NEW YORK — A health insurer did not waive its right to enforce anti-assignment provisions included in a number of its plans by making direct payments to a service provider, a New York federal judge said March 28 in granting the insurer’s motion for partial summary judgment (The Medical Society of the State of New York, et al. v. UnitedHealth Group Inc., et al., 16-5265, S.D. N.Y., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 53097).
NEW YORK — A New York federal magistrate judge on April 1 denied Columbia University trustees’ motion to preclude certain damages claims in a lawsuit alleging that the university breached its duty of prudence to its retirement plan participants and beneficiaries by causing its retirement plans to incur excessive administrative fees and by failing to monitor the plans’ investment options (Chandra Cates, et al. v. The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York, et al., No. 16-06524, S.D. N.Y., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55785).
ATLANTA — The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on April 3 vacated and remanded a district court’s judgment in favor of separation pay plan defendants after determining that the plan administrator failed to investigate all of the evidence related to the termination of a former employee before denying the former employee’s request for severance pay benefits (David L. Boysen v. Illinois Tool Works Inc. Separation Pay Plan, et al., No. 17-13145, 11th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 9751).
CINCINNATI — A district court erred in denying a disability claimant’s request for attorney fees because the disability insurer’s decision-making process in denying benefits was not legally supported, the majority of the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said April 1 in reversing the lower court’s ruling (Kimberly J. Guest-Marcotte v. Life Insurance Company of North America, et al., No. 18-1948, 6th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 9481).
DENVER — A disability insurer incorrectly classified a disability claimant’s employment position with a pharmaceutical company, the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said April 2 after determining that the evidence supports a district court’s conclusion that the claimant’s position qualified as a sales position under the plan, entitling the claimant to an increased amount of monthly disability benefits (Lou Hodges v. Life Insurance Company of North America, No. 18-1279, 10th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 9601).
CHICAGO — An Employee Retirement Income Security Act plaintiff asserting violations by a plan fiduciary filed an amended complaint April 3, the same day an Illinois federal judge ruled that the proposed amendments are not futile (Michael McMaken v. GreatBanc Trust Company, No. 17-4983, N.D. Ill., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56876).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A District of Columbia federal judge on March 29 ordered additional briefing on whether a woman has standing to bring any Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 claims based on a settlement agreement and, if so, whether she has standing to bring claims based on certain investment options a university offered to plan participants in its capacity as plan fiduciary (Melissa Stanley v. George Washington University, et al., No. 18-878, D. D.C.).
CHICAGO — Northwestern University Retirement Plan and the university argued to the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on March 14 that plan participants’ own allegations establish that its retirement and voluntary savings plans offered a wide range of investment options so “participants could select the options that best fit their own tolerance for risk and fee sensitivity,” refuting the plan participants’ appeal of a lower court’s dismissal of their breach of fiduciary duty lawsuit (Laura L. Divane, et al. v. Northwestern University, et al., No. 18-2569, 7th Cir.).
NEW YORK — In a March 26 corrected amended complaint filed in New York federal court, two plaintiffs argue that an “unreasonable” reliance by a retirement plan on outdated mortality rates and actuarial assumptions has resulted in a reduction in the value of their vested retirement benefits (William Masten, et al., v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, et al., No. 18-11229, S.D. N.Y.).
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 (Intel Corporation Investment Policy Committee, et al. v. Christopher Sulyma, 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).