WASHINGTON, D.C. — An Arizona Indian tribe sued Department of Labor (DOL) officials May 27 in District of Columbia federal court over $140,000 in fines assessed by the agency for alleged reporting irregularities for the tribe’s Employee Retirement Income Security Act 401(k) plan (White Mountain Apache Tribe v. Eugene Scalia, et al., No. 1:20-cv-01409, D. D.C.).
BOSTON — Plan participants to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) retirement plan accepted a lower award of $5.25 million in requested attorney fees in their $18.1 million settlement with the university, according to a Massachusetts federal judge’s May 26 docket entry (David B. Tracey, et al. v. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, et al., No. 16-11620, D. Mass.).
PHILADELPHIA — A Pennsylvania federal judge on May 27 determined that a retirement plan administrator’s counterclaims for contribution and indemnification in a dispute over the alleged fraudulent withdrawal of funds from a law firm’s retirement savings plan can proceed because the plan administrator sufficiently alleged that the plaintiffs are fiduciaries of the plan and that the plaintiffs allegedly breached those duties (Jess Leventhal, et al. v. The MandMarblestone Group LLC, et al., No. 18-2727, E.D. Pa., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 92059).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A California law firm filed a May 18 opposition brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to decide against hearing a case on whether the Employee Retirement Income Security Act preempts state law claims over the law firm’s alleged role in improper payments between a labor union and a benefit plan (Michael McCarron v. DeCarlo & Shanley P.C., No. 19-1144, U.S. Sup.).
ST. LOUIS — The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on May 22 agreed with a Missouri federal judge that allegations that 403(b) retirement plan fiduciaries ignored persistently underperforming investment options fail in view of the plaintiffs’ inability to identify a meaningful benchmark (Latasha Davis, et al. v. Washington University in St. Louis, et al., No. 18-3345, 8th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 16392).
NEW YORK — A New York federal judge on May 20 ordered the parties in a breach of fiduciary lawsuit filed by participants of Cornell University’s retirement plans to discuss the possibility of waiving a trial by jury, the possibility of consenting to trial before a magistrate judge and the possibility of settling the dispute because priority will be given to criminal cases with detained defendants once trials resume after the novel coronavirus pandemic stay-at-home order is lifted (Casey Cunningham, et al. v. Cornell University, et al., No. 16-6525, S.D. N.Y.).
DENVER — In 136-page May 20 findings of fact and conclusions of law, a federal judge in Colorado sided with a plaintiff class on allegations that their employer charged excessive record-keeping fees, failed to monitor fiduciaries and engaged in prohibited transactions when it reimbursed some of its own expenses from 401(k) plan assets, causing $2.3 million in damages (Lorraine M. Ramos v. Banner Health, No. 15-cv-2556, D. Colo., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 88639).
DENVER — The 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on May 19 affirmed a lower court’s determination that an Employee Retirement Income and Security plan administrator could rely on a “non-traditional medical services” exclusion to block benefits to a Utah woman for acting as a surrogate mother (Wendy Moon v. Tall Tree Administrators, LLC, et al., No. 18-4034, 10th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 15936).
NEW ORLEANS — The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on May 18 affirmed a lower court’s summary judgment finding that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act savings plan of a man who died without naming a beneficiary required that his benefits go to his widow and not to his children (Kinder Morgan, Inc. v. Joanne Crout et al., No. 19-20037, 5th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 15931).
SALT LAKE CITY — Plaintiffs may continue pursuing Employee Retirement Income Security Act claims seeking benefits for residential mental health treatments but have not adequately alleged that the insurer treated mental health claims different than surgical or traditional medical claims, a federal judge in Utah said in dismissing a Parity Act claim on May 19 (E.W., et al. v. Health Net Life Insurance Co., et al., No. 19-499, D. Utah, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 88127).
OKLAHOMA CITY — If an injunction is not entered blocking enforcement of an Oklahoma law regulating pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), “significant changes will need to be made in the structure, administration, and finances of employee benefit plans, and the administration and costs of prescription drug benefits will be adversely affected,” Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. and the State Chamber of Oklahoma warn in a May 15 joint amicus curiae brief, attached as an exhibit to a motion for leave to file (Pharmaceutical Care Management Association v. Glen Mulready, et al., No. 19-977, W.D. Okla.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A health plan administrator argues in a May 15 opposition brief to the U.S. Supreme Court that a recent denial of an attorney fees award by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to a plan participant who, in an earlier appeal, won a procedural victory, did not create confusion courts among courts handling cases under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Ariana M. v. Humana Health Plan of Texas, Inc., No. 19-980, U.S. Sup.).
NEW ORLEANS —The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled May 14 that an issue of fact should have precluded summary judgment to Humana Health Plan Inc. in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act dispute over the insurer’s partial denial of coverage to a woman who sought hospitalization to treat an eating disorder (Katherine P. v. Humana Health Plan, Inc., No. 19-50276, 5th Cir.; 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 15465).
OKLAHOMA CITY — In a May 13 memorandum in support of its motion for preliminary injunctive relief, a national trade association tells an Oklahoma federal judge that pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) will be irreparably harmed if a state law regulating the administration of pharmacy benefits is enforced and that that harm will only be “exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis” (Pharmaceutical Care Management Association v. Glen Mulready, et al., No. 19-977, W.D. Okla.).
COLUMBIA, S.C. — In a May 15 brief filed in South Carolina federal court, a class member involved in a deferred compensation suit filed by a former Wells Fargo & Co. executive objected in to a proposed $79 million settlement on the basis that the proposed settlement violates a settlement order in a similar suit (Robert Berry, et al. v. Wells Fargo & Co., et al., No. 17-304, D. S.C.).
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Plan participants who accuse their Employment Retirement Income Security Act administrator of breach of fiduciary duty over an alleged $47 million mismanagement can pursue their federal court action without having exhausted the plan’s administrative remedies, a federal judge in Alabama ruled May 12 (Gloria Ferguson, et al. v. BBVA Compass Bancshares, Inc., et al., No. 19-cv-01135-MHH, N.D. Ala., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82959).
DENVER — The 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on May 13 reversed and remanded a district court’s ruling in favor of a disability claimant after determining that an abuse-of-discretion standard of review applies because the law of Pennsylvania and not the law of Colorado, which bans discretionary authority provisions, applies (Michael D. Ellis v. Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston, No. 19-1074, 10th Cir.).
CHICAGO — The Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on May 11 refused to reconsider its ruling affirming the dismissal of retirement plan participants’ amended complaint alleging fiduciary breach allegations against Northwestern University under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Laura L. Divane, et al. v. Northwestern University, et al., No. 18-2569, 7th Cir.).
SEATTLE — The Employee Retirement and Income Security Act does not preempt a Seattle city ordinance that requires large hotels to spend certain amounts toward health coverage for their employees, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington ruled May 8 (The ERISA Industry Committee v. Seattle, No. 18-1188, W.D. Wash., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 81750).
FORT WORTH, Texas — A Texas federal judge on May 8 ordered parties in a dispute over the management of American Airlines Inc.’s retirement plans to submit supplemental briefing on the issue of the use of an outdated mortality table after determining that the parties failed to include any citations to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act’s provisions and regulations (Olga Martinez Torres, et al. v. American Airlines, Inc., et al., No. 18-983, N.D. Texas).