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Mealey's ERISA

  • August 16, 2019

    Government To High Court: Wrong Standard Applied In ERISA Case Against IBM

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — In an Aug. 13 amicus curiae brief filed in support of neither party, the government told the U.S. Supreme Court that when assessing the merits of a duty-of-prudence claim against an employee stock option plan (ESOP) fiduciary accused of failing to disclose inside information, courts “should be informed by the requirements and objectives of the securities laws” (Retirement Plans Committee of IBM, et al. v. Larry W. Jander, et al., No. 18-1165, U.S. Sup.).

  • August 15, 2019

    ‘Church Plan’ Exemption Judgment Vacated, Remanded By Panel

    CHICAGO — A federal judge in Illinois abused her discretion in denying a motion to postpone a summary judgment decision on whether the Employee Retirement Income Security Act’s church plan exemption is applicable to two defined-benefit plans offered by a nonprofit health care corporation, the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Aug. 13 (Sheilar Smith, et al. v. OSF Healthcare System, et al., No. 18-3325, 7th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 24065).

  • August 13, 2019

    UPenn Requests Stay As It Appeals Pension Benefit Suit To High Court

    PHILADELPHIA — The University of Pennsylvania in a July 25 motion tells the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that it intends to appeal the court’s divided May 2019 decision that reinstated allegations that the university administered an employee pension benefit plan imprudently to the U.S. Supreme Court and asks that the court stay the issuance of the mandate pending its petition for writ of certiorari (Jennifer Sweda, et al. v. University of Pennsylvania, et al., No. 17-3244, 3rd Cir.).

  • August 12, 2019

    ERISA Plaintiff Files Notice Of Appeal In Excessive Fees Suit Against University

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — A former George Washington University (GW) employee filed a notice of appeal to the District of Columbia Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on July 29, after GW prevailed July 15 when a federal judge in the District of Columbia found that a general release signed by the former employee in 2016 precludes her from now asserting that the school breached its fiduciary duty by charging excessive fees and offering imprudent investments (Melissa Stanley v. George Washington University, et al., No. 19-7079, D.C. Cir.).

  • August 12, 2019

    U.S. Bancorp, Pension Plan Administrator Answer Class Suit Over Reduced Benefits

    MINNEAPOLIS — U.S. Bancorp and its pension plan administrator filed an answer on July 26 in a federal court in Minnesota denying plan participants’ claims that they violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by paying early retirees reduced benefits based on “unreasonable actuarial assumptions” (Janet Smith, et al. v. U.S. Bancorp, et al., No. 18-3405, D. Minn.).

  • August 9, 2019

    Panel:  ERISA Claims Over Denied Medical Expenses Properly Dismissed

    PHILADELPHIA — The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in an unpublished decision issued Aug. 6 affirmed a dismissal by a federal judge in New Jersey of allegations an employer-sponsored health care plan violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act when it failed to pay medical expenses for injuries sustained in a trip-and-fall accident (Kristine Guariglia v. Local 464A United Food and Commercial Workers Union Welfare Service Benefit Fund, No. 18-0002, 3rd Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 23470).

  • August 8, 2019

    Disability Claimant Says High Court Should Review Fraud On Court Ruling

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — A disability claimant on July 15 filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that review of the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ ruling that the claimant’s attorney did not commit fraud upon the court is warranted because the record clearly shows that fraud upon the court was committed and that the claimant’s constitutional rights were violated as a result of the fraud (Kyle D. Kennard v. Means Industries Inc., No. 19-98, U.S. Sup., 2019 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 2682).

  • August 8, 2019

    Disability Claimant Seeks High Court Review On Any-Occupation Standard

    PHILADELPHIA — The U.S. Supreme Court should review the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ finding that a district court properly remanded a claim for long-term disability (LTD) benefits to determine whether benefits are available under a plan’s any-occupation standard because a conflict exists among the circuit courts as to whether it would be futile for the disability claimant on remand to seek benefits under a plan’s any-occupation standard if benefits were previously denied under a plan’s own-occupation standard, the disability claimant maintains in a July 26 petition for writ of certiorari (Thomas P. Kelly Jr. v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Co., et al., No. 18-1162, 3rd Cir.).

  • August 8, 2019

    Mental Health Treatments Weren’t Medically Necessary, Judge Finds

    BOSTON — Even on the expanded record required by the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, the evidence does not support the conclusion that a woman’s residential mental health treatments met the definition of medically necessary care, a federal judge in Massachusetts held Aug. 7 (Jane Doe v. Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Inc., et al., No. 15-10672, D. Mass.).

  • August 8, 2019

    Pension Plan Board Correctly Calculated Participant’s Pension Benefits, Panel Says

    PHILADELPHIA — The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Aug. 6 affirmed a district court’s ruling in favor of a pension plan after determining that the plan’s board of trustees’  determination that a plan participant is not entitled to additional pension benefits is “reasonably consistent” with the plan language (Nicholas Bergamatto v. Board Of Trustees of the NYSA-ILA Pension Fund, et al., No. 18-2811, 3rd Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 23465).

  • August 8, 2019

    In Massachusetts ERISA Case, Parties Move To Consolidate New Complaint

    BOSTON — In an Aug. 5 joint stipulation, attorneys for defendants accused of engaging in prohibited transactions under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act agreed that a July 23 complaint should be consolidated with an existing action, which already encompassed three other lawsuits (In re Fidelity ERISA Fee Litigation, No. 19-10335, D. Mass.).

  • August 7, 2019

    ESOP Plan Fiduciaries Urge High Court To Reject Breach Of Duty Of Prudence Claims

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — International Business Machines Corp.’s retirement plan committee and several of the company’s senior corporate officials, who were also named fiduciaries of the company’s employee stock option plan (ESOP), told the U.S. Supreme Court in an Aug. 6 merits brief that the “more harm than good” pleading standard in Fifth Third Bancorp v. Dudenhoeffer, 573 U.S. 409 (2014), cannot be satisfied by general allegations of harm over time (Retirement Plans Committee of IBM, et al. v. Larry W. Jander, et al., No. 18-1165, U.S. Sup.).

  • August 7, 2019

    Virginia Federal Judge: ESOP Stock Purchase Ran Afoul Of ERISA

    ROANOKE, Va. — A trustee committed a prohibited transaction under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act when it approved a stock purchase from a retiring CEO at an inflated price, a federal judge in Virginia ruled Aug. 2 following a one-week bench trial in October 2018 (Patrick Pizzella v. Evolve Bank and Trust, et al., No. 16-00062, W.D. Va., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129579).

  • August 7, 2019

    Trustees Of Pension Plan Sue Bermuda Reinsurer For Violation Of ERISA

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — Trustees of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) pension plan filed a lawsuit in District of Columbia federal court on Aug. 6 alleging that a Bermuda reinsurance company violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act when it failed to make $934 million in withdrawal liability payments to the pension fund (Michael H. Holland, et al. v. Cardem Insurance Company Ltd., No. 19-02362, D. D.C.).

  • August 7, 2019

    Johns Hopkins Agrees To Pay $14 Million To End ERISA Excessive Fees Class Suit

    BALTIMORE — Participants and beneficiaries of The Johns Hopkins University’s 403(b) Plan filed motions on Aug. 6 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland seeking preliminary approval of a $14 million settlement and certification of a settlement class to end a complaint accusing the university of charging unreasonable fees and maintaining high-cost and underperforming investment options (Margaret E. Kelly, et al. v. The Johns Hopkins University, No. 16-2835, D. Md.).

  • August 6, 2019

    Breach Of Loyalty Claim Against Retirement Plan Fails; Remaining Claims Survive

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A breach of the duty of loyalty claim alleged by plaintiffs against the fiduciaries of a retirement plan must be dismissed because the plaintiffs do not provide sufficient facts supporting an inference that the plan fiduciaries were engaged in self-dealing by charging excessive administrative fees to plan participants; however, the plaintiffs’ remaining claims against the plan defendants will proceed, a Kentucky federal judge said Aug. 2 (Donna Disselkamp, et al. v. Norton Healthcare Inc., et al., No. 18-48, W.D. Ky., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129519).

  • August 6, 2019

    In Rhode Island, ERISA Settlement Wins Final Approval

    PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A $3.5 million settlement of allegations that Brown University violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act was endorsed as fair, reasonable and adequate on Aug. 2 by a federal judge in Rhode Island (Diane G. Short, et al. v. Brown University, No. 17-318, D. R.I.).

  • August 5, 2019

    Life Insurer Agrees To Pay $80M To Settle ERISA Class Action Suit

    GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. has agreed to pay $80 million to settle a class action suit alleging that the life insurer violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by profiting from a practice of converting life insurance benefits and by failing to pay life insurance proceeds in one lump sum to beneficiaries, according to two settlement agreements filed July 25 in Georgia federal court (Laura A. Owens et al., v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., No. 14-74, N.D. Ga.).

  • August 5, 2019

    Fiduciary Exception Does Not Apply To Subrogation Communication, Judge Says

    SCRANTON, Pa. — A Pennsylvania federal judge on July 29 partially denied a disability insurer’s motion for a protective order regarding information sought in depositions after determining that the fiduciary exception to the attorney-client privilege does not apply to communications regarding the administration of the disability plan concerning subrogation shared among the plan, its fiduciaries and any attorney assisting in the administration of the plan prior to the filing of the disability claimant’s lawsuit (Eric Yost, et al. v. Anthem Life Insurance Co., No. 3:16-cv-00079, M.D. Pa., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 125967).

  • August 2, 2019

    Montana Employers Waive Right To Respond To High Court Petition On ERISA Preemption

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Montana small employers that were granted the right to proceed with state law claims against two health insurance companies after the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals found that the claims were not preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act on July 22 waived their right to respond to a petition for a writ of certiorari filed by the insurers in the U.S. Supreme Court (Caring for Montanans, Inc., et al. v. The Depot, Inc., et al., No. 19-77, U.S. Sup.).