A federal district court judge in the Eastern District of Kentucky has enforced an ESOP’s arbitration clause, sending P.L. Marketing Inc. employees’ breach of fiduciary duty claims on behalf of a putative class to individual arbitration. The case is Merrow et al. v. Horizon Bank et al., No. 2:22-cv-123, 2023 WL 7003231, at *1 (E.D. Ky. Oct. 24, 2023).

Plaintiffs, participants in P.L. Marketing, Inc.’s ESOP, sued the plan’s trustee, Horizon Bank, alleging that Horizon violated ERISA’s fiduciary duties and prohibited transaction rules by causing the ESOP to overpay for company stock. The ESOP plan document included a mandatory arbitration clause as well as a waiver of class arbitration. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing in part that the district court lacked jurisdiction to hear the claims because they fell within the scope of the ESOP’s arbitration clause.

In Central States v. Wingra, No. 21-cv-3684, 2023 WL 199360 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 17, 2023), the district court held that an employer expelled from a multiemployer pension plan may not owe withdrawal liability because the permanent cessation of the employer’s obligation to contribute was not voluntary.  While the court subsequently limited the decision as being for discovery purposes only (see Central States v. Wingra, No. 21-cv-3684 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 17, 2023)), the court allowed the employer to assert its challenge in the district court, rather than in arbitration, because the employer plausibly alleged that its expulsion from the plan was in bad faith.

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

The Sixth Circuit, in a matter of first impression for that Circuit, held an arbitration clause contained in an individual employment agreement did not apply to ERISA fiduciary breach claims brought on behalf of a defined contribution plan.  The case is Hawkins et al. v. Cintas Corp., No. 21-2156, __ F.4th __, 2022 WL

A federal district court in Florida sent a proposed ERISA breach of fiduciary duty class action to individual arbitration on the basis of a plan arbitration clause that allowed for individual relief and plan-wide injunctive relief.  The case is Holmes v. Baptist Health South Florida, Inc., No. 21-cv-22986, 2022 WL 180638 (S.D. Fla. Jan.

The Sixth Circuit, in a split decision, held that a dispute between a union and an employer regarding retiree healthcare benefits was not arbitrable because the issue of retiree healthcare benefits was not encompassed within the collective bargaining agreement’s (CBA’s) grievance procedures.

The United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied-Industrial and Service Workers

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

The Eighth Circuit recently concluded that there was no contractual basis to conclude that a pharmacy benefit manager agreed to class arbitration with four pharmacies because the agreement did not use the word “class” or refer to class arbitration in any way.  The Court also rejected the pharmacies’ argument that there was “implicit authorization” for

Beginning January 1, 2020, the American Arbitration Association (AAA) will: (i) reduce filing fees charged to parties initiating arbitrations of withdrawal liability disputes; (ii) change how costs of arbitrations are allocated among the parties to the disputes; and (iii) amend the process for resolving arbitrator selection disputes.

The new filing fees are modest in comparison

A federal district court in Texas referred to arbitration a 401(k) plan participant’s ERISA breach of fiduciary duty action based on allegations that certain plan investment options charged excessive fees.  In a two-page order, the court instructed the arbitrator to determine whether the arbitrator or a court should determine whether the class action waiver provision