciaries under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act when their advice allegedly led to the an overfunding of the plans (Cheap Easy Online Traffic School, et al., v. Peter L. Huntting & Co., et al., Nos. 19-55055 and 19-55653, Cheap Easy Online Traffic School, et al. v. SMI Pensions, et al., No. 19-55654, 9th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 19630).
ST. LOUIS — The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on July 1 affirmed a district court’s ruling that a disability plan’s decision to deny a claimant’s long-term disability (LTD) benefits was reasonable and supported by substantial evidence (Harry DaPron v. Spire Inc. Retirement Plans Committee, No. 19-2166, 8th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 20520).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court should review a Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decision in which it affirmed dismissal of retirement plan participants’ amended complaint alleging fiduciary breach allegations against Northwestern University under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act because the circuit courts of appeals are divided on the requirements necessary to plead a violation of ERISA’s duty of prudence based on excessive fees, the plan participants maintain in a June 19 petition for writ of certiorari (April Hughes, et al. v. Northwestern University, et al., No. 19-1401, U.S. Sup.).
SAN FRANCISCO — The father of a young woman suffering from mental health problems filed a June 22 complaint in a California federal court alleging that United Behavioral Health and UnitedHealthcare Insurance Co. violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act in refusing to pay for residential treatment in favor of “non-existent” partial hospitalization that had moved online in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic (Roger Brown v. United Behavioral Health, et al., No. 3:20-cv-04129, N.D. Calif.).
SAN FRANCISCO — A California federal court applied the wrong legal standard in denying attorney fees to a woman who successfully challenged an insurance company over long-term disability benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the majority of a Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel said June 25, adding that the lower court should have asked whether there were any special circumstances that would make the fee award unjust (Debra Herrman v. Lifemap Assurance Co., No. 19-35182, 9th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 19947).
ATLANTA — The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on June 26 affirmed a lower court’s approval of a denial of benefits from a Delta Air Lines Inc. retirement plan administrator to a woman whose late ex-husband named his sister, and not his ex-wife, as his beneficiary under the ERISA-governed plan (Wanda Crowder v. Delta Air Lines Inc., et al., No. 19-12342, 11th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 20004).
SAN FRANCISCO — The California-mandated auto-enrollment retirement savings program known as CalSavers makes improper references and connections to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and fails to fall within government exceptions, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) argues in a June 19 amicus curiae brief to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals (Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, et al. v. California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program, et al., No. 20-15591, 9th Cir.).
SALT LAKE CITY — A magistrate judge did not err in granting discovery into Parity Act and Employee Retirement Income Security Act document production issues in a residential treatment case, a federal judge in Utah said June 26 (Jane Doe v. Intermountain Healthcare Inc., et al., No. 18-00807, D. Utah, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 112772).
PHILADELPHIA — A group of retired union workers cannot go forward with claims that their former employer violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by changing their medical plan, the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in a June 19 nonprecedential opinion determining that the workers’ collective bargaining agreement did not give them a right to unalterable lifetime medical benefits (Neil Blankenship, et al. v. Dominion Energy Transmission, Inc., et al., No. 19-3374, 3rd Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 19186).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A District of Columbia federal magistrate judge recommended June 22 that trustees of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) pension plan proceed with jurisdictional discovery against a Bermuda reinsurance and insurance company over alleged violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act regarding the failure to make $934 million in withdrawal liability payments (Michael H. Holland, et al. v. Cardem Insurance Company Ltd., No. 19-02362, D. D.C.).
NEW YORK — The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York should decertify a class of plaintiffs suing over the alleged mismanagement of a Columbia University retirement plan, trustees of the school argued June 15, citing a recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court over standing for claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Chandra Cates, et al. v. Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York, No. 16-6524, S.D. N.Y.).
NEW YORK — In an insider information case on remand from the U.S. Supreme Court, a Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel on June 22 issued a decision reinstating an earlier ruling that participants in a stock option plan for IBM employees had plausibly alleged that plan fiduciaries breached their duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by failing to disclose alleged corporate fraud (Larry W. Jander, et al. v. Retirement Plans Committee of IBM, et al., No. 17-3518, 2nd Cir.).
OAKLAND, Calif. — A group of retirement plan participants fail to state a claim for breach of fiduciary duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act in alleging that the merger and restructuring of the Dow and Dupont corporations facilitated an improper divestment of pension liabilities, corporate and plan administrative defendants tell a California court in a June 8 motion to dismiss the second amended complaint (Krishnan R. Thondukolam, et al. v. Corteva Inc., et al., No. 19-3857, N.D. Calif.).
GALVESTON, Texas — In a June 15 motion to exit a dispute over the management of an ERISA-governed plan for Shell Oil Co. employees, a group of Fidelity-related companies argue that claims that it violated fiduciary duties and committed prohibited transactions as the plan’s record-keeper by marketing product to participants rest on the “faulty premise” that participants’ personal data is a plan asset (Charles Harmon v. Shell Oil Co., No. 3:20cv21, S.D. Texas).
BOSTON — A Massachusetts federal judge on June 8 said the remainder of an ERISA-centered trial over alleged breaches of fiduciary duty by the administrators of a Fidelity Investment employee savings plan will commence July 6 via the web-conferencing platform Zoom (Kevin Moitoso, et al. v. FMR LLC, et al., No. 18-12122, D. Mass.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court revealed in a June 22 orders list that it will not weigh in on claims that the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrongly denied an attorney fees award to a plan participant who, in an earlier appeal, won a “procedural” victory over health benefits governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Ariana M. v. Humana Health Plan of Texas, Inc., No. 19-980, U.S. Sup.).
PHILADELPHIA — The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on June 19 affirmed a district court’s summary judgment ruling in favor of an employer because the employer did not breach any fiduciary duty to the disability claimant (Ronald P. Boyles v. American Heritage Life Insurance Co., et al., No. 19-2145, 3rd Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 19233).
SAN FRANCISCO — A California federal judge on June 12 cited intraclass conflict in ruling that he could not certify a proposed class of participants in a health care workers’ retirement plan and, therefore, could not grant preliminary approval to a settlement to end a long-running dispute over the plan’s funding and management (Starla Rollins, et al. v. Dignity Health, et al., No. 13-1450, N.D. Calif.).
NEW YORK — The trustee for the liquidation of Lehman Brothers Inc. (LBI) won dismissal June 15 of an adversary proceeding initiated by the Lehman Brothers Inc. Deferred Compensation Defense Steering Committee, whose assertion that deferred compensation plan funds are not part of the LBI estate was deemed “entirely without merit” by a New York federal bankruptcy judge (The Lehman Brothers Inc. Deferred Compensation Defense Steering Committee v. James W. Gibbens, Adv. Pro. No. 19-01368, S.D. N.Y. Bkcy., 2020 Bankr. LEXIS 1572).
PASADENA, Calif. — The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on June 15 affirmed a district court’s ruling that the denial of a claimant’s long-term disability (LTD) claim was not an abuse of discretion because the plan’s decision was reasonable based on the opinions of four independent reviewers (Holly Odd v. Delta Air Lines Inc. et al., No. 19-55555, 9th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 18837).