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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.

Lawyers who, like me, litigate ESOP cases often end up with a skewed view of ESOPs, if we aren’t careful. There is sort of a selection bias at play, in that we typically see the ESOPs where something has gone wrong, or is at least claimed to have gone wrong. I have had plenty of

I recently visited Monticello, a place, being a history buff, I had always meant to tour; suffice it to say, it did not disappoint. Among other things, it was an interesting reminder of an oft-forgotten point, namely that for many years, the American “frontier,” for all intents and purposes, is what is now modern

Here’s an interesting question – what is the territorial reach of claims against insurers alleging violations of Massachusetts’ insurance claims handling statute, Chapter 176D, and seeking recovery for such violations under Massachusetts’ consumer protection statute, Chapter 93A? Massachusetts’ well-regarded Business Litigation department gave the statutes a broad territorial reach, finding that they apply to an

I have returned to blogging after stepping away for awhile from regular posting for a number of reasons ; foremost among them, however, is wanting to talk regularly about the continuing evolution in this area of the law toward a more even playing field for both employees and employers, and away from the many structural

I was being interviewed by a reporter the other day and casually noted that I keep my twitter open on my computer all day for no other reason than to follow Bloomberg BNA’s nearly instantaneous reporting of important new court decisions in the ERISA field. True to form, this morning I came into work to an article on, and a copy of the decision by, the Second Circuit yesterday in the long running pension class action case, Osberg v. Foot Locker, which concerns a claim for reformation of a pension plan to provide employees with the benefits they believed were promised in plan communications, rather than those actually provided under the plan’s express terms themselves. You can find the Bloomberg BNA article on it here, and the decision itself here.

Continue Reading Reflections on the Second Circuit’s Decision in Osberg v. Foot Locker

Is there a more hyped sporting event with less substance than the NFL Draft? Does everyone on the internet drive traffic to their sites by linking to the draft if at all possible? Well, of course the answer to both questions is yes, and so I too will link a post to the NFL Draft.

Continue Reading At the Intersection of the NFL Draft, ERISA, Divorce, Venue and Spousal Benefits

There is a lot of discussion on whether lawyers should be required to have at least a certain degree of competency with technology as a core skill set, on a par with, for instance, the rules of evidence. Personally, I am not convinced of the need for any formal requirement: technology is so embedded in any efficient provision of legal services to a client and in any interaction with essentially any business client of any size, that simple economics are going to eventually drive to the margins any lawyer who cannot, on a day in, day out basis, engage with technology on an at least marginally competent level. In other words, there is no need to regulate the profession to ensure such competence, as the marketplace for legal services will do it for state bars and any other regulator: slowly but surely, lawyers who are not technologically proficient will be sidelined by the invisible hand of the market, regardless of what any professional licensure group does or does not do with regard to ensuring professional competence in the area of technology.

Continue Reading Uber, Behavioral Economics, Choice Architecture and Trial Work

I have used this anecdote before, so you can jump ahead if you have either read something where I have written it before or heard a talk of mine where I have said it, but if you haven’t, I have always thought it is a good lead in to any discussion of the church plan litigation. A long time client of mine was hired by his employer as an in-house staff lawyer in 1975, and was told that there is a new law, ERISA, and he is in charge of it. He once told me that, in the early years of ERISA, they used to operate by gut, analogy, metaphor and instinct in deciding what some of the terms meant and how they should be applied, given that much of the statute and its structure was, one, novel and, two, had not yet been interpreted by the courts. In those early years, he often had to decide whether a particular plan should be viewed as a governmental plan – which, much like church plans, are exempt from ERISA – and the test they applied was this: if it looked like it was run by a governmental type entity, quacked like it was run by one, and waddled like it was run by one, than it was a governmental plan, as far as he and his team were concerned.

Continue Reading Notes (and a Prediction) on the Supreme Court Argument on Church Plans

There may be nothing more fun than ERISA to a lawyer who likes to maneuver among innumerable rules, dodge endless traps, and work out the interaction of numerous potentially inconsistent statutory, regulatory and judge-made requirements. I stand guilty as charged. Indeed, if you were going to create a Myers-Briggs Inventory for the job heading “ERISA Lawyer,” the first question you would put in would ask if you liked civil procedure in law school, because if you don’t like substantive issues like standing, procedural issues like venue, or more run of the mill issues like the scope of discovery, you will never like being an ERISA litigator. Beyond that, if you don’t like a rules based environment, you almost certainly won’t like being a non-litigation ERISA lawyer, with its heavy engagement with express statutory requirements, a million or more regulations from multiple agencies, and constant engagement with the tax code.

Continue Reading How Not to Sue an ERISA Governed Plan: Thoughts on the Ninth Circuit’s Ruling in DB Healthcare