BOSTON — A disability plan did not act arbitrarily and capriciously in denying a claim for long-term disability (LTD) benefits because the plan’s decision to deny the claim after determining that the claimant was not physically disabled from performing the duties of his sedentary occupation was reasonable and supported by the evidence, the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said March 29 (Dionisio Santana-Díaz v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., No. 17-1428, 1st Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 9368).
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A state-mandated auto-enrollment retirement savings program is not an employee benefit plan and, therefore, is not preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, a California federal judge said March 29 in granting the retirement program’s motion to dismiss a complaint seeking an injunction to stop the spending of taxpayers’ funds on the state-mandated retirement program (Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, et al. v. The California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program, et al., No. 18-1584, E.D. Calif., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54657).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Association of Manufacturers, The American Benefits Council, The ERISA Industry Committee and The American Retirement Association on March 28 filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Intel Corp. requesting immediate review by the U.S. Supreme Court of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ ruling that reversed the entry of summary judgment in a case filed by a former employee and participant in its retirement plans over allegations that it invested retirement funds in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Christopher Sulyma, et al. v. Intel Corporation Investment Policy Committee, et al., No. 18-1116, U.S. Sup.).
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — In a Missouri federal court dispute against a technology and power company over the alleged breach of fiduciary and mismanagement of 401(k) retirement plans, the parties on March 28 filed a joint motion for preliminary approval of a $55 million class action settlement (Ronald C. Tussey, et al. v. ABB Inc., et al., No. 06-4305, W.D. Mo.).
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — An Indiana federal judge on March 27 denied a pension plan’s motion to dismiss a class action complaint alleging that the plan was improperly maintained as a “church plan” under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act after determining that the plaintiffs sufficiently alleged an injury-in-fact to support their claims against the plan (Lorraine Cappello, et al. v. Franciscan Alliance, Inc., et al., No. 16-290, N.D. Ind., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51528).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) rule expanding the availability of association health plans “does violence” to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by exploding the definition of an employer, a federal judge in the District of Columbia said March 28 (New York, et al. v. U.S. Department of Labor, et al., No. 18-1747, D. D.C.).
PASADENA, Calif. — The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on March 25 affirmed a federal court’s refusal to vacate an arbitration award in a dispute between pension trust funds arising from a reciprocal agreement (Marvin Kropke, et al. v. Andy Dunbar, et al., Nos. 17-56479 and 17-56793, 9th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 8763).
CINCINNATI — The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on March 25 denied a petition for rehearing en banc, leaving in place a Jan. 29 opinion in which a split panel held that American Family Insurance Co. and its affiliates properly classified their agents as independent contractors (Walid Jammal, et al. v. American Family Insurance Company, et al., No. 17-4125, 6th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 8994).
DENVER — A district court properly found that a fund operator accused of violating the Employee Retirement Income Security Act is not a fiduciary with respect to a portfolio fund, the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said March 27 in affirming the district court’s ruling (John Teets v. Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Company, No. 18-1019, 10th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 9090).
CINCINNATI — In a lawsuit seeking recovery of withdrawal liability from a terminated collective bargaining agreement, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on March 21 affirmed a $3.2 million judgment in favor of trustees for a pension fund on the basis that a company was the alter ego of another that went bankrupt (Trustees of Operating Engineers Local 324 Pension Fund v. Bourdow Contracting Inc., No. 18-1491, 6th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 8494).
PASADENA, Calif. — An ex-wife has no standing under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act to sue her ex-husband for breach of fiduciary duty after she discovered a pension plan she alleged was not disclosed during the dissolution of their marriage, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled March 20 in an unpublished memorandum (Sujata Vyas, Dr. v. Bhaskar Vyas, et al., No. 17-56632, 9th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 8288).
RICHMOND, Va.— The Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on March 21 determined that a district court did not err in finding that the independent trustee of an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) engaged in a prohibited transaction in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and affirmed the almost $30 million judgment entered against the trustee (Tim P. Brundle, et al. v. Wilmington Trust N.A., Nos. 17-1873[L], 17-2224, 17-2323, 17-2324 and 18-1029, 4th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 8504).
ST. LOUIS — The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on March 21 reversed and remanded a lower federal court’s amended opinion granting a motion for preliminary injunction filed by a class of retirees seeking to stop the termination of their health care benefits, finding that the benefits are not vested as a matter of law (Augustine Pacheco, et al. v. Honeywell International Inc., Nos. 18-1006 and 18-1294, 8th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 8508).
NEW YORK — A New York federal judge on March 15 converted two defendants’ motions to dismiss into motions for summary judgment and ordered the parties to engage in limited discovery regarding whether mortgages included in an investment trust qualify as pension plan assets and whether the servicer of the mortgages qualifies as a fiduciary under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Ronald E. Powell, et al. v. Ocwen Financial Corp., et al., No. 1:18-cv-01951, S.D. N.Y., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42784).
CINCINNATI — The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on March 19 found that a lower federal court erred in dismissing a complaint against a life insurer seeking benefits under the Employee Retiree Income Security Act, finding that the plan participant successfully changed her beneficiary to the plaintiff under the plan’s requirements (James E. Guinn v. General Motors, LLC, et al., No.18-3522, 6th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 8062).
ST. LOUIS — A trial court properly found that Mercy Health’s employee pension plan is a church plan and exempt from the Employee Retirement Income Security Act because Mercy and its Benefits Committee are “associated with” the Roman Catholic Church and “substantially all” of the plan participants are employees of the church, Mercy Health and its related entities argue in a March 18 appellee brief filed in the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals (Sally Sanzone, et al. v. Mercy Health, et al., No. 18-3574, 8th Cir.).
NEW ORLEANS — A Texas federal judge did not abuse her discretion in finding, following a bench trial, that Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Louisiana (BCBSLA) violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act when it arbitrarily denied claims for covered services submitted by a company that facilitates in-office surgical procedures, a divided Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled March 19 (Encompass Office Solutions Inc. v. Louisiana Health Service & Indemnity Company, d/b/a Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Louisiana, 17-10736, 5th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 8165).
NEW YORK — The Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on March 18 issued a one-page order denying a petition for panel rehearing or, in the alternative, for rehearing en banc filed by Halliburton Inc. employees who claim that they were improperly denied early retirement benefits (Kathy Joy Kirkendall, et al. v. Halliburton, Inc., et al., No. 17-3487, 2nd Cir.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a Feb. 27 information letter, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Employee Benefits Security Administration clarified that under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, an ERISA-governed plan should direct all information regarding a claimant’s benefits to the authorized representative if a claimant “clearly designates an authorized representative to act and receive notices on his or her behalf with respect to a claim.”
ST. LOUIS — Washington University in St. Louis and the Washington University in St. Louis Board of Trustees (Wash U, collectively) tell the Eighth Circuit U.S Court of Appeals in a brief filed March 15 that it should affirm a federal judge in Missouri’s ruling dismissing a suit brought by plan participants accusing them of violating the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, explaining that the judge properly found that the plaintiffs failed to successfully allege that the defendants breached their fiduciary duties when managing a retirement plan (Latasha Davis, et al. v. Washington University in St. Louis, et al., No. 18-3345, 8th Cir.).