Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Blog

The View from Proskauer on Developments in the World of Employee Benefits, Executive Compensation & ERISA Litigation

Joseph Clark

Joseph Clark

Associate

Joe Clark is an associate in the Labor & Employment Law Department and a member of the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group where he focuses on complex employee benefits litigation.

Joe represents a diverse range of clients including financial service providers, Fortune 500 corporations, plan fiduciaries, and multiemployer funds in matters including government investigations, breach of fiduciary duty claims, cash balance plan conversions, denials of claims for benefits, and withdrawal liability and delinquent contribution claims. He was an integral member of the trial team for two recently tried ERISA lawsuits.

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District Court Dismisses 401(k) Plan Investment Claims Against Chevron Fiduciaries

A federal district court in California granted defendants’ motion to dismiss claims asserted by Chevron 401(k) plan participants that the plan fiduciaries breached their ERISA fiduciary duties by selecting underperforming investment options and permitting the plan to pay excessive fees. As a preliminary matter, the court dismissed plaintiffs’ duty of loyalty claims because they failed … Continue Reading

U.S. Supreme Court Holds ERISA Plan Cannot Enforce Equitable Lien Against Participant’s General Assets

Earlier today, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a decision by the Eleventh Circuit and held that when a ERISA plan participant obtains a third-party settlement subject to a plan’s subrogation provision, and then dissipates the settlement on “nontraceable” items, the plan cannot enforce a lien against the participant’s general assets under Section 502(a)(3) of ERISA.  … Continue Reading

Plan Administrator’s ERISA Declaratory Judgment Action Dismissed for Lack of Jurisdiction

After a top-hat plan and pension plan denied a participant’s claims and appeals for additional benefits, the plan administrators preemptively filed a declaratory judgment action, seeking a declaration that:  (i) termination of defendant’s employment was not for the purpose of interfering with his ability to attain rights under the plans or ERISA; (ii) the top-hat plan … Continue Reading

Eleventh Circuit Again Affirms Dismissal of Stock Drop Claim Against Delta Air Lines

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed dismissal of ERISA breach of fiduciary claims against Delta Air Lines and other alleged plan fiduciaries in connection with a defined contribution plan’s investments in Delta Air Lines stock.   In so ruling, the Court joined a growing number of decisions following Dudenhoeffer that have dismissed claims based on public information.… Continue Reading

SCOTUS Invites Solicitor General to Submit Its View on ERISA Venue Selection Provisions

We previously reported that a split Sixth Circuit panel enforced a venue selection clause in an ERISA plan.  In so ruling, the Court rejected the U.S. Department of Labor’s attempt to regulate by amicus brief and reasoned that the Department’s brief was “an expression of mood.”  The Department, according to the Sixth Circuit:  (i) had no … Continue Reading

Second Circuit Affirms Dismissal of ERISA Stock Drop Claims

The Second Circuit recently affirmed the dismissal of an ERISA stock drop class action because, like the district court, it held that Named Plaintiff Debra Taveras lacked constitutional standing to pursue her claims.  Taveras alleged that defendants, which included UBS and a number of individuals, breached their fiduciary duties by maintaining the company stock fund … Continue Reading

Settlement Reached in Stock-Drop Case

A class of former LandAmerica Financial Group employees agreed to a $5 million settlement of stock-drop claims arising from LandAmerica’s 2008 bankruptcy, and have submitted the agreement for court approval.  LandAmerica filed for bankruptcy following the 2008 collapse of its title insurance subsidiary. … Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit: Spousal Consent Not Required Under Top-Hat Plans

The Ninth Circuit held that a participant’s brother, rather than his spouse, was the proper beneficiary of benefits under a profit sharing plan.  In so holding, the Court found that:  (a) the participant’s first wife, who was designated as the primary beneficiary, had waived her rights to benefits as part of the couple’s divorce; and … Continue Reading

401(k) Plan Participant Waived ERISA Stock-Drop Claim

The D.C. Circuit affirmed the decision of a district court that Plaintiff Patrick Russell, a 401(k) plan participant, had knowingly waived his right to assert an ERISA stock-drop claim based on, among other things, the alleged imprudence of maintaining an employer stock fund as an investment option.  Russell argued that the district court erred by … Continue Reading

Defined Benefit Plan Participants Have Standing to Pursue Fiduciary Breach Claims

A federal district court in Minnesota found that participants in a defined benefit pension plan had standing to assert claims that defendants breached their fiduciary duties by, among other things, shifting to an equities-only investment strategy that resulted in the plan becoming significantly underfunded and thereby increasing the risk of default. … Continue Reading

A Court’s Review of a Disability Benefit Claim May Hinge on the Meaning “Satisfactory to Us”

Twenty-five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that courts should review an ERISA participant’s claim for benefits under a de novo standard of review unless the plan gives the plan fiduciary discretionary authority to determine eligibility for benefits or to construe the terms of the plan.  Since then, courts have considered what type of … Continue Reading

Equitable Surcharge Awarded to Life Insurance Plan Beneficiary

A federal district court in California awarded relief in the form of surcharge to a life insurance plan beneficiary who claimed that a plan administrator failed to provide complete and accurate information in response to inquiries about how to prevent coverage from lapsing. In so ruling, the court stated that the plan administrator’s response to … Continue Reading

Court Approves USERRA Class Action Settlement Over Pension Contributions

A federal district court in Colorado recently approved a settlement agreement resolving class action claims brought under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). The documents filed in support of approval of the settlement stated that United Airlines agreed to pay $6.15 million to a class of pilots who alleged that United’s method … Continue Reading

Despite Windsor, Federal Court Rejects Challenge to a Self-Insured ERISA Health Plan’s Denial of Coverage for Same-Sex Spouses

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in US v. Windsor, the requirement that an ERISA health plan provide health coverage for same-sex spouses has often hinged on whether an employee benefit plan was insured or self-insured and, in the case of insured plans, the requirements of state insurance law. In states where same-sex marriage is … Continue Reading

View From Proskauer: Investigating and Deciding Severance Benefits Claims

Plan administrators charged with administering Employee Retirement Income Security Act-governed severance plans are often confronted with the question of whether they should conduct an independent investigation into the reasons the employer-plan sponsor terminated an individual’s employment before deciding whether to grant or deny the individual’s claim for severance benefits. The decision to conduct such an … Continue Reading

District Court Concludes Statute of Limitations Defense Must Be Asserted During Administrative Claims Process

Plan administrators sometimes are confronted with claims that appear untimely, but nevertheless focus solely on the substantive issue raised by the claim. A recent ruling from a federal district court in New Jersey suggests that the failure to address procedural issues may result in a finding that such defenses have been waived. In Becknell v. … Continue Reading

Providing A “Full and Fair Review” Does Not Make An ERISA Plan

A federal district court in Kansas concluded that attaching a statement of ERISA rights, i.e., a two page document listing and explaining the rights and protections provided by ERISA to plan participants, to a life insurance policy did not convert the policy into an ERISA plan. Wichita Firemen’s Relief Ass’n v. Kansas City Life Ins. … Continue Reading

Fiduciary Breach Claims Barred by ERISA’s Six-Year Statute of Limitations

The Eleventh Circuit recently dismissed a participant’s fiduciary breach claims against SunTrust’s 401(k) plan fiduciary committee members on the ground that the claims for imprudently selecting certain investment options was time barred by ERISA’s six-year statute of limitations. Fuller v. Suntrust Banks, Inc., 2014 WL 718309 (11th Cir. Feb. 26, 2014). Plaintiff Barbara Fuller argued … Continue Reading

Regions Financial Agrees to Pay $22.5 Million to Settle ERISA Stock-Drop Litigation

According to a December 18, 2013 motion for preliminary approval, Regions Financial Corp. has agreed to pay $22.5 million to settle an ERISA stock-drop litigation pending in the Western District of Tennessee. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants, which included members of the plan investment committees, among others, imprudently retained Regions Financial stock as an employee retirement … Continue Reading

Supreme Court Affirms Enforceability of Plan Limitations Provision

Resolving a split among the Courts of Appeal, the United States Supreme Court affirmed the Second Circuit in finding enforceable a limitations provision in a long term disability ERISA plan that set forth the length of the limitations period as well as when the period commenced. The plan at issue required participants to file suit for … Continue Reading

SunTrust Plan Participants’ Stock-Drop Claims Tossed A Second Time

A federal district court in Georgia recently dismissed a suit brought by participants in the SunTrust Bank 401(k) savings plan alleging fiduciary breaches based on defendants’ decision to continue permitting investment in SunTrust stock while its value declined during the subprime mortgage crisis. The court had previously granted in part and denied in part SunTrust’s … Continue Reading

Life Insurance Beneficiary Who Murdered Policyholder Is Not Entitled To Benefits

Applying the common law “slayer rule,” a federal district court in New York held that a beneficiary of an ERISA-governed life insurance plan forfeit his claim to insurance proceeds after he pled guilty to murdering the policyholder. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Little, E.D.N.Y., No. 13-cv-1059-BMC, Aug. 17, 2013. The policy holder, Rosemary Little, named … Continue Reading
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