The Fifth Circuit becomes the first federal court of appeals to recognize a remedy for a plan's failure to notify a COBRA participant of the termination of a health-care plan under 29 U.S.C. § 1166(a)(4): award of a civil penalty under 29 U.S.C. §§ 1132(a)(1)(A) and 1132(c)(1).
The U.S. Supreme Court held in CIGNA Corp. v. Amara, 563 U.S. 421 (2011), that a summary plan description (SPD) is not enforceable as a plan document. The Sixth Circuit holds, though, that a court has equitable power to order a benefit plan reformed to agree with the language of the SPD, and that it is not necessary to find fraud by the employer to do so.
On June 9, the long-awaited revised "fiduciary rule" from the U.S. Department of Labor ("DOL") went into partial effect and will be in full force as of January 1, 2018. After nearly a decade, and much political wrangling, the updated rule ushers in sweeping changes regarding the duties and responsibilities financial advisors and others owe their clients.
It's no secret that one of the ways companies try to cut costs is through layoffs. Another method, which can be just as disruptive to employees, is by reducing pensions and other benefits earned while working for the employer. From well-known companies to state governments, retirement benefits seem to be a favorite target, and provisions in President Trump's proposed budget are also raising fears that retired federal employees would see their benefits shrink drastically over time.
An employer that deliberately, or with gross negligence, misinforms employees about potential retirement benefits - inducing them to remain with the company - may find itself on the hook to compensate those employees for lost opportunities. In this case, the Sixth Circuit affirms an ERISA judgment against a manufacturer and its retirement plan for equitable estoppel, breach of fiduciary duty, and an anti-cutback violation of ERISA.
Here are two employment cases about second-chances. A plan participant who filed an ERISA claim too late under a contractual limitations period is rescued by a decision that the plan violated its duty by not telling the participant about the shortened deadline. The EEOC wins a second opportunity to advance claims on behalf of a class of female victims of harassment, in the wake of Mach Mining, LLC v. EEOC, 135 S. Ct. 1645 (2015).
The end of the year often brings a haul of decisions, when the courts of appeal clear their dockets for year's-end. Here's a short, to-the-point decision, reversing summary judgment on an ADEA and ERISA case where the district court judge misapprehended a controlling Supreme Court decision.
The Supreme Court - presented with a simple question about ERISA's fiduciary-duty statute of limitations (29 U. S. C. § 1113) - lays the foundation for a potential new round of litigation about how strictly and often plan fiduciaries must monitor the performance of their retirement investment plans. The Court, without dissent, agrees that There is no set-it-and-forget-it rule for fiduciaries.
While ERISA does not provide a limitations period for most claims, it does impose a three-year limitations period after discovery of a breach of fiduciary duty, plus a six-year period of repose. Yet the statute also provides that "in the case of fraud or concealment, such action may be commenced not later than six years after the date of discovery of such breach or violation." The Tenth Circuit examined this quoted language today, and remanded parts of a class action to be reconsidered under this provision.
This class action, now over 13 years old - with a liability finding against CIGNA and its pension plan under ERISA for cutting back and misrepresenting benefits under an amended plan - returns from the U.S. Supreme Court to determine what kind of relief should be ordered. The Second Circuit affirms, holding that the district court properly reformed the pension plan to preserve all of the benefits earned under the pre-amended plan, up to the date of the amendment. The court also upholds the class certification order.