Our National ERISA Litigation Team of experienced and capable litigators work closely with our firm-wide Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation, ERISA Financial Services, Investment Management, Securities and Corporate Governance, Litigation, Labor and Employment and Insurance practices. We defend claims against employers that sponsor ERISA-governed employee benefits, welfare and retirement plans, as well as the plans, plan fiduciaries and insurers. Our experience includes defense of claims, audits and investigations brought by the U.S. Department of Labor, the IRS and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
Our attorneys across the United States have handled the full spectrum of ERISA litigation. Those cases have included class actions involving thousands of class members, multiemployer pension plan withdrawal liability claims, breach of fiduciary duty and prohibited transaction claims, actions involving 401(k) and other retirement plans, actions involving employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), disputes involving executive compensation and non-qualified deferred compensation plans and actions against benefit plans and sponsors, fiduciaries and service providers, in both state and federal court.
We have represented clients in a wide variety of ERISA-based actions, including government and participant claims in connection with valuation and investments in company stock, selection of real estate investments and oversight of investment managers, investment advisors, third-party administrators and actuaries.
We have defended plan sponsors, corporate directors and officers and ERISA fiduciaries in some of the highest profile lawsuits, U.S. Department of Labor investigations and Internal Revenue Service audits involving ESOPs, and we have deep experience with issues unique to ESOP transactions and administration.
We pride ourselves in keeping informed on developments relating to our ERISA Litigation practice. Each year, Drinker Biddle attorneys from our ERISA Litigation Team and other practice groups speak at bar association, industry and trade association conferences, present CLEs, webinars, and a well-regarded ERISA Insurance Symposium attended by in-house counsel of insurance companies, recordkeepers, brokerage firms, fiduciaries and service providers from across the country.
Our team also advises clients on plan administration and regulatory compliance issues to minimize the risk of litigation. We assist ERISA and ESOP plan sponsors with the documentation of plan terms, appointment and oversight of plan administrators and service providers, participant disclosures and processes for claims review and appeal. We advise clients in the process of voluntary corrections under U.S. Department of Labor and IRS programs. We also advise clients regarding application of eligibility provisions to independent contractors and other contingent worker and plan loan and COBRA procedures. We work with clients to better enable them, their plans and fiduciaries, to address participant claims and concerns and help minimize exposure to litigation.
Recent representative cases:
- Pinney v. AEGON Companies Pension Plan (N.D. Iowa 2016) (defended against a class action complaint under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) in the Northern District of California, and succeeded in having the case transferred to Iowa, based on the plan’s forum selection clause. On cross motions for judgment, the Iowa court ruled that the plaintiff (and therefore the putative class) were not entitled to benefits and that the claim was also time-barred)
- Ramos v. Banner Health (D. Colo. 2015) (defending Banner Health and its present and former directors and alleged ERISA fiduciaries in a class action brought by participants of a 401(k) plan with more than 33,000 participants and $2 billion in assets, alleging breach of fiduciary duty under ERISA in the selection and monitoring of investment options for the Plan, and in connection with fees paid and revenue sharing)
- Fish v. GreatBanc Trust Company (N.D. Ill. 2015) (defended the largest national institutional ESOP trust company in an action brought by participants of an ESOP alleging that the ESOP Trustee breached its fiduciary duty under ERISA in connection with a $100 million stock transaction)
- Allen v. GreatBanc Trust Company (N.D. Ill. 2015) (won dismissal of all claims against the largest national institutional ESOP trust company in a lawsuit filed by participants of an ESOP alleging that the ESOP Trustee breached its fiduciary duty under section 404 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and caused the ESOP to engage in a prohibited transaction under ERISA Section 406)
- Life Investors v. Corrado (8th Cir. 2015) (enforced agreement for payment of debt owed by insurance agents plus pre-judgment and post-judgment interest on the debt)
- Smith v. AEGON Companies Pension Plan (6th Cir. 2014) (enforced plan’s forum selection clause and won dismissal of participant’s action for benefits)
- Freight Drivers & Helpers Local Union No. 557 Pension Fund v. Penske Logistics (arbitration) (won dismissal of pension fund’s attempts to impose multimillion-dollar withdrawal liabilities)
- Secretary of U.S. Department of Labor v. GreatBanc Trust Company (CD Cal. 2012) (defended suit by Secretary of Labor alleging prohibited transactions and breaches of fiduciary duties with respect to stock valuation in ESOP transaction)
- Corrado v. Life Investors Owners Participation Plan and Trust (D. Md. 2011) (summary judgment granted in plan’s and fiduciaries’ favor in suit by beneficiaries for alleged fiduciary breaches and prohibited transaction with respect to transfer of plan assets)