ERISA & Employee Benefits

Private Equity Fund Gains Important Victory

In Sun Capital Partners III v. New England Teamsters and Trucking Industry Pension Fund, the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled on November 22 in favor of private equity funds, thus settling a long-running dispute as to whether two Sun Capital Funds could be held liable for the withdrawal of a portfolio company from the New England Teamsters Multiemployer Pension Plan.  

Two Opinions Demonstrate Importance of Prudent Administrative Procedures and Substantive Decisions in Responding to ERISA Benefit Claims

One of the most common and important tasks for ERISA plan fiduciaries is how to appropriately respond to plan participant claims for benefits. When the decision is made to deny benefits to claimants, the importance of having in place prudent protocols and procedures is magnified, and closely following those procedures on an administrative and substantive basis could make a key difference, ...

IRS Announces 2020 Retirement Plan Limitations

The Internal Revenue Service announced cost-of-living adjustments affecting certain dollar limitations for pension plans and other retirement-related limitations for 2020, as detailed in Notice 2019-59. Please click here for a chart that details the 2019 retirement plan dollar limitation cost-of-living adjustments.

Court Rules that IRA Custodian was not a Fiduciary but did Violate MA Consumer Protection Law

In UBS Financial Services, Inc. v. Aliberti (SJC-12662), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that no fiduciary relationship existed between the commercial custodian of an individual retirement account (IRA) and a named beneficiary of that account, because the IRA was not a “trust” under either state or federal law, finding that the complaint did not adequately plead sufficient ...

DOL Issues Proposed Regulations Regarding Electronic Disclosure of Pension Plan Information

In 2002, the DOL issued a safe harbor for electronic disclosure that is available only to those participants that have electronic media at work, and those individuals who affirmatively opt in to electronic documentation. There have been calls from many quarters for the DOL to update those regulations to reflect the advances in technology since the 2002 regulations, including an August 2018 ...

Petition For Rehearing and Supporting Amicus Briefs Filed In Schwab ERISA Arbitration Case

In August of this year, a Ninth Circuit three-judge panel ruled in Dorman v. The Charles Schwab Corporation, DC No. 4:17-cv-00285-CW, 2019 WL 3939644 (9th Cir. August 20, 2019) that a plan document's arbitration provision could bar class action allegations of breach of fiduciary duty brought on behalf of the plan under ERISA §502(a)(2). ERISA §502(a)(2) authorizes the Secretary of Labor, ...

When Will a Plan Administrator's Denial of Benefits be an Abuse of Discretion - In Discrete Circumstances Says the Ninth Circuit

Almost every ERISA employee benefit plan contains so-called "Firestone language," which grants discretionary authority to determine eligibility for benefits and construe the terms of a plan. If a plan contains such language, then a plan administrator's interpretation of the plan terms is reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard, which, as discussed below, is a standard that participants ...

Supreme Court Amicus Brief Shows How High the Stakes Really are for the Future of ERISA's "Actual Knowledge" Requirement

The battle over what constitutes "actual knowledge" of an ERISA fiduciary breach or violation ratcheted up a notch with the filing of an amicus brief in Sulyma v. Intel Corporation Investment Policy Committee, on behalf of several of the largest trade associations in the retirement investment advisory and employee benefits industry. The Intel amicus brief, filed on behalf of large trade ...

Multiple Employer Pension Plan Update

On October 22, 2018, the DOL issued a proposed regulation in response to the August 31, 2018, Executive Order by President Trump to remove regulatory burdens faced by defined contribution multiple employer pension plans ("MEPs"). On July 31, 2019, final DOL regulations on the definition of "Employer" were published in the Federal Register. While there are several possible types of MEPs, the DOL ...

One-Two Punch to Defuse Severance and Other Benefit Disputes

On September 4, 2019, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in Bangaru v. Shell U.S. Hosting Company et al, 4:17-cv-00629 (S.D. Tx.), shut the door on a former Shell executive who sought $1.5 million of severance based on his interpretation of the severance laws of his home country (India). The Court described the plaintiff's arguments as confusing and granted summary judgment to Shell. Shell ...