SAN FRANCISCO — The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 15 denied a disability claimant’s motion for rehearing en banc, refusing to reconsider its ruling that a district court did not err in applying an abuse-of-discretion standard of review in a disability suit because the plan administrator’s conduct did not rise to the level of requiring a de novo review of the plan’s denial of benefits (Olga Gorbacheva v. Abbott Laboratories Extended Disability Plan, et al., Nos. 18-15400, 18-16178, 9th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 1376).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a Jan. 13 appellee brief filed in the District of Columbia Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, George Washington University (GW) says that a former GW employee’s separation agreement with the school released her right to bring breach of fiduciary duty claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act against the university and that the district court properly found that the participant does not have standing to assert the claims (Melissa Stanley v. George Washington University, et al., No. 19-7079, D.C. Cir.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court in a per curiam opinion issued Jan. 14 vacated the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ judgment in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act appeal concerning an employee stock option plan (ESOP) and remanded for the Second Circuit to determine the merits of claims concerning ERISA-based duty when it comes to inside information (Retirement Plans Committee of IBM, et al. v. Larry W. Jander, et al., No. 18-1165, U.S. Sup.).
BOSTON — A motion for preliminary approval of a settlement involving the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) retirement plan was allowed in part Jan. 7 by a federal judge in Massachusetts, who indicated in a handwritten note that attorney fees in the case will be less than what was originally sought by the parties (David B. Tracey, et al. v. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, et al., No. 16-11620, D. Mass.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Beneficiaries of a pension trust that allegedly lost $750 million due disloyalty and imprudence by the trustee have concrete injuries and standing to sue despite contributions that were later made by the trustee to remedy the loss, their attorney told the U.S. Supreme Court in oral arguments on Jan. 13 (James J. Thole, et al. v. U.S. Bank, N.A., et al., No. 17-1712, U.S. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 13 denied a petition for a writ of certiorari filed by a 401(k) plan trustee that sought a high court opinion on who bears the burden of proof on loss causation in its Employee Retirement Income Security Act dispute with plan participants (Putnam Investments LLC, et al. v. John Brotherston, et al., No. 18-926, U.S. Sup.).
BALTIMORE — A federal judge in Maryland on Jan. 8 granted final approval of a $14 million settlement to be paid by The Johns Hopkins University to end claims by participants and beneficiaries of the 403(b) plan that the university charged unreasonable fees and maintained high-cost and underperforming investment options (Margaret E. Kelly, et al. v. The Johns Hopkins University, No. 16-2835, D. Md.).
BOSTON — A Massachusetts federal judge on Jan. 9 denied class certification to participants in General Electric Co.’s (GE) retirement savings plan because they failed to identify individual attorneys as proposed class counsel (In re: G.E. ERISA Litigation, No. 17-12123, D. Mass.).
DENVER — A district court did not err in denying a request to amend a complaint in a dispute arising out of an employer’s claim that an insurer changed the terms of an employee benefit plan without the employer’s knowledge because amending the complaint to add breach of fiduciary claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act would be futile as the claims are barred by ERISA’s six-year period of repose, the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said Jan. 9 (AGI Consulting LLC v. American National Insurance Co., No. 19-6060, 10th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 646).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 10 granted a petition for a writ of certiorari filed by the Arkansas attorney general, who argues that the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals erred when it found that a state law regulating drug reimbursement rates for pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs) is preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Leslie Rutledge v. Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, No. 18-540, U.S. Sup.).
NEW YORK — A Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel’s finding that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act allows for the reformation of a plan and recalculation of benefits as relief in a lawsuit where a retirement plan’s terms were found to violate ERISA conflicts with controlling precedent, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) argues in a Jan. 6 petition for panel rehearing and rehearing en banc (Timothy D. Laurent, et al. v. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, et al., No. 18-487, 2nd Cir.).
ORLANDO, Fla. — Although a retirement plan participant plaintiff asserts “new allegations and legal theories” in her latest putative class complaint against a health care organization, the filing suffers from the same deficiencies as two previous complaints that were already dismissed, a federal judge in Florida ruled Jan. 7 (Donna Sheedy, et al. v. Adventist Health System Sunbelt Healthcare Corp., et al., No. 16-1893, M.D. Fla., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2131).
PASADENA, Calif. — The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 6 affirmed a district court’s denial of class counsel’s request for reimbursement of $964,212 in expert witness fees after determining that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the request because the plaintiffs only prevailed one of their 10 claims (Glenn Tibble, et al. v. Edison International, et al., No. 18-55974, 9th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 346).
SAN FRANCISCO — The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 7 vacated and remanded a disability claimant’s suit seeking long-term disability benefits after determining that a district court erred in failing to consider letters from the claimant’s treating physicians who were not provided with the opportunity to rebut the opinion of one of the insurer’s examining physicians (Lea Wagenstein v. Cigna Life Insurance Co., et al., No. 18-55955, 9th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 482).
PHILADELPHIA — Following notice of a settlement in principle between Wawa Inc. and plaintiffs who allege that Wawa breached its fiduciary duty by amending its employee stock ownership plan, a Pennsylvania federal judge on Dec. 27 stayed the suit until March 30 to allow the parties to move for approval of the settlement (John J. Cunningham, et al. v. Wawa, Inc., et al., No. 18-3355, E.D. Pa.).
DALLAS — A health care provider that sued its patients’ insurer to recover benefits on their behalf under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act was granted a motion to compel certain communications between the insurer and the patients’ plan on Jan. 3, as a Texas federal judge held that the attorney-client privilege could not be invoked against the plaintiff, as the plan beneficiaries’ assignee, for plan administration documents (Advanced Physicians S.C. v. Connecticut General Life Insurance Co., et al., No. 3:16-cv-02355, N.D. Texas).
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Plaintiffs who allege that an employer violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by engaging in self-dealing in its administration of a 401(k) retirement plan on Dec. 26 filed a motion for preliminary approval of an almost $21 million settlement, urging a New York federal court to approve the settlement. which they say is fair and reasonable to all class members (In re M&T Bank Corporation ERISA Litigation, No. 16-375, W.D. N.Y.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A class of insurance agents whose petition for a writ of certiorari concerning the correct standard of review in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act case in which they allege misclassification was denied by the U.S. Supreme Court filed a petition for rehearing on Jan. 2, asking the justices to consider holding the petition pending a decision in Monasky v. Taglieri, No. 18-935 (cert. granted June 10, 2019) (Walid Jammal, et al. v. American Family Insurance Company, No. 19-248, U.S. Sup.).
NEW YORK — A panel of the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 2 vacated a New York federal judge’s decision to vacate an arbitration award, concluding that a trust fund cannot select an interest rate assumption and retroactively apply the assumption when calculating withdrawal liability (The National Retirement Fund, et al. v. Metz Culinary Management Inc., No. 17-1211, 2nd Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 4).
NEW YORK — The Employee Retirement Income Security Act allows for the reformation of a plan and recalculation of benefits as relief in a lawsuit by former employees of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) where a retirement plan’s terms were found to violate ERISA, a Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled Dec. 23 (Timothy D. Laurent, et al. v. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, et al., No. 18-487, 2nd Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 38178).