HOUSTON — The Investment Committee of the Phillips 66 Savings Plan, the committee members and the plan’s financial administrator violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by failing to diversify and investing almost exclusively in the stock of its former parent company, ConocoPhillips, plan participants allege in their class complaint filed Oct. 9 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas (Jeffrey Schweitzer, et al. v. The Investment Committee of The Phillips 66 Savings Plan, et al., No. 17-3013, S.D. Texas).
LOS ANGELES — The parties in the long-running Tibble v. Edison International case filed a joint stipulation in a California federal court on Oct. 16 stating that the defendants will pay the class counsel $5.8 million in attorney fees and costs as long as the court approves the award (Glenn Tibble, et al. v. Edison International, et al., No. 07-5359, C.D. Calif.).
ATLANTA — A disability insurer acted arbitrarily and capriciously in determining the date of a claimant’s disability, the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said Oct. 17 in reversing a district court’s judgment in favor of the insurer (Greggory B. Owings v. United Of Omaha Life Insurance Co., No. 16-3128, 10th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 20228).
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — An Iowa federal judge on Oct. 13 found that a participant in an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) had standing to assert claims against the plan’s trustee for violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, partially dismissing certain causes of action but allowing a claim that the trustee allegedly violated a fiduciary duty when it completed a transaction to proceed (Deborah Innis v. Bankers Trust Company of South Dakota, No. 4:16-cv-00650, S.D. Iowa).
SANTA ANA, Calif. — A California federal judge on Oct. 13 held that there are no genuine issues of material fact regarding whether the record keeper of a retirement plan breached a fiduciary duty when it followed a retirement committee's instruction to freeze the assets in a tax savings retirement plan account, granting the record keeper’s motion for summary judgment (Dr. Sujata Vyas v. Bhaskar Vyas, et al., No. 15-02152, C.D. Calif., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 170029).
BALTIMORE — Bon Secours Health System Inc. (BSHSI) will contribute $14 million annually for the next seven years, for a total of $98 million, to seven defined-benefit plans operating as “church plans” to settle claims that it improperly operated the plans as exempt from the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and underfunded them, a class of participants claim in their motion for final approval of the settlement agreement and certification of settlement class filed Oct. 13 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland (Arlene Hodges, et al. v. Bon Secours Health System, Inc., et al., No. 16-1079, D. Md.).
PORTLAND, Ore. — A nonprofit trade association representing employers that sponsor benefit plans governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act filed suit in Oregon federal suit on Oct. 12 seeking a declaration that a reporting requirement included in Oregon’s state-run retirement program is preempted by ERISA (The ERISA Industry Committee v. Tobias Read, No. 17-1605, D. Ore.).
ATLANTA — Although Section 1113(1) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act is a statute of repose, as opposed to a statute of limitations, it is still subject to express waiver, the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said Oct. 12 in answering a certified question from the Northern District of Georgia (Secretary, U.S. Department of Labor v. Robert N. Preston et al., No. 17-10833, 11th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 19926).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration on Oct. 12 published in the Federal Register a proposal to delay the applicability of a final rule amending the claims procedure requirements that are applicable to employee disability benefit plans governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.
CHICAGO — A Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Sept. 28 refused to rehear an appeal by a retiree who alleges that his health benefits were improperly terminated and who sought to transfer his Employee Retirement Income Security Act lawsuit back to Pennsylvania federal court (In re: George W. Mathias, No. 16-3808, 7th Cir.).
NEW YORK — The Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Oct. 11 affirmed a Connecticut federal judge’s dismissal of a retirement plan participant’s suit alleging that the plan’s service provider breached its fiduciary duties, determining that the plan participant failed to prove that a fee-sharing agreement between the service provider and the plan was a violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Richard A. Rosen v. Prudential Retirement Insurance and Annuity Co., No. 17-0239, 2nd Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 19821).
ST. LOUIS — The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Oct. 12 determined that a Minnesota federal judge properly dismissed a putative class action filed by pension plan participants alleging violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act because once the plan was overfunded, the plaintiffs no longer fell within the class of plaintiffs authorized to bring suit under ERISA (James J. Thole, et al. v. U.S. Bank, et al., No. 16-1928, 8th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 19907).
CINCINNATI — A disability plan administrator did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in denying a plan participant’s claims for short-term disability benefits because the participant failed to provide objective medical evidence supporting the disability, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said Oct. 10 (Rebecca Filthaut v. AT&T Midwest Disability Benefit Plan et al., No. 16-2707, 6th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 19882).
SAN FRANCISCO — A substance abuse treatment center’s three surviving claims involve a provider-insurer relationship outside ERISA’s scope, but the provider’s unfair competition law (UCL) claims seek relief available through other means and are not among the surviving causes of action, a federal judge in California held Oct. 10 (Summit Estate Inc. v. Cigna Healthcare of California Inc., et al., No. 17-3871, N.D. Calif., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 167462).
ATLANTA — The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Oct. 10 affirmed a district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of a retirement plan administrator after determining that the administrator’s refusal to reinstate an employee’s retirement benefits, based on the fact that the employee was found to incompetent and had a court-appointed conservator, was reasonable because the administrator did not have actual knowledge of the employee’s incompetence (Michael E. Bauman, by and through Michael E. Sumner, conservator, v. Publix Super Markets, Inc. Employee Stock Ownership Plan et al., No. 17-11709, 11th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 19760).
BOSTON — After considering objections from both sides, a Massachusetts federal judge in an Oct. 4 memorandum explained his Sept. 29 order partially accepting and adopting and partially rejecting a magistrate judge’s report and recommendation (R&R) in a lawsuit brought against Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and its defined-contribution plan alleging breach of fiduciary duty and prohibited transactions under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (David B. Tracey, et al. v. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, et al., No. 1:16cv11620, D. Mass., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 161263).
NEW ORLEANS — The Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Oct. 6 affirmed a lower federal court’s finding that a fungal infection that eventually caused a claimant to lose his eye was not an “accident” under his employer’s accidental death and dismemberment and life insurance policy (Robert Ramirez v. United of Omaha Life Insurance Co., No. 16-11660, 5th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 19601).
NEW YORK — A plaintiff’s allegations that a number of 401(k) retirement plans offered by Verizon Communications Inc. were “overly complex, overly risky, and inappropriate for the average Verizon employee” are not sufficient to maintain a claim for breach of fiduciary duty, a New York federal judge said Sept. 28 in partially granting the defendants’ motion to dismiss (Melina N. Jacobs v. Verizon Communications Inc., et al., No. 16-1082, S.D. N.Y., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 162703).
NEW YORK — A New York federal judge on Sept. 29 partially granted a motion to dismiss and narrowed the claims brought by participants and beneficiaries of Cornell University’s retirements plans accusing the university, the oversight committee and financial advisers of violating their fiduciary duties by including imprudent and expensive investment options (Casey Cunningham, et al. v. Cornell University, et al., No. 16-6525, S.D. N.Y., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 162420).
SAN FRANCISCO — A disability insurer’s termination of benefits based on the plan’s self-reported symptoms limitation was reasonable because the claimant did not provide any additional evidence supporting her disability, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said Sept. 22 (Robin Curran v. United of Omaha Life Insurance Co., and United of Omaha Life Insurance Co. v. Robin Curran, Nos. 15-56599, 15-56668, 9th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 18443).