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).
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.).
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).
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.).
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.).
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.).
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).
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).
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.).
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.).
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).
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.).