The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) requires plan fiduciaries to act prudently and loyally when making decisions about the plan. In Martin v. CareerBuilder, LLC, a federal district court held that the complaint’s allegations about expensive recordkeeping costs and imprudent investment options failed to give rise to an inference that the defendants violated their ERISA obligations.
In recognition of the difficulties faced by retirement plan sponsors, participants and beneficiaries due to the COVID-19 pandemic, new guidance extends the deadlines for notices and disclosures required by Title I of ERISA and extends deadlines for retirement plan participants and beneficiaries to submit benefit claims and benefit appeals. The new guidance also provides some welcome fiduciary relief for electronic disclosures, incomplete plan loan or distribution documentation, as well as delayed participant contributions and loan repayments.
The US Supreme Court handed workers a big win by preserving a six-year deadline to file ERISA class actions as the standard, but employers have already seized on language in Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion as a road map for how to impose a shorter deadline.
Justice Alito ended the unanimous opinion—which affirmed the Ninth Circuit’s ruling that ERISA grants workers six years to sue except under special circumstances—by listing several tactics employers can use to invoke a three-year statute of limitations.
McDermott’s Richard Pearl contributes to a Law360 article discussing the decision, including how employers should respond.
Originally published on Law360, February 2020
See Richard Pearl’s January 2019 On the Subject on this case: Ninth Circuit Clarifies ‘Actual Knowledge’ for ERISA’s Statute of Limitations
One of the big questions for the employee ownership field is, why has the number of US employee-owned firms failed to grow significantly over the last couple of decades?
An upcoming paper from Fifty by Fifty proposes that the barrier to growth is a lack of agency. Employees don’t have the knowledge, skills or capital to pursue a buyout of their employer; and employers, knowing little about the benefits of selling to employees, are more likely to respond to an opportunity that knocks on their door, such as an offer from a private equity firm or a strategic buyer. McDermott’s Ted Becker and Erin Turley share their thoughts on the guidelines in a recent article published on Medium.
Originally published on Fifty by Fifty, January 29, 2020
In a relatively slow year for benefits rulings, multimillion-dollar settlements were the star of the show. And amid the slew of settlements this year, two court rulings stood out.
McDermott’s Richard J. Pearl contributes to a Law360 article that breaks down the Ninth Circuit ruling allowing benefit plan managers to force fiduciary-breach suits into solo arbitration and the Tenth Circuit holding that insurers who determine workers’ profits from 401(k) investments aren’t fiduciaries.
Originally published by Law360, December 2019
The Ninth Circuit signaled that it might rehear Dorman v. The Charles Schwab Corp., where earlier this year it held that a mandatory arbitration provision required arbitration of an ERISA fiduciary-breach claim.
A US Supreme Court case pitting pensioners against US Bank could have a wide-ranging impact on who can bring suit under ERISA, whether they participate in a defined benefit pension plan or a 401(k) plan.
Recently, on Law360, McDermott’s Richard J. Pearl weighed in on the impact of Thole v. US Bank, one of three ERISA cases that the US Supreme Court will decide this term. The case, discussed in greater detail in our On the Subject, will address whether defined benefit pension plan participants have standing to bring suit under ERISA if their plan is fully funded.
Although the case focuses on participants’ ability to bring suit on behalf of defined benefit pension plans, according to Pearl, the case seems to ask the high court to answer a question that often crops up in defined contribution plan litigation, as well: Whose injury matters, the plan’s or the person’s? As a result, the court’s decision could impact not only litigation involving defined benefit pension plans, but also defined contribution plans, where case law is still being developed around what gives a participant grounds to sue on behalf of a plan.
Federal Court Certifies Class in Multiple-Plan ERISA Challenge to Health-Plan and Retirement-Plan Fees
A Texas federal court certified a class in case brought by participants in one plan, and allowed those participants to represent participants in unaffiliated plans. The claims alleged that the defendants, who marketed and provided services to all of the plans, breached fiduciary duties by imposing excessive fees. See Chavez, et al. v. Plan Benefits Services, Inc., et al., No. AU-17-CA-00659-SS, United States District Court for Western District of Texas (Aug. 30, 2019).
In Lee v. Argent Trust Co., the court dismissed ERISA claims challenging an ESOP stock transaction because the plaintiff, who “fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the” ESOP transaction, did not allege that she suffered any injury. This decision is important to educate other courts about economics, particularly in cases where plaintiffs rely on little more than the post-transaction valuation as evidence of supposed overvaluation.
The 2019 ESOP National Conference, an annual gathering for employee owners from all levels, association volunteer leaders and expert professionals, took place May 22–24. Two McDermott partners, Theodore (Ted) M. Becker and Erin Turley, presented three sessions during the conference, the slides of which are available for download on the conference website. See descriptions of the presentations below: (more…)