Overview

Ever since Enron, ERISA litigation has been on the rise. Since Enron, a new spate of class action lawsuits has been brought against household corporate names, alleging that plan fiduciaries paid their service providers more than reasonable compensation for investment and record-keeping services. While many corporate sponsors have been named as defendants in these lawsuits, financial institutions providing services to plans have not been spared. The trend may continue, as the U.S. Department of Labor has revised its fee disclosure requirements that may prove to be fertile litigation ground for the unwary, while increasing audits of ESOPs and stock contributions to pension plans.

At Thompson Hine, we have assembled a litigation team led by veteran litigators Jack Fuchs and Tim McDonald, who have devoted their practices to ERISA litigation. Our team members come from multiple practice groups, including Business Litigation, Corporate Transactions & Securities, Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation, Labor & Employment and Tax, combining litigation experience with the substantive knowledge necessary to address the complex and varied issues presented in litigation arising under ERISA.

We handle the full range of ERISA litigation, from handling DOL audits and DOL enforcement actions involving plan fiduciaries and service providers to breach of fiduciary duty, benefits claims, pension plans and retiree litigation:

  • Employer stock, cash balance and 401(k) cases
  • Fiduciary breach litigation
  • ERISA preemption litigation,
  • ERISA co-fiduciary liability and service provider litigation
  • ERISA §510 litigation
  • Plan termination and reversion litigation
  • Benefits claims litigation
  • Multi-employer plan litigation
  • Cash balance litigation
  • ESOP litigation
  • Claims litigation
  • Retiree health litigation
Experience

Thompson Hine handles the full range of ERISA litigation, from defending prelitigation Department of Labor (DOL) enforcement actions involving plan fiduciaries and service providers and IRS audits of plans, to trials on fiduciary duty claims. Our lawyers include former DOL and IRS lawyers uniquely situated to understand the enforcement perspectives of both agencies. Our litigation team includes lawyers who began their careers as ERISA litigation specialists, lawyers who have been ERISA fiduciaries and lawyers who began as general litigators and subsequently developed the experience to function exclusively as ERISA litigators. With more than 24 transactional lawyers who concentrate on substantive issues involving both the tax and labor sides of ERISA, our ERISA litigation team can supplement its ERISA knowledge with one of the largest and most sophisticated employee benefit groups in the country. The ERISA litigators, when necessary, also consult with other firm lawyers who focus on securities law, banking and trust law, employment law and bankruptcy law.

Breach of Fiduciary Duty Litigation

In addition to regularly providing counsel to clients on fiduciary and prohibited transaction issues arising under Title I of ERISA, our ERISA litigation lawyers have experience defending clients sued for breach of fiduciary duty in private litigation and litigation brought by the DOL, including:

  • Employer stock drop cases;
  • Retiree health case cases;
  • Plan termination and reversion cases;
  • ESOP stock valuation cases;
  • Co-fiduciary liability and service providers cases; and
  • ERISA § 510 cases.
  • Cash Balance Litigation

In addition to the cash balance lawsuits that we have defended, we routinely advise clients on the feasibility of converting their defined benefit plans to cash balance plans.

ESOPs

Valuation of ESOP stock continues to spawn litigation due to the inherent potential for conflicts of interest. We have defended, served as experts and counseled clients in these cases.

Claims Litigation

Our practice also includes the meat and potatoes of any large firm ERISA litigation practice: cases in which our clients are sued by participants for benefits.

Representative Matters

Employer Stock and 401(k) Cases

  • Wright v. Oregon Metallurgical Corp., 360 F.3d 1090 (9th Cir. 2004)
  • Tatum v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 294 F. Supp. 2d 776 (M.D.N.C 2003), rev’d, 392 F.3d 636 (4th Cir. 2004), on remand, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7239 (M.D.N.C. 2006)
  • In re Broadwing, Inc. ERISA Litig., 39 Employee Benefits Cas. (BNA) 1735 (S.D. Ohio 2006)

Fiduciary Breach Litigation

  • Ramsey v. Formica Corp., 398 F.3d 421 (6th Cir. 2005), cert. denied, 126 S. Ct. 340 (2005), on remand, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 966 (S.D. Ohio 2006)
  • DOL v. Plan Benefit Services, Inc., No. 07-11474 (D. Mass. 2007)
  • Nat’l Air Traffic Controllers As’n v. Dental Plans, Inc., 407 F. Supp. 2d 1 (D.D.C. 2005)
  • DOL v. SBWA Local 125 Health Plan, No. 9:02-cv-80945 (S.D. Fla. 2002)
  • Friedrichsen v. Massillon-Cleveland-Akron Sign Co., 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21471 (N.D. Ohio 2007)
  • Houck v. Bd. of Trustees IUNHCAMP, No. 03-2494-R (C.D. Cal. 2003)
  • IUNHCAMP Trustees v. HealthMarket, Inc. & American Travelers Assurance Co., 1:03-CV-1376 (N.D. Ga. 2003)
  • Louisville Bar Association v. Thacker, et al, Civil Action No. 3:02-CV-260-H (W.D. Ky. 2002)
  • Waite v. IDG 401(k), No. 01-CV-0297 (N.D. Ga. 2001)
  • In re Larry Marshall Engineering Corp., No. 98-50440 (Bankr. N.D. Cal.)
  • In re TMCI Electronics, Inc., No. 98-60153 (Bankr. N.D. Cal.)
  • DOL v. Hyde, CV-98-3019 (N.D. Cal. 1998)
  • Reich v. Goldstein, 839 F. Supp. 1068 (S.D.N.Y. 1993)
  • Kentucky Laborers Dist. Council Health & Welfare Trust Fund v. Hill & Knowlton, 24 F. Supp. 2d 755 (W.D. Ky. 1998)
  • New Orleans Employers Intern. Longshoremen's Ass'n, AFL-CIO Pension Fund v. Mercer In-vestment Consultants, 635 F.Supp.2d 1351, 2009 WL 2156907, (NO. 1:06-CV-2822-ODE), (N.D.Ga., 2009)
  • Dramse v Delta Family-Care Disability & Survivorship Plan, 269 Fed. Appx. 470, 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 5412, 44 Employee Benefits Cas (BNA) 1331 (5th Cir., 2008)
  • Smith v. Delta Airlines, Inc., 215 Fed.Appx. 848, 2007 WL 186509, 40 Employee Benefits Cas. 1740, (NO. 06-13915), (C.A.11 (Ga.), 2007)
  • Fontaine v. Guth, Not Reported in F.Supp.2d, 2004 WL 3246722, (NO. CIV.A. 3:02-CV-67-JT), (N.D.Ga., 2004)

Retiree Health Litigation

  • Hardy v. Midland Enterprises, Inc., 2003 U.S. App. LEXIS 8426 (6th Cir. 2003)
  • Bender v. Newell Window Furnishings, Inc., 182 L.R.R.M. 3012 (W.D. Mich. 2007)
  • Noe v. PolyOne Corp., 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 92098 (W.D. Ky. 2006)

ERISA Preemption Litigation

  • Tolton v. American Biodyne, 48 F.3d 937 (6th Cir. 1995)
  • ANB Bankcorp v. Equitable Life Assur. Soc’y, 86 F. Supp. 2d 1113 (N.D. Okla. 2000)
  • ETI v. Equitable Life Assur. Soc’y, No. 2001-01085 (D.C. Okla. 2001)

Plan Termination and Reversion Litigation

  • Jensen v. Moore Wallace N. Am., Inc., 41 Employee Benefits Cas. (BNA) 2406 (6th Cir. 2007)
  • Varhola v. Doe, 820 F.2d 809 (6th Cir. 1987)
  • Clevenger v. Dillard’s, Inc., 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 90586 (S.D. Ohio 2007)
  • Shepherd v. Babcock & Wilcox of Ohio, 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6349 (S.D. Ohio 2000)

Benefits Claims Litigation

  • Hensley v. Parker-Hannifin Corp., 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7433 (E.D. Tenn. 2006)
  • Nichols v. UNUM Life Ins. Co., 2005 U.S Dist. LEXIS 37017 (S.D Ohio 2005), aff’d, 2006 U.S. App. LEXIS 21505 (6th Cir 2006)
  • Brandt v. Fleet Capital Corp. (In re TMCI Elec.), 279 B.R. 552 (N.D. Cal. 2000)
  • Metro. Life Ins. Co. v. Cronenwett, 162 F. Supp. 2d 889 (S.D. Ohio 2001)
  • Steers v. UNUM Life Ins. Co, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35397 (S.D. Ohio 2006)
  • Slater v. Newell Rubbermaid, Inc., 2005 WL 1651970 (M.D. Pa. 2005)
  • Washburn v. UNUM Life Ins. Co., 43 F. Supp. 2d 848 (S.D. Ohio 1998), aff’d, 2000 U.S. App. LEXIS 6481 (6th Cir. 2000)
  • DeBloise v. Kemper, No. 1:00CV2144 (D.D.C. 2000)
  • In re Harper, No. 98-2847 (D.D.C. 1998)
  • Ward v. Retirement Bd. of Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan, --- F.3d ----, 2011 WL 2462848, (NO. 11-10320), (C.A.11 (Ga.), 2011)
  • Morningred v. Delta Family-Care & Survivorship Plan, --- F.Supp.2d ----, 2011 WL 2580300, (NO. CIV.A. 10-272 MPT), (D.Del., 2011)
  • Grant v. Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan, Slip Copy, 2010 WL 3749197, (NO. 109-CV-1848-RWS), (N.D.Ga., 2010)
  • Gipson v. Administrative Committee Of Delta Air Lines, Inc., 350 Fed.Appx. 389, 2009 WL 3437490, (NO. 09-11748), (C.A.11 (Ga.), 2009)
  • Mehen v. Delta Airlines, Inc., 297 Fed.Appx. 621, 2008 WL 4706241, (NO. 06-16388), (C.A.9 (Ariz.), 2008)
  • Townsend v. Delta Family-Care Disability and Survivorship Plan, 544 F.Supp.2d 1352, 2008 WL 533805, N.D.Ga., February 26, 2008 (NO. 1:06-CV-2040-JEC), aff'd 295 Fed.Appx. 971, 2008 WL 4507571, (NO. 08-11340), (C.A.11 (Ga.), 2008)
  • Smith v. Delta Airlines, Inc., 215 Fed.Appx. 848, 2007 WL 186509, 40 Employee Benefits Cas. 1740, (NO. 06-13915), (C.A.11 (Ga.), 2007)
  • Dramse v Delta Family-Care Disability & Survivorship Plan, 269 Fed. Appx. 470, 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 5412, 44 Employee Benefits Cas (BNA) 1331 (5th Cir., 2008)
  • Hanna v. Delta Family-Care Disability and Survivorship Plan, Not Reported in F.Supp.2d, 2006 WL 1885181, (NO. 3:04CV1333 J12TEM), (M.D.Fla., 2006)
  • Freitas v. Delta Family-Care Disability and Survivorship Plan, Not Reported in F.Supp.2d, 2006 WL 1320932, (NO. CIV-S-05-994DFLPAN), (E.D.Cal., 2006)
  • Byrom v. Delta Family Care--Disability and Survivorship Plan, 343 F.Supp.2d 1163, 2004 WL 2525205, (NO. CIV.A.1:03-CV-1685-J), (N.D.Ga., 2004)
  • Heffner v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., Not Reported in F.Supp.2d, 2004 WL 1688515, (NO. 2:02CV1378 DS), (D.Utah, 2004)
  • Fontaine v. Guth, Not Reported in F.Supp.2d, 2004 WL 3246722, (NO. CIV.A. 3:02-CV-67-JT), (N.D.Ga., 2004)

Multi-Employer Plan Litigation

  • Bd. Trustees IBEW Local 1919 Pension Fund v. Davey Tree Expert Co., No. 2:07-cv-00261-DSC (W.D. Pa. 2007)
  • Int’l Painters & Allied Trades Indus. Pension Fund v. The Painting Co., No. 1:07-cv-01070 (D.D.C. 2007)
  • John Flynn, et al. v. Continental Masonry Corporation, No. 1:00CV02868 (D.D.C. 2001)
  • New Orleans Employers Intern. Longshoremen's Ass'n, AFL-CIO Pension Fund v. Mercer In-vestment Consultants, 635 F.Supp.2d 1351, 2009 WL 2156907, (NO. 1:06-CV-2822-ODE), (N.D.Ga., 2009)