Joseph E. Clark is a senior counsel 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 from the time a claim is asserted through trial or arbitration, whether it is defending plan fiduciaries against class action claims of fiduciary breach or prohibited transactions or in connection with government investigations, or defending employers against multiemployer pension plan claims for withdrawal liability. These clients include financial service providers, investment managers, Fortune 500 corporations, and benefit plan committees.
Outside of the context of litigation, Joe also advises fiduciary clients regarding their fiduciary responsibilities and employers regarding various withdrawal liability issues.
A co-editor of Proskauer’s Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation blog, Joe has authored pieces on employee stock ownership plans, excessive fee claims, fiduciary breach, investigation and determination of benefits claims, and best practices for plan drafting. He has also published several articles regarding these issues in BNA Insights.
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A third district court has dismissed with prejudice a complaint alleging that defendants breached their fiduciary duties under ERISA by offering 401(k) plan participants the option to invest in BlackRock LifePath Index Target Date Funds (the “Funds”). Beldock v. Microsoft, Case No. 22-cv-1082 (W.D. Wash. Apr. 24, 2023). Although the outcome of the court’s ruling … Continue Reading
A district court in New York recently refused to enforce an arbitration provision in an ERISA fiduciary breach lawsuit challenging the valuation of an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (“ESOP”). The ruling in Lloyd v. Argent, No. 22-cv-4129, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 219964 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 6, 2022), exposes the continued uncertainty as to the enforceability of … Continue Reading
In a pair of report and recommendations issued the same day, a Magistrate Judge in Wisconsin recently recommended that the district court (i) grant motions for reconsideration of prior denials of motions to dismiss claims challenging defined contribution plans’ fees, and (ii) grant the motions to dismiss in their entirety. Underpinning the recommendations is the … Continue Reading
In Matousek v. MidAmerican Energy Co., 2022 WL 6880771, __ F.4th __ (8th Cir. 2022), the Eighth Circuit joined the Sixth and Seventh Circuits in affirming dismissal of ERISA breach of fiduciary duty claims alleging that the plan fiduciaries allowed the plan to pay excessive recordkeeping and administrative fees and offered imprudent investment options. Background … Continue Reading
A recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Wit et al. v. United Behavioral Health and Alexander et al. v. United Behavioral Health) exemplifies the challenge in balancing a desire to cover evolving treatments for mental health and substance abuse disorders against plan sponsors’ and insurers’ general authority over plan … Continue Reading
On April 1, 2021, the Ninth Circuit became the third circuit court to conclude that a forum-selection clause in an ERISA 401(k) plan is enforceable. The Ninth Circuit thus denied a petition for mandamus seeking to overturn a district court decision transferring an ERISA action from the Northern District of California to the District of … Continue Reading
In this episode of the Proskauer Benefits Brief, Paul Hamburger, co-chair of Proskauer’s Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group, and associate Joe Clark discuss how the attorney-client privilege rules apply in an employee benefit plan context. The attorney-client privilege allows for the free flow of information between an attorney and a client in order to insure that the client … Continue Reading
In this episode of the Proskauer Benefits Brief, partner Myron D. Rumeld and associate Joseph Clark discuss participant-directed defined contribution (DC) plans and the lawsuits against the fiduciaries and service providers which are responsible for administering them. We will examine the best practices that can achieve favorable results for plan participants and the practices that can avert litigation or enable … Continue Reading
The Fifth Circuit agreed that a participant in Idearc’s 401(k) plan failed to plausibly plead that the plan fiduciary’s failure to act on publicly available information about Idearc amounted to a breach of fiduciary duty in connection with making Idearc stock available as an investment option in the plan. The decision was guided by an … Continue Reading
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Defendants Ameriprise Financial, Inc., the fiduciary committees of the Ameriprise 401(k) plan, and individual committee members agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by a class of participants in the Ameriprise 401(k) plan for $27.5 million.… Continue Reading
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
With storm clouds threatening in the northeast, the Supreme Court cast a ray of sunlight for employers today by rejecting the use of a problematic inference in adjudicating claims for retiree benefits brought pursuant to collective bargaining agreements.… Continue Reading
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
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
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
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
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