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Stephen has chaired the ERISA and insurance coverage/bad faith litigation practices at two Boston firms, and has practiced extensively in commercial litigation for nearly 30 years. As head of the Wagner Law Group's ERISA litigation practice, he represents plan sponsors, plan fiduciaries, financial advisors, plan participants, company executives, third-party administrators, employers and others in a broad range of ERISA disputes, including breach of fiduciary duty, denial of benefit, Employee Stock Ownership Plan and deferred compensation matters.

So the Supreme Court, for the second time, has now taken a pass on ruling on whether ERISA plans can contain forum selection clauses. As this article notes, a number of courts have enforced forum selection clauses in ERISA-governed plans, essentially treating them the same in that context as they would be treated in an action involving a typical private contract, where parties are generally free to select a forum for their disputes.

Continue Reading Are Forum Selection Clauses Valid Under ERISA?

Several years ago, when the first of the class actions were filed alleging that medical institutions were improperly claiming church plan status under ERISA, I was speaking on a panel at one of the American Conference Institute’s ERISA Litigation conferences, where I found myself eating lunch with two of the lead lawyers on those class action cases. I raised for them – and someone else would eventually ask the same question during their presentation on the church plan class actions – the question of damages. In particular, I wondered what they would ask for, and whether the defendants could afford it. I assumed that part of the relief would be to have the plans made compliant with the full panoply of ERISA’s procedural, notice, plan communication, claims processing, funding and other requirements. But that, I noted, was the easy part; it would only require the defendants to essentially hire really good ERISA lawyers and administrators and fix the plans. But what about the money? Could the defendants fund the massive shortfalls that the plaintiffs were claiming existed in the plans?

Continue Reading The Church Plan Cases at the Supreme Court: A Billion Here, A Billion There and Soon You Are Talking Real Money

2016 was the year that church plans went to the Supreme Court, excessive fee claims came to elite universities and the Department of Labor’s authority to alter its regulation of fiduciary conduct was challenged in multiple courts. Of course, stock drop litigation, excessive fee cases, and other assaults on the make up of 401(k) plans continued apace, even if they yielded the spotlight to flashier, more novel types of cases.

Continue Reading The Year in Review: Looking Back at ERISA Litigation In 2016

So this is interesting, from a couple of perspectives. The First Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a fairly comprehensive opinion addressing a number of issues in insurance coverage law in Massachusetts. The facts are a little salacious, and read more like a John Grisham plot than real life, but unfortunately, odd facts often underlie

I had fun speaking on ERISA litigation remedies with Eric Serron of Steptoe and Joe Barton of Cohen Milstein this past Thursday at the American Conference Institute’s 13th National Forum on ERISA Litigation. Since Eric’s exclusively a defense lawyer and Joe’s exclusively a plaintiff’s lawyer, Michael Prame of Groom Law Group, when introducing the

Wow, this is fascinating. The “this” in question is an interesting little twist in litigation over an attorney fee award to plaintiff’s counsel in the long running ERISA litigation, Frommert v. Conkright. Attorney fee awards in ERISA litigation are a fascinating sub-issue in and of itself, for a number of reasons. First, it is

There is an old political saying that where you stand depends on where you sit, which, roughly translated, means that people tend to assert positions that are beneficial to their own organizations and employers, rather than based upon a consideration of broader issues. The author of the maxim, Rufus Miles, thinks the idea goes