Overview

As media and the plaintiffs’ bar have increased their attention on retirement and health benefits, and as employees have become more aware of their legal entitlements, many employers, along with plan administrators and trustees, are finding themselves entangled in increasingly costly and time-consuming benefits-related litigation.

Our proven ERISA – Retirement and Benefit Plan Litigation team combines a real-world understanding of the intricacies of benefit plan administration and employee benefits operation with extensive experience as ERISA counselors and trial and appellate court litigators. We have significant experience in the ongoing administration and operation of benefit plans, which often provides an advantage in tackling the issues that arise in benefit litigation, as well as the possible application of employment, tax, and securities-related considerations. Employers and service providers to benefit plans rely on us to represent them in class actions and individual litigation. We provide clients with the practical legal advice and representation needed to resolve potential benefits disputes as quickly and efficiently as possible.

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Insights from Government Experience

Many of our attorneys have government experience, which provides clients important insights into the litigation process and key considerations for regulators. Our litigation team includes former attorneys from the Office of the Solicitor of Labor, who previously prosecuted actions brought by the Secretary of Labor to enforce ERISA, as well as former United States Attorney prosecutors.

In addition, several of our attorneys, who have represented both major employers and providers (such as health providers and insurance companies), have chaired professional programs and American Bar Association committees on ERISA fiduciary and investment-related matters.

Plan Benefits and Governance Issues

We are regularly engaged by employers in cases involving benefit plans and ERISA-related claims against plan sponsors, fiduciaries, and service providers. We also handle matters relating to multi-employer plans as well as ERISA issues arising from downsizing and reductions in force.

Because many of our benefits clients are plan sponsors, we are often involved in audits, investigations, and other issues surrounding government agencies charged with statutory enforcement. Among those agencies are the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC).

Health Care Issues

As much of the health care industry receives payments for its services from health plans subject to ERISA, issues arise that require knowledge of both the health care industry and ERISA. Because health care has been a core practice of our firm for nearly 50 years, we have that knowledge. We represent insurance companies, hospitals, and other providers (such as managed care organizations) and the services provided by these clients with respect to insured and noninsured single, multi-employer, and multiple welfare benefit plans.

Clients look to us to litigate a wide range of health care issues. For example, we litigated cases involving the authority of states to treat self-funded plans with stop-loss insurance as insured plans exempt from ERISA's insurance savings clause; the determination of the point at which payments for health benefits from an ERISA plan to a third-party administrator (which, in turn, pays the providers) stop being “plan assets” so that the prohibited transaction provisions of ERISA are not applicable; and the extent to which state anti-subrogation statutes apply to ERISA plans. These cases also included ERISA preemption issues.

Multi-Employer Plan-Related Litigation

When multi-employer plan-related litigation and Title IV of ERISA and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) claims arise, clients turn to us to defend them. We have handled cases ranging from fund-related disputes over pension and health and welfare plan contribution payments to PBGC single-employer pension plan liability to Multi-Employer Pension Plan Amendments Act withdrawal liability. Our attorneys have experience litigating fiduciary issues arising with respect to Taft-Hartley plans, Pension Protection Act issues, and ADEA claims related to employee benefit plans.

Executive Compensation Disputes

Clients also rely on our attorneys to handle executive compensation-related litigation. Our attorneys have handled federal district court matters relating to disputes under ERISA-deferred compensation plans (e.g., SERP benefits) and litigation involving top-hat plan status under ERISA. We help resolve disputes regarding payments related to stock options, restricted stock, and other equity-based arrangements, as well as incentives and performance-based compensation plans, and 409A-related disputes.

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Focus Areas

Experience

  • Represented various clients against breach of fiduciary duty claims, including claims related to alleged retaliation and misrepresentation or failure to properly inform by a plan fiduciary.
  • Defended clients against claims alleging actions intended to eliminate benefits in violation of Section 510 of ERISA.
  • Represented numerous plan sponsors and fiduciaries in the defense of claims brought under ERISA involving changes to plan benefit offerings, breach of fiduciary duty, and denial of benefits under pension and welfare benefit plans.
  • Secured anF.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss on behalf of a bottling company against the claims of three distributors for benefits under ERISA, and for misclassification under the Fair Labor Standard Act, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
  • Successfully defended a corporate client in establishing that ERISA preempts enforcement of the New York State Prevailing Wage Law Supplement provisions.
  • Defended an insurer’s ability to treat its paid-time-off (“PTO”) plan as an ERISA plan governed by federal law. When the State of California refused to recognize that ERISA governed the PTO plan and preempted California vacation pay law, we sued the state twice to withdraw its challenge.
  • Successfully achieved denial of class certification and then granting of summary judgment dismissing the ERISA and other claims of two-dozen-plus individual plaintiffs in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, and affirmance on appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

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