Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Blog

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

Russell Hirschhorn

Russell Hirschhorn

Partner

Russell L. Hirschhorn represents plan fiduciaries, trustees, sponsors and service providers on the full range of ERISA and state law benefit and fiduciary issues. From single plaintiff to litigation and arbitration to complex class action litigation, he provides practical guidance, develops unique litigation defense strategies and, when appropriate, mediates successful resolutions.

Russell represents clients across a wide array of publicly-held, multi-national companies and privately owned companies across a multitude of industries including, banking, finance and investments, pharmaceuticals, retail products and construction, to name just a few. In addition, he also counsels benefit plan clients on a host of compliance and federal and state government agency enforcement matters, including complex and lengthy investigations and audits by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Labor.

Russell is management co-chair of the American Bar Association Employee Benefits Committee. He also writes on cutting-edge ERISA litigation issues, serving as the co-editor of the Firm’s Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Blog and as a contributing author and a past chapter editor to Employee Benefits Law (BNA Third Edition).

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Update on Lawsuits Challenging the U.S. Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule

As we previously reported, there are five pending lawsuits challenging the U.S. Department of Labor’s new fiduciary rule.  Our Client Alert on the new rule outlines the significance of the rule and the implications of the expanded definition of “fiduciary” for investment advisors and other related service providers. First, with respect to the litigation pending … Continue Reading

Update on Lawsuits Challenging the U.S. Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule

As we previously reported here, there have been five lawsuits challenging the U.S. Department of Labor’s new fiduciary rule.  (Our Client Alert on the new rule is available here.) On July 8, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) filed its first formal response to these lawsuits in The National Association for Fixed Annuities v. … Continue Reading

Lawsuits Filed Challenging The USDOL’s Final Fiduciary Rules

On April 6, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor released its Final Rule addressing when a person providing services to an employee benefit plan or individual retirement account (IRA) is considered to be providing investment advice that is subject to ERISA’s fiduciary standard.  As discussed in our Client Alert, available here, the rule expanded the … Continue Reading

U.S. DOL To Issue Final Rule and Exemptions on Fiduciary Standards

Today, the U.S. Department of Labor will release its highly-anticipated Final Rule and Exemptions addressing when a person providing investment advice with respect to an employee benefit plan or individual retirement account is considered to be a “fiduciary” under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 and the Internal Revenue Code.  According to a … Continue Reading

The U.S. Department of Labor’s New Proposed Rules Defining Fiduciary Investment Advice

On April 14, 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued its highly anticipated re-proposed regulation addressing when a person providing investment advice with respect to an employee benefit plan or individual retirement account (IRA) is considered to be a fiduciary under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and the Internal Revenue … Continue Reading

U.S. Department of Labor Issues Proposed Fiduciary Rules

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Labor issued its highly anticipated re-proposed regulation addressing when a person providing investment advice with respect to an employee benefit plan is considered a fiduciary under ERISA.  The DOL stated that it believes its proposal is necessary because the current regulatory scheme no longer adequately protects plans, participants, beneficiaries, and … Continue Reading

Divided Fourth Circuit Panel Rules On Burden of Proving Loss Causation in ERISA Fiduciary Breach Case

“As for those who might contemplate future service as plan fiduciaries, all I can say is: Good luck.”  That was the sentiment expressed in a blistering dissent by Fourth Circuit Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson in the latest ruling in a lawsuit challenging the decision by the fiduicaries of the RJR 401(k) plan to liquidate two … Continue Reading

Fifth Third Bancorp v. Dudenhoeffer – An Analysis of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Decision

For over two decades, federal courts have embraced the so-called Moench presumption of prudence in ERISA stock-drop cases. Pursuant to that presumption, courts have routinely dismissed such claims absent allegations in a complaint that a company’s situation was dire, or that the company was on the brink of collapse. On June 25,2014, the U.S. Supreme … Continue Reading

SCOTUS Says No Presumption of Prudence In ERISA Stock Drop Cases

Earlier today, in Fifth Third Bancorp v. Dudenhoeffer, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to adopt the so-called Moench presumption of prudence pursuant to which many circuit courts had dismissed ERISA stock drop claims unless plan participants had pled allegations that the company’s economic situation was dire or the company was on the brink of collapse. … Continue Reading

Yet Another Decision On The Availability of Equitable Surcharge

A district court in Pennsylvania concluded that a decedent’s life insurance plan beneficiaries were entitled to equitable surcharge where the plan administrator failed to, among other things, inform the decedent about the need to convert her group policy to an individual policy. Weaver Brothers Insurance Associates, Inc. v. Braunstein, 2014 WL 2599929 (E.D. Pa. June … Continue Reading

Plaintiff’s Claim for Estoppel, Reformation and Surcharge Strikes Out

A divided panel of the Ninth Circuit recently held that plaintiff Gregory Gabriel could not recover, as “appropriate equitable relief,” pension benefits he thought he was owed from the Alaska Electrical Pension Fund, after the Fund stopped paying him pension benefits that it had mistakenly advised him that he was entitled to. In so doing, … Continue Reading

View From Proskauer: ERISA Plan Fiduciaries—Are Your Conversations With Counsel Privileged?

  It is generally understood that communications between clients and lawyers are privileged and that the substance of those conversations may not be divulged to third parties except in the rarest of circumstances.  In the employee benefits world, however, plan sponsors and fiduciaries are often surprised to learn that this cardinal rule does not always … Continue Reading

High Court Employee Benefits Cases: A Review and Look Ahead

Having settled into the new year, we reflect on decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 that are likely to have a significant impact in the world of pension and welfare employee benefits and, in some cases, already have had such an impact. The issues addressed by the Supreme Court are wide ranging and … Continue Reading

Don’t Waive Privilege: Exclude Unnecessary Service Providers From Meetings

A recent opinion from a federal district court in Massachusetts provides plan sponsors and fiduciaries with a reminder that plan service providers should be excused from meetings where their attendance is not needed to assist in the provision of legal advice. If they are not, whatever attorney-client privilege that may have protected the confidentiality of … Continue Reading

USSC to Consider Presumption of Prudence in Employer Stock Litigation

On Friday, the US Supreme Court agreed to consider Fifth Third Bancorp v. Dudenhoeffer (U.S. No. 12-751, cert. granted 12/13/13).  The Supreme Court stated that it will consider the following issue:  “Whether, to state a claim that a fiduciary of an employee stock ownership plan violated the duty of prudence by continuing to invest plan … Continue Reading

Second Circuit Dismisses Lehman Brother’s ERISA Stock-Drop Action

The Second Circuit recently affirmed the dismissal of former Lehman Brothers employees’ fiduciary breach claims relating to their investment in the Lehman Brothers stock fund through their 401(k) plan. Rinehart v. Akers, 2013 WL 3491281 (2d Cir. July 15, 2013). As is typical for cases of this type, the complaint included both a claim for … Continue Reading

The Supreme Court’s Decision to Affirm An Arbitrator’s Decision Compelling Class Arbitration May Be Most Notable For What Was Not Said

ERISA plan sponsors, and employers more broadly, have been anxiously awaiting two rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court that they hope would clarify the ability to enforce class action waivers in arbitration agreements. Yesterday, the Court issued the first of these decisions in Oxford Health Plans LLC v. Sutter, a case in which Sutter alleged … Continue Reading

U.S. Supreme Court Rules That Plan Terms Trump Equitable Defenses

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in U.S. Airways, Inc. v. McCutchen in which the Court unanimously ruled that a clearly drafted reimbursement clause will trump all equitable defenses. The Supreme Court’s ruling will likely be viewed favorably by plan sponsors, as it will allow them to anticipate with more certainty the impact … Continue Reading

View From Proskauer: Clear the Confusion to Ensure ERISA Plan Exhaustion

Background The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently joined the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Seventh and Eleventh Circuits in concluding that Employee Retirement Income Security Act plan participants are not required to exhaust their administrative remedies when “they reasonably interpret the plan terms not to require exhaustion.” Applying this principle, … Continue Reading

Second Circuit: Deferential Standard Applies Without Notice To Participants & Reimbursement Claims Are Equitable Relief

Yesterday, the Second Circuit ruled on two important issues of note for ERISA plan sponsors and plan fiduciaries. In Thurber v. Aetna Life Insurance Co., 2013 WL 950704 (2d Cir. Mar. 13, 2013), the Court ruled that participants and beneficiaries are not required to be put on notice that: the plan fiduciary has reserved discretion to … Continue Reading
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