The Long Term Impact of Conflicted Decision Making in ERISA Litigation

I have talked elsewhere, including here and here, about the extent to which market forces can be expected to protect against conflicted decision makers in ERISA benefits litigation, and my preference for the position of courts such as the First Circuit, who recognize the central role such forces should play in devising the appropriate legal regime that should govern this situation and these types of cases. Many, obviously, do not agree, and believe that the long term marketplace effect of bad conduct can’t possibly have enough effect to deter bad actors, and it appears that the judges of the Ninth Circuit agree with this line of thinking. To those, I raise the question of whether being entirely thrown out of the market because of long term misconduct in handling employee benefit claims, as this article discusses, would be enough evidence that the market will punish the bad and reward the good, at least over time. It would, at a minimum, be ironic if the largest state in the Ninth Circuit proceeded in the manner discussed in the article and provided graphic evidence of a marketplace punishment for misconduct of this type, on the heels of the Ninth Circuit itself finding that something else is instead needed to deter such conduct.

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