Employee Benefit Plans

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

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

So, Kevin O’Keefe of LexBlog has long preached that the key to effective blogging and other social media professional marketing is to provide actual information that people can use, rather than putting out, under the guise of blogging, marketing materials. In my own blogging and in my own practice, I routinely prefer to, and do in fact chose to, work with legal and other professionals who follow this same mantra: they simply think the way I do, and the knowledge they share is useful to both me and my clients.

Continue Reading CapTrust and Target Date Funds

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

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

There’s a famous saying that war is politics continued by other means, and I have paraphrased it in the past to point out that patent infringement litigation is frequently simply business competition continued by other means. I think it is similarly fair to say that the lawsuit seeking to overturn the Department of Labor’s new

Last week, I spoke on a panel with, among others, Trucker Huss’ Joe Faucher, who discussed some aspects of Ninth Circuit ERISA jurisprudence with a mostly East Coast-centric audience. A week later, that circuit has turned out two of the more interesting and potentially significant appellate decisions in ERISA that any court has produced

I enjoyed this article from CFO on whether smaller employers should switch over to self-funded health plans, to take advantage of potential cost savings in comparison to insured plans, and to obtain comparatively favorable treatment under the ACA. I would throw in another point that favors self-funding a plan, which is that ERISA preemption provides