ST. LOUIS — Beneficiary benefits under a life insurance policy and an accidental death policy were properly paid to a decedent’s domestic partner because the plan administrator’s interpretation of the term “spouse” was reasonable, the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said Sept. 3 in reversing a district court’s ruling in favor of the decedent’s mother, who claimed that the benefits should have been paid to the decedent’s estate, which she did not establish until months after the benefits were paid (Sharon Engle v. Land O’Lakes Inc., et al., No. 18-2821, 8th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 26569).
CINCINNATI — A trial court erred when it applied the meaning provided in a retirement plan for “credited service” related to an employee’s vested right to benefits in a case over the calculation of an employee’s pension amount, a Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled Aug. 22, finding that a “leased employee’s” pension benefits didn’t start accruing until he became the employee of a company that adopted the plan (Kenneth H. Miller v. Retirement Program Plan for Employees of Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC, No. 18-6314, 6th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 25070).
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A Missouri federal judge on Aug. 16 awarded class counsel more than $18 million in attorney fees and more than $2 million in costs in a suit alleging that a technology and power company breached its fiduciary duty and mismanaged 401(k) retirement plans after determining that the requested amounts are reasonable based on the proposed $55 million class action settlement and based on the fact that the suit has been pending for more than 12 years (Ronald C. Tussey, et al. v. ABB Inc., et al., No. 06-4305, W.D. Mo., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 138880).
BOSTON — The First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Sept. 3 affirmed a district court’s judgment in favor of a disability claimant after determining that the disability insurer’s denial of benefits based on the plan’s pre-existing conditions exclusion was arbitrary and capricious (John Lavery v. Restoration Hardware Long Term Disability Benefits Plan, et al,, Nos. 18-1885, 18-2027, 1st Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 26578).
GREENSBORO, N.C. — A complaint by hospital authority benefits plan participants must be dismissed as the plans are governmental plans not subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, a federal judge in North Carolina ruled Aug. 30, granting two motions to dismiss by the defendants and noting that the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has not decided under which Federal Rule of Civil Procedure governmental plan status should be resolved (Della Shore, et al. v. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority, et al., No. 18-961, M.D. N.C., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 148298).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling finding an Employee Retirement Income Security Act plan participant can avoid the three-year statute of limitations challenging the prudence of a plan’s investment strategy by claiming he never read the required disclosures “is wrong” and “threaten[s] to exacerbate the growing trend of meritless litigation against ERISA plans and plan fiduciaries,” The National Association of Manufacturers, The Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America and other groups argue in an amicus brief filed Aug. 28 in the U.S. Supreme Court (Intel Corporation Investment Policy Committee, et al. v. Christopher M. Sulyma, No. 18-1116, U.S. Sup.).
PHILADELPHIA — Allegations that Cigna Corp. and a subcontractor violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by recording administrative fees as medical expenses were dismissed with prejudice on Aug. 29 by a federal judge in Pennsylvania, as part of an $8.25 million settlement with a plaintiff class of approximately 1.5 million patients (In re: Cigna-American Specialty Health Administrative Fee Litigation, No. 16-3967, E.D. Pa.).
LOS ANGELES — Allegations that the University of Southern California (USC) breached its duty of loyalty and engaged in prohibited transactions while administering a 403(b) retirement plan were dismissed Aug. 27 by a federal judge in California (Allen L. Munro, et al. v. University of Southern California, et al., No. 16-6191, C.D. Calif.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In an Aug. 26 response brief, participants in two retirement plans tell the District of Columbia Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that their appeal of a dismissal of allegations that Georgetown University made imprudent investments was filed within 30 days of the “first order that made clear that the case was terminated” (Darrell Wilcox, et al. v. Georgetown University, et al., No. 19-7065, D.C. Cir.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Louisiana Health Service & Indemnity Co., doing business as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana (BCBSLA), filed a petition for a writ of certiorari on Aug. 14 asking the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether a federal court may expand the boundary of a state law and whether medical providers may pursue an action under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Louisiana Health Service & Indemnity Co. v. Encompass Office Solutions, Inc., No. 19-196, U.S. Sup.).
BALTIMORE — A Maryland federal judge on Aug. 16 granted preliminary approval of a $14 million settlement to be paid by The Johns Hopkins University to end claims by participants and beneficiaries of The Johns Hopkins University’s 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.).
NEW YORK — An employer seeking unpaid pension fund contributions in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act case did not bind itself to a trust agreement and the interest rate established under a delinquency policy until the employer agreed to a memorandum of agreement (MOA) modifying a collective bargaining agreement (CBA), the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held Aug. 20, vacating a lower court’s judgment and remanding for a redetermination of damages (The 32BJ North Pension Fund and its board of trustees v. Nutrition Management Services Co., Nos. 18-0857 and 18-1843, 2nd Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 24716).
ST. LOUIS — A Nebraska federal judge’s order awarding optional life insurance (OLI) benefits to the widow of a Ford employee was reversed Aug. 23 by an Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel, which found that the decedent’s automatic enrollment in the OLI benefit program was premised on a false answer to an online health history questionnaire (Silvia Sepulveda-Rodriguez v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, et al., No. 18-1760, 8th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 25319).
PHILADELPHIA — In an Aug. 21 order, two Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals judges voted to deny a request to stay their May 2019 mandate reinstating allegations that the University of Pennsylvania acted imprudently while administering a 403(b) defined contribution, individual account employee pension benefit plan (Jennifer Sweda, et al. v. University of Pennsylvania, et al., No. 17-3244, 3rd Cir.).
CHICAGO — An initial complaint filed by the trustees of a multiemployer pension plan in 2008 after employers stopped making payments for withdrawal liability accelerated the withdrawal liability and started the clock, a Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled Aug. 13, rejecting a 2018 complaint filed after payments stopped again as time-barred after determining that there is no deceleration under the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act (MPPAA) (Kenneth J. Bauwens, et al. v. Revcon Technology Group, Inc., et al., No. 18-3306, 7th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 24066).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ ruling allowing the three-year statute of limitations under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act to be avoided by demonstrating an absence of “actual knowledge” that a breach of fiduciary duty has occurred “flies in the face of the policies animating ERISA’s disclosure regime and its limitations provision,” plan fiduciaries argue in their petitioners brief filed Aug. 21 in the U.S. Supreme Court (Intel Corporation Investment Policy Committee, et al. v. Christopher M. Sulyma, No. 18-1116, U.S. Sup.).
LOS ANGELES — A California federal judge on Aug. 14 determined that claims for excessive record-keeping fees, failure to monitor and prohibited transactions alleged against defendants accused of mismanaging a company’s 401(k) retirement savings plan cannot proceed because the plaintiffs failed to provide evidence in support of the claims (Clifton Marshall, et al. v. Northrop Grumman Corp., et al., No. 16-6794, C.D. Calif.).
SAN FRANCISCO — Citing the Supreme Court decision in American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant, 570 U.S. 228 (2013), the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Aug. 20 found that its 1984 holding that claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act are not arbitrable “is no longer good law”; the same day, the court also issued a memorandum disposition compelling arbitration in the dispute (Michael Dorman, et al. v. Charles Schwab Corp., et al., No. 18-15281, 9th Cir.).
SAN FRANCISCO — The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Aug. 16 found no abuse of discretion in a decision to deny early retirement benefits to an electrician who, post-retirement, was employed as an administrator for an electrical workers’ union (John O’Rourke v. Northern California Electrical Workers Pension Plan, et al., No. 17-17419, 9th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 24454).
TRENTON, N.J. — A New Jersey federal judge on Aug. 15 denied a motion for reconsideration filed by Princeton University trustees accused of mishandling the university’s retirement plan because the trustees failed to present any new evidence warranting reconsideration of the court’s denial of Princeton’s motion to dismiss (Elysee Nicolas, et al. v. The Trustees of Princeton University, No. 17-3695, D. N.J., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 137823).