The Supreme Court, Abatie and Conflicts of Interest

I have written extensively before - including both here and here -about Abatie v. Alta Health, the Ninth Circuit’s relatively recent decision revising that circuit’s approach to structural conflicts of interest and the effect such conflicts should have on the standard of review in denial of benefit cases. The Ninth Circuit’s new rule, I noted, placed it in conflict with the position of other circuits on the same issue, most notably, for purposes of this blog, the First Circuit, whose approach is really diametrically opposed to that of the Ninth Circuit on this issue.

The internet is abuzz today with the story of the Supreme Court remanding a denied benefits case back to the Ninth Circuit for further consideration in light of the intervening decision from that circuit in Abatie. SCOTUS blog, really the gold standard in Supreme Court coverage, has the story here, as well as links here to the petition for certiorari filed by the administrator/insurer and here to the Supreme Court order remanding the case for further consideration.

What is perhaps more interesting, to me anyway, is the unknown future of the remanded case in light of that remand. I have written before that Abatie itself reads as though it was written in the hope of becoming the vehicle for the Supreme Court to return to the issue of standards of review and the effect of conflicts of interest on the arbitrary and capricious standard of review. Can we look forward to seeing the newly remanded decision back up to the Supreme Court later, after further consideration by the Ninth Circuit of it in light of the principles enunciated in Abatie, as the vehicle for that inquiry?

On a side note, by the way, the petition for certiorari is itself a terrific review of the split among the circuits on the issues noted above.