Apples and Oranges: Litigation Costs and QDROs in the Same Post

A couple of different things from my desk today that are worth passing on.

First, for those of you interested - as I am and have often discussed in these electronic pages - in the need to balance effective litigation tactics with the costs of litigation, particularly given discovery and e-discovery issues, I pass along this article here, which I truly enjoyed. In many ways, it mirrors what I said in my own article on the subject, which you can find here.

Second, the Supreme Court delved back into the ERISA world yesterday with an argument on what, from a practical perspective, is a particularly vexing problem that bedevils plan administrators: namely, who is entitled to plan proceeds when a plan participant has divorced and thereafter a dispute arises as to who should rightly get plan proceeds after the parties thought they had negotiated resolution of the issue as part of the divorce proceedings? The prototypical circumstance, which seems straight out of television but actually happens all the time, is the death of a plan participant who changed the beneficiary, post- divorce, to a new boy or girlfriend, in ways that contradict the agreed division of property made as part of the divorce. For those of you interested in this question, here is a terrific article on the details of the particular case before the Court, and here is the Workplace Prof’s analysis of the argument yesterday before the Court. My own general sense of the case is that it really revolves around the question of whether ERISA’s QDRO provisions, which are directed at this issue, are to be strictly construed and treated as the only manner in which payments in accordance with the plan’s express terms and the operative beneficiary designation can be avoided, or whether, instead, the issue can be handled in a more loosey-goosey fashion that, even if the QDRO provisions aren’t technically satisfied, effectuates the apparent intent of the divorcing parties. Me, I am betting the Court's opinion ends up at the former.