ERISA Statutory Provisions

Not long after I first started writing this blog, the Seventh Circuit began trying to preemptively squelch excessive fee litigation by, at heart, insisting that the invisible hand of the market would never have allowed the type of overcharging of fees claimed by the plaintiffs in those cases and that plan fiduciaries therefore could not

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

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 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

I wrote the other day about the Department of Labor’s legal position in response to lawsuits alleging that its new fiduciary regulations are illegal, and in that post, I referred to why the regulations have provoked such an outcry, which is that they fundamentally change the manner in which many financial advisers and financial

I wrote yesterday on the first complaint filed, in federal court in Texas, challenging the Department of Labor’s new fiduciary regulations, and then within hours, a second such suit was filed. The second suit is a more narrowly targeted action, brought by sellers of fixed annuities and charging that the Department of Labor, for various