January 2021 ERISA Litigation Update:

Given the continuing wave of ERISA litigation, this article has become a mainstay of The Speed Reader. A sample of recent cases is provided below.

The most common type of ERISA case for approximately the past fifteen years has involved retirement plan participants’ allegations that plan fiduciaries caused participants to pay excessive recordkeeping and investment fees and included poorly-performing investment options in the plan. Recent cases in this category include the following:

  • Milano v. Cognizant Technology Solutions U.S. Corp. (complaint filed on December 2, 2020 in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey).
  • Pinnell v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc. (settlement agreement submitted on November 18, 2020 to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania).

Other types of recent ERISA cases are as follows:

  • Scalia v. Sartell Group, Inc. (decided on December 2, 2020 by the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota):  Pursuant to a 401(k) plan investigation, the DOL found that the defendant plan fiduciaries failed to remit approximately $40,000 in employees’ contributions and loan repayments to the plan in a timely manner. The court has now ruled that the defendants must repay that amount to the plan and pay a penalty of $8,065. Also, one defendant must complete training in the duties and responsibilities of fiduciaries to ERISA-covered plans.
  • Zirbel v. Ford Motor Company (decided on November 16, 2020 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit):  The plaintiff here received a $351,690 benefit payment from the defendant’s defined benefit plan, but that amount was more than she was entitled to under the plan’s properly-drafted terms. When the defendant learned of the mistake, it asked for the extra money back. The plaintiff refused to return the overpayment, however, and sued the defendant to obtain a court declaration that she could keep the overpayment. The defendant filed a counterclaim, seeking recoupment of the overpayment.  The court mainly ruled that the defendants followed the plan’s terms by asking the plaintiff to return the overpayment, and the plaintiff must do so.