Mayer Brown has represented companies, plan sponsors, investment managers, other fiduciaries, and service providers in a range of ERISA and benefit litigation matters, at trial and on appeal, in courts across the country. Mayer Brown is particularly experienced in handling complex, class action ERISA litigations where millions in potential liability are at stake. Mayer Brown routinely achieves very favorable results for our clients.
For example, the firm has secured important victories in cases involving the rights of retirees to welfare benefits, in both union and non-union contexts. These include a precedent-setting victory before an en banc panel of the Sixth Circuit on behalf of General Motors, and a recent summary judgment victory in an ERISA class action litigation in which a class of retirees sought $100 million in benefit payments. Similarly, Mayer Brown has been involved in some of the more significant ERISA "stock drop" litigations, winning a defense judgment after a bench trial in the Columbia-HCA stock drop case, winning dismissal of a stock drop complaint with prejudice, serving as counsel to the independent fiduciary evaluating the settlement in the Worldcom and Williams Companies ERISA litigations, and representing a defendant in the Fannie Mae ERISA litigation. Mayer Brown has also defended a number of plan sponsors and fiduciaries against claims of breach of fiduciary duty, and currently represents one of the largest financial services companies in the world in such a case. In addition to being well-versed in ERISA regulations and financial accounting issues involved in pension miscalculation claims, Mayer Brown's ERISA litigators also have experience with claims of professional malpractice, and multiemployer withdrawal liability.
Some representative matters include:
Appellate and Supreme Court Matters
- BP Corp. Employee Plans v. The Northern Trust Company. We represent The Northern Trust Company and an affiliate in an ERISA suit alleging breaches of fiduciary duty in connection with the operation of Northern's securities lending programs. The plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction was denied after an evidentiary hearing and the case is now proceeding on the merits. No. 08 CV 6029, Northern District of Illinois.
- FedEx Corp. v. The Northern Trust Company. We also represent the Northern Trust Company in a similar ERISA case filed by FedEx on behalf of its Employees' Pension Trust. A partial motion to dismiss is pending. No. 08-CV 2827, Western District of Tennessee.
- Abbott v. Lockheed Martin Corporation. The firm is currently defending Lockheed Martin Corporation and Lockheed Martin Investment Management Corporation in an ERISA putative class action in connection with fees paid by the plans. No. 06-cv-701, Southern District of Illinois.
- Patten v. Northern Trust. We are currently defending Northern Trust in an ERISA putative class action arising out of a drop in Northern Trust's stock price. No. 08-cv-05912, Northern District of Illinois.
- In re Schering-Plough Corporation ENHANCE ERISA Litigation. We are currently defending Schering-Plough Corporation in consolidated ERISA putative class actions arising out of a drop in Schering-Plough's stock price. No. 08-1432, District of New Jersey.
- Harris v. Amgen. In this stock drop case in the Central District of California, we obtained dismissal of the complaint with prejudice. No. CV07-05442, dismissal order entered February 1, 2008. Plaintiffs have appealed to the Ninth Circuit.
- Coffin v. Bowater Inc. A 650 person class of former employees sued our client Bowater Incorporated (one of the largest paper manufacturers in the United States) under the Labor Management Relations Act and ERISA seeking $100 million in retiree medical payments. We obtained summary judgment for our client on all of the LMRA claims and summary judgment that our client terminated their ERISA plans when it consolidated those plans. On appeal, the First Circuit affirmed in all respects. 385 F. Supp. 38 (D. Me. 2005), aff’d, 501 F.3d 80 (1st Cir. 2007).
- Southwest Airlines Co. Profit Sharing/401(k) Committee v. UBS Global Asset Management (Americas), Inc. This action has been brought on behalf of two Southwest Airlines investment plans that participated in a fund managed by the defendants. The plaintiff asserts that the defendants breached their fiduciary duties, and seeks recovery for losses resulting from the decline in value of Enron investments held in the fund following Enron's collapse. We represent the defendants. 3:06-cv-0747D (N.D. Tex.).
- ERISA Litigation for leading insurance company. We represented a former officer and director of one of the worlds largest insurance companies based in the US in a putative class action brought under ERISA in the Southern District of New York. The ERISA action, along with companion Securities and Derivative actions, have been brought against the company and several other defendants for approximately $30-50 billion in alleged damages over a six-year class period.
- In re Fannie Mae ERISA Litigation. We represent the former controller of Fannie Mae against breach of fiduciary duty allegations against several defendants arising out of Fannie Mae stock price decline following discovery of certain accounting issues at company.
- Garavito v. Air Line Pilots Ass’n. We defended ALPA in a putative class action case brought under ERISA in federal court in the District of Columbia. Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief on behalf of thousands of United pilots in connection with the planned distribution of approximately $186 million in proceeds of convertible notes. The plaintiffs claimed that they were entitled to a larger share of the proceeds than the amounts they were scheduled to receive. After argument, we defeated plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction and they voluntarily dismissed the complaint and never refiled. 07-384 (D.D.C.).
- General Motors v. United States. We represent General Motors in a case in the Court of Federal Claims against the United States. When General Motors sold a division that performed work for the United States under government contracts, Cost Accounting Standard 413 required a settlement between the parties reflecting the extent to which the government had under-contributed to GM's pension plans while the division was performing work for the government. The primary issue being litigated is the proper assumptions to use to value the liabilities in GM's pension plans in order to calculate the amount of the settlement payment. 00-40C (Fed. Cl.).
- Landgraff v. Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. We tried and won an ERISA fiduciary case in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee on behalf of our client, the former General Counsel of Columbia/HCA. The trial court, in a case of first impression nationally, concluded that our client and his fellow members of the plan committee acted prudently in acquiring and continuing to hold employer stock in a stock bonus plan. 3-98-0090 (M.D. Tenn.). As discussed below, the Sixth Circuit affirmed. 2002 WL 203208 (6th Cir. 2002).
- Bank Fund Recovery. Our lawyers successfully represented a major bank, in connection with settlement of a US Department of Labor enforcement action against third parties, in obtaining a substantial recovery for ERISA plan asset losses caused by investment fiduciary misconduct. The settlement took place in 2006.
- In re BellSouth Corp. Securities Litig. Our lawyers represented BellSouth in consolidated class actions brought under ERISA and the securities laws arising out of a drop in its stock price. The case has recently settled. 1:02-CV-2142-WSD (N.D. Ga.).
- Tyler v. Bank One Corp. Mayer Brown won summary judgment for the defendants in a class action brought to challenge calculation of lump sum pension payments to certain former employees. No. 04 C 0718 (N.D. Ill.).
- Fiduciary Counsel for Two $50+ Million ERISA Class Action Settlements. The US Department of Labor requires fiduciary review of significant settlements of ERISA class actions. This is a highly specialized area, in which we have served as counsel for our client Independent Fiduciary Services, Inc. in the settlement of The Williams Companies ERISA Litigation (October 2005) and the WorldCom/MCI ERISA Litigation (October 2004).
- Nelson v. UBS Global Asset Management. This class action alleged breach of fiduciary duty in the role of investment manager. The plaintiff class was composed of employees of BP participating in a 401k plan for which UBS Global Asset Management was the investment manager. As a result of the Enron collapse, one of the investments in one of the funds within the 401k plan became worthless. Plaintiffs claimed damages in excess of $20 million. 03 C 6446 (N.D. Ill.).
- Central States v. The Kroger Co. Under some of its union contracts with distribution center employees, The Kroger Company is obligated to contribute to the Central States Pension Fund, governed by the Multiemployer Pension Plan Act, and was obligated to contribute to the Central States Health and Welfare Fund. Central States claimed that Kroger improperly classified employees as "casuals" in order to avoid making contributions for these employees and sought to collect alleged delinquent contributions going back 30 years. We defended Kroger aggressively in this litigation.
- Colin v. Marconi Commerce Systems Employees' Retirement Plan. We obtained summary judgment for Marconi plans on claims for benefits, breach of fiduciary duty, and statutory penalties for alleged failure to provide plan documents. 1:03CV00079 (M.D.N.C.).
- Bryce v. Arthur Andersen LLP. We represented Andersen in lawsuit brought by retired partners regarding their retirement benefits. 02 C 2125 (N.D. Ill.).
- Bosco v. Chicago Transit Authority. We obtained judgment for the CTA in a class action brought on behalf of certain present and retired employees who sought to have their prior CTA service "bridged" for purposes of calculating their pension benefits. 164 F. Supp. 2d 1040 (N.D. Ill. 2001).
- In re Sears Retiree Group Life Insurance Litigation. We won summary judgment for Sears on class claims in six consolidated class actions challenging Sears' decision to reduce life insurance benefits for more than 80,000 retirees. This was a high-profile matter – well-organized retiree groups protested shareholder meetings, picketed stores, and established a web site to register their displeasure. 90 F. Supp. 2d 940 (N.D. Ill. 2000).
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Appellate and Supreme Court Matters
- Coffin v. Bowater Inc. We represented Bowater on appeal from a favorable summary judgment obtained by Mayer Brown. The First Circuit affirmed that summary judgment in all respects. The court concluded that the collective bargaining agreement guaranteed benefits only for the duration of the contract and excluded consideration of any extrinsic evidence. The court also found that the ERISA benefits were terminated when Bowater consolidated its plans. 385 F. Supp. 38 (D. Me. 2005), aff’d, 501 F.3d 80 (1st Cir. 2007).
- Hirt v. The Equitable Retirement Plan for Employees, Managers and Agents. We represent The Equitable in cross-appeals in a class action challenging its cash balance plan. Plaintiffs claim the plan violates the age discrimination rules in the ADEA and ERISA, and challenge the content and timing of the notice sent to employees. 06-4757 (2d Cir.).
- Call v. Ameritech. We were retained to handle the Seventh Circuit appeal of an unfavorable decision in the district court. Call v. Ameritech is a class action in which the district court ruled that class members are entitled to higher retirement benefits than authorized by the retirement plan administrator. 475 F.3d 816 (7th Cir. 2007).
- Silvernail v. Ameritech Pension Plan. The firm successfully defended SBC, now AT&T, in an ERISA appeal in the Seventh Circuit. The district court granted summary judgment to Ameritech on a former employee's claim that he is entitled to retirement benefits. 439 F.3d 355 (7th Cir. 2006).
- Central Laborers' Pension Fund v. Heinz. This case addressed the application of the anti-cutback rule to a multi-employer pension fund that modified the rules governing post-retirement employment. Ruling unanimously in favor of our client, the Supreme Court held that the anti-cutback rule precludes such plans from being amended to expand the definition of prohibited post-retirement employment with respect to benefits accrued prior to such amendment. 541 US 739 (2004).
- Mattis v. State Universities Retirement System of Illinois. Our lawyers won a complete victory for SURS, a governmental pension plan with over $8 billion in assets, in a class action challenging its calculation of annuity payments made to 1,700 early retirees over a 17-year period. If the relief sought had been granted, SURS could have been required to pay additional benefits with a present value of as much as $35 million. We obtained partial summary judgment in the trial court, and then convinced the Illinois Supreme Court to reverse an adverse decision by the Illinois Appellate Court handed down before the firm's involvement in the case. 212 Ill. 2d 58, 816 N.E.2d 303 (2004).
- Wright v. Sears Roebuck & Co. We won affirmance of the District Court's grant of summary judgment in our favor on a claim by two plaintiffs that they were wrongfully terminated in violation of ERISA so that the company could save money on their pensions. 2003 WL 22701327 (6th Cir. 2003).
- Landgraff v. Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. We tried and won an ERISA fiduciary case in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee on behalf of our client, the former General Counsel of Columbia/HCA. The trial court, in a case of first impression nationally, concluded that our client and his fellow members of the plan committee acted prudently in acquiring and continuing to hold employer stock in a stock bonus plan. 3-98-0090 (M.D. Tenn.). The Sixth Circuit affirmed. 2002 WL 203208 (6th Cir. 2002).
- The Kroger Co. v. Central States. We sought Supreme Court review of a decision allowing a pension fund to seek recovery of allegedly delinquent contributions required by a collective bargaining agreement. 532 US 990 (2001).
- EEOC v. Ameritech Services, Inc.; Ameritech Benefit Plan v. Communication Workers of America. These two very large class actions considered whether benefit plans of Ameritech and its predecessor were required to award retroactive seniority credit to female employees who took maternity leave prior to 1978 and who were now retiring. The litigation involved overlapping claims of liability under ERISA, Title VII, the Equal Pay Act, and the Labor Management Relations Act. In one of those matters, the firm brought the action as a reverse class action seeking a declaratory judgment. The firm successfully obtained the dismissal of the Title VII and Equal Pay Act claims both on the merits and on statute of limitations grounds. 220 F.3d 814 (7th Cir. 2000), cert. denied, 531 US 1127 (2001).
- Trustmark Life Insurance Co. v. University of Chicago Hospitals. We won reversal on appeal and defeated insurer's claim for reimbursement against health-care provider, after insurer had paid for patient's treatment without reservation of rights. 207 F.3d 876 (7th Cir. 2000).
- United Steel Workers of America v. General American Transportation Corp. The firm defeated union's and employee's action against GATX to compel arbitration concerning denial of incapacity pension benefits, and defended victory on appeal. 230 F.3d 1361 (table) (6th Cir. 2000).
- Administrative Committee of the Sea Ray Employees' Stock Ownership and Profit Sharing Plan v. Robinson. Mayer Brown represented administrator of ESOP for one of Brunswick's subsidiaries, which brought a defendant class action seeking a determination that the ESOP had not been partially terminated. We obtained summary judgment, affirmance by the Sixth Circuit, and denial of US Supreme Court review. 164 F.3d 981 (6th Cir. 1999), cert. denied, 528 US 1114 (2000).