Dying is easy, comedy is hard? No, ERISA is hard. I tell people all the time that there is almost no such thing as a simple answer to an ERISA related question, or at least no such thing as a straightforward answer. There are entire chapters in ERISA treatises dedicated to the seemingly, but actually not, question of the proper manner in which to request plan documents so as to invoke the statutory obligations, upon financial penalty, imposed on administrators to produce them. Or take the question of equitable relief in a cause of action brought under ERISA; in almost every other area of the law, we all know what equitable relief is, but in ERISA, we have to engage in a historical inquiry into the development of the law of remedies to know if a particular claim is equitable or not.
Now when you add in on top the fact that ERISA and its imposition of fiduciary obligations is beginning to supplant securities litigation theories as a method for suing corporations and investment banks for subprime, stock drop and other investment losses, as discussed here for instance, you can see just how complicated the topic becomes, as well as how potentially dangerous for fiduciaries and plan sponsors are the issues raised by ERISA. And of course, that’s what makes practicing in this area fun for those of us who handle these types of cases. But it also makes thorough and timely analysis of litigation risks and exposures crucially important, and what looks to be a promising new internet based research tool to help with this is now available. Pension Litigation Data is now up and running on line, and is meant to be a tool that will allow up to the minute research into the numerous pension related lawsuits pending in United States courts. The subscriber based site “debuts with over 1,500 retirement plan legal actions, each classified by nearly 100 fields, including court circuit, type of allegation, plaintiff, defendant and date [and provides a] continuously updated and searchable database” on the subject. A joint venture of a couple of companies, including fellow blogger Susan Mangiero of Pension Governance LLC, I think it looks promising, and you may want to take a look.