"It is a top-notch ERISA law firm." – Chambers USA 2022
“They know this stuff cold – among the best in the industry. Great to work with.” – Legal 500 USA 2021
“This team is simply outstanding- knows this area extremely well and are in high demand for their expertise. This is a complex area of law and the team is able to explain things in simple terms. Very responsive and pleasant to work with.” – Legal 500 USA 2020
To litigate cases about employee benefits requires substantive know-how and the ability to translate arcane concepts into terms that lay judges can understand. Mayer Brown has a thriving ERISA Litigation practice that combines deep experience, skilled advocacy and cutting-edge insights.
Our ERISA litigators are neither benefits lawyers nor litigation generalists—they are full-time litigators who focus on understanding how benefits disputes arise and are adjudicated. As such, our lawyers have been retained to offer counsel on all of the issues that typically arise in litigation or administrative proceedings involving employee benefit plans. We are regularly engaged by plan sponsors and plan administrators, as well as individual and corporate fiduciaries, trustees, custodians, financial institutions and plan service providers, in matters ranging from individual benefit disputes to complex class actions. And we counsel those same clients about how to reduce their risk of being sued in the first place. We have also been preapproved by fiduciary liability carriers to provide defense for their insureds.
The breadth of our experience and our client successes have drawn numerous accolades for both the group and its lawyers from leading publications such as Law360, Legal 500 USA, Chambers USA, The National Law Journal and Best Lawyers. We were named by Law360 as a “Benefits Practice Group of the Year” four years in a row (2019-2022). Our lawyers were also recognized in Band 1 for ERISA Litigation by Chambers USA for each of the last three years (2021-2023), as a 2023 Law360 Rising Star and a 2022 & 2020 Law360 MVP, a Hall of Fame for ERISA Litigation by Legal 500 USA, and as a 2019 “Lawyer of the Year” by Best Lawyers in the category of ERISA Litigation. Additionally, one of our partners was recently named an Employment Law Trailblazer by The National Law Journal, which recognizes lawyers who “continue to make their mark in various aspects of legal work in the areas of employment law.”
When working with Mayer Brown, clients benefit not just from the skills and experience of our ERISA litigators but also from those of our other top-notch professionals. ERISA matters often intersect with investigations by US federal agencies (such as the Department of Labor, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Internal Revenue Service) and other benefits and tax issues, so we regularly coordinate with our ERISA Fiduciary counseling group, which contributes a deep understanding of ERISA’s regulatory environment, and our firm’s esteemed Securities Litigation & Enforcement and Tax Controversy practices. We also understand that the law is not static and is shaped by litigation strategy. We therefore turn to our elite Supreme Court & Appellate litigation practice when it will benefit our clients. Our Supreme Court & Appellate practice is consistently recognized as one of the best in the United States by Chambers USA and Legal 500 US.
Although our practice covers the full domain of ERISA litigation, here is a sampling of our experience:
Recent trends have prompted fiduciaries to be sued, often in class actions, under complaints challenging plan investment decisions; plan fee arrangements, including recordkeeping costs and revenue sharing among plan providers; employer stock options; benefits claims denials; and out-of-network healthcare provider billing practices. We have substantial experience in each of these areas. Lawyers in our ERISA Litigation practice are experienced in managing relationships with fiduciary liability carriers and in addressing concerns that arise in such cases. Our favorable results speak for themselves.
Our ERISA Litigation lawyers are practiced in working with the Department of Labor to resolve investigations, audits and enforcement actions, which we have defended on behalf of plans and plan sponsors, advisers and other fiduciaries and service providers. For example, we have represented investment fund advisers in connection with Department of Labor conflict-of-interest challenges, government contractors in Department of Labor investigations over plan fees charged to participants and financial institutions in connection with, among other things, the Department of Labor’s investigation into mutual fund market timing practices, the Department of Labor’s enforcement initiative against cross-trading and in preparing comments to the Department of Labor on its class exemption for passive cross-trading.
The tides of litigation often follow the regulatory agenda of the Department of Labor. Our ERISA Litigation lawyers counsel clients on how to mitigate risks stemming from Department of Labor rulemaking proceedings and have challenged regulatory overreaches in court using the tools of the Administrative Procedure Act. Together with members of our ERISA Fiduciary counseling group, we have also sought formal exemptions and opinion letters from the Department of Labor.
Given this wide range of experience, we are exceptionally well qualified to help clients deal with the controversies that ERISA still generates more than 40 years after it was adopted.
- We represent a global oil and gas company and its affiliates in a highly publicized class action challenging the administration of its 401(k) plan with more than 33,000 participants and $10 billion in assets. The plaintiffs challenge many administrative actions in administering and operating the plan and the trust, including the plan’s recordkeeping fees, its investment structure, and particular investments in the plan’s investment lineup. We successfully convinced the district court to dismiss Plaintiffs’ fiduciary breach claim challenging the plan recordkeeper’s alleged use of participant data to sell non-plan products, which reflects the plaintiff bar’s most recent attempt to expand fiduciary liability under ERISA.
- We represent a national entertainment company and two related committees in litigation challenging the investment options offered to participants in its savings and retirement plan and alleging breach of fiduciary duty arising from the plan’s decision to offer company-affiliated investment options to participants.
- We represent a telecommunications company in a hybrid collection action and class action alleging FLSA and ERISA violations by misclassifying its customer service representatives as exempt rather than non-exempt employees. We obtained dismissal of all claims alleging violations of ERISA.
- We represent a global telecommunications company in a nationwide class action challenging the administration of its 401(k) plan with more than 240,000 participants and an excess of $34 billion in assets. The claims challenge various administrative and investment actions taken by our client in administering and operating the benefit plan. We were successful in convincing the district court to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims against our client and the individual fiduciary defendants.
- We represent an electric power holding company and its Benefits Committee in an ERISA class action challenging the administration of its 401(k) plan, with more than 39,000 participants and $8.6 billion in assets. The claims allege breach of fiduciary duty by causing the plan to pay allegedly excessive recordkeeping and administrative fees and managed account services fees.
- We represent a global food and beverage company and its Board of Directors in a putative ERISA class action over the administration of its 401(k) retirement plan alleging breach of fiduciary duty and challenging the recordkeeping fees and fees for managed account services.
- We represent a global engineering and consulting business in a putative ERISA class action challenging the administration of its 401(k) plan with more than 18,000 participants and $2.4 billion in assets. The plaintiffs challenge the plan’s investment structure and particular investments in the plan’s investment lineup. We obtained dismissal of all of plaintiff’s breach of fiduciary claims.
- We represent multiple healthcare organizations and their Board of Directors in putative ERISA class actions over the administration of their 401(k) and 403(b) retirement plans, alleging breach of fiduciary duty and challenging excessive recordkeeping and administrative fees. The claims also challenge the plans’ inclusion of actively managed investment options and stable value funds, and the specific share classes offered to plan participants.
- We convinced a California federal court to dismiss all of the plaintiff’s claims alleging that the Board of Directors of the Motion Picture Industry Pension Plans (“MPI”) breached their fiduciary duties by offering a retirement plan with a pooled-asset design and by investing a portion of the plan’s assets in hedge funds and other alternative investments. In granting MPI’s motion to dismiss, the court found that the plan’s pooled-asset design complied with ERISA and that investing in the alternative investments was consistent with the plan’s stated purpose of generating consistent returns in all market environments.
- We convinced an Alabama federal court to dismiss all of the plaintiff’s claims alleging that a wealth management technology provider breached its fiduciary duties as an investment advisor to the 401(k) plan by allegedly failing to properly monitor certain of the plan’s investments. In granting the provider’s motion to dismiss with prejudice, the court found that our client was not acting in a fiduciary capacity because its contracted services were limited to supporting and providing recommendations to the plan’s retirement committee, which retained responsibility for the selection and monitoring of the plan’s investments.
- We represent a telecommunications company in a putative class action alleging that the company violated its fiduciary duties under ERISA by failing to unilaterally take control of and sell the putative class members’ investments in the stock of their former employer.
- We represent the trustees of the employees’ union pension and severance fund in multiple actions alleging that defendants should have transferred the participants’ assets under their former 401(k) plan to their new union’s plan. We secured the dismissal of claims brought in Illinois federal court. We also successfully convinced the courts in California to miss the bulk of the plaintiffs’ claims on a motion to dismiss, substantially limiting the potential exposure.
- We represent a trade group in two cases challenging the appropriateness of stable value funds offered within 401(k) plans.
- We secured a major victory for Georgetown University by obtaining dismissal of a class action lawsuit alleging they had mismanaged its retirement plan for faculty and staff. Plaintiffs alleged that they were entitled to hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, but we convinced the court that the claims did not warrant discovery.
- We obtained a complete dismissal of an ERISA class action accusing George Washington University (GWU) of mismanaging its retirement plan. The district court and the DC Circuit found that the plaintiff had previously released all of her claims against GWU and that the release’s narrow exclusion for claims brought “under” the university’s employee benefits plans did not preserve the plaintiff’s statutory claims under ERISA. We convinced the DC circuit to affirm the complete dismissal of the class action.
- We secured a major victory for Cornell University in a pending class-action lawsuit about the university’s retirement plan. A New York federal court deemed two of the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses to be unreliable and granted summary judgment to Cornell on claims accounting for more than 99.9% of the plaintiffs’ asserted damages. Plaintiffs have now appealed the dismissal of the other claims to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
- We represent Yale University in a pending class-action lawsuit challenging the administration of its “403(b)” retirement plan for faculty and staff. This case, and the cases against our other university clients, presents cutting-edge questions about the scope and nature of ERISA fiduciary duties and promises either to expand or to limit the liability of non-profit institutions, which have not previously been targeted by large-scale, class action lawsuits of this type. We also achieved very favorable settlements in the lawsuits against Columbia University, Long Island University and the University of Rochester, without even certifying a class in the latter two.
- We obtained a favorable opinion from the Second Circuit in an ERISA class action alleging fiduciary breach and challenging the fees charged for certain investments in a 401(k) plan. The opinion serves as prominent precedent in other ERISA class actions within the Second Circuit and as persuasive authority in other courts nationwide.
- We represented a global life insurance company in a class action challenging the application and effect of a cash balance formula. Among ruling on the merits of the ERISA statutory claim, the court of appeals held that the plaintiffs’ claim that they received insufficient notice of the amendment was barred by the applicable statute of limitations.
- We defended a global security company in two separate class actions in the Central District of California challenging the administration and investments of its 401(k) plan with excess of $16 billion in assets. The claims challenge various administrative and investment actions taken by our client’s management in operating the benefit plan. Our lawyers achieved a favorable settlement in the first of these class action cases after a week of trial had been completed. In the second case, we achieved a favorable ruling on a motion for summary judgment, prompting an eve-of-trial settlement.
- We defended a global defense company, including its investment management corporation, in an ERISA putative class action in connection with defined contribution plans’ investment options and fees, in the Southern District of Illinois. This long-running case involved a challenge to one of the nation’s largest 401(k) plans. A group of plaintiffs filed suit against our client and a subsidiary, alleging that their 401(k) accounts were subject to unreasonable fees and imprudent investment fund offerings. Plaintiffs alleged class-wide damages exceeding $1 billion. In a succession of proceedings that included two trips to the court of appeals and a cert petition, we succeeded in narrowing the claims and the terms of class certification. On the eve of trial, the case settled on favorable terms for our clients.
- We represented a financial services company as trustee and investment manager in a massive ERISA class action filed by employees of an automotive manufacturer who suffered retirement savings plan losses as the manufacturer’s stock declined.
- We defended a class action that alleged breach of fiduciary duty in the role of investment manager. The plaintiff class was composed of employees of a global oil company participating in a 401(k) plan. As a result of the Enron collapse, one of the investments in one of the funds within the 401(k) plan became worthless. Plaintiffs claimed damages in excess of $20 million. The case settled on the first day of trial.
- We successfully defended the defendant fiduciary from a financial services company in the leading Sixth Circuit decision governing fiduciary procedures in selecting and retaining 401(k) investment options.
- We defended the plan fiduciaries of a renewable energy company in a Department of Labor investigation into whether the plan administrator complied with the plan amendment placing a cap on employee contributions to the plan sponsor’s stock.
- We have also appeared as amicus in ERISA class actions alleging excessive fees in 401(k) plan administration and investment management in:
- Thole v. U.S. Bank (Eighth Circuit)
- Retirement Plans Committee of IBM v. Jander (Second Circuit)
- Tibble v. Edison International (United States Supreme Court)
- Renfro v. Unisys Corp. (Third Circuit)
- Spano v. Boeing (Seventh Circuit)
- Howell v. Motorola Inc. (Seventh Circuit)
- Beesley, et al. v. International Paper Company (Seventh Circuit)
- Ellis v. Fidelity Management Trust Co. (First Circuit)
- Barchock, et al. v. CVS Health Corp. (First Circuit)
- CNH Industrial N.V. v. Reese (retiree medical benefits)
- We secured a win for an aerospace and defense technology company in a nationwide class action over pension benefits. In one of the first cases in the Ninth Circuit to address a pension plan’s right to recoup benefit overpayments to plan participants, the team convinced the district court and the Ninth Circuit to dismiss the plaintiffs’ breach of fiduciary duty claims arising from inaccurate pension benefit estimates.
- We secured a victory for a telecommunications company when the court dismissed a putative class action challenging the company’s defined benefit plan’s use of actuarial assumptions. This case is part of an emerging wave of actuarial equivalence litigation that is sweeping the nation.
- We successfully defended a class action challenging the exclusion of certain pay from pension calculations for 18,000 retirees; the plan administrator’s position was upheld by the court in a decision reversing an adverse district court ruling, which could have cost $125 million in claimed benefits.
- We won summary judgment for the defendants in a class action brought to challenge calculation of lump sum pension payments to certain former employees.
- We represent a global life insurance company in a nationwide class action pending in the Southern District of California regarding administration of a pension plan stemming from the acquisition of another company and pertaining, in particular, to eligibility of predecessor company employees to participate and accrue benefits.
- We successfully defended an employer and its pension plans in a class action brought on behalf of over 12,000 former employees who challenged the calculation of their pension benefits in the course of converting from a traditional defined benefit plan to a cash balance plan.
- We represented a global life insurance company in a nationwide class action over administration of a pension plan alleging a wrongful denial of benefits for the class as a result of the plan administrator’s plan interpretation. We settled the case for a fraction of damages sought.
- We defended the retirement plan of an insurance company in a class action challenging the plan design and administration, which excluded the value of a cost-of-living adjustment from lump sum calculations of retirement benefits; negotiated a favorable settlement.
- We secured a victory before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of our client, a global life insurance company, in high-profile ERISA litigation against the State of Vermont, which was then affirmed by the United States Supreme Court. On behalf of our client, we challenged a state regulation requiring the disclosure of employees’ private and confidential medical claims history from health insurers within the state.
- We secured a victory for a financial services company in a class action regarding an executive retirement plan in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, in which a group of 400 executives of an automobile company alleged numerous state law claims alleging that the bankrupt employer raided the plan assets.
- We successfully defended a global insurance company in a class action filed by insurance agents challenging an amendment to the company’s sales performance requirements for agents to qualify for benefits.
- We represented a global life insurance company in vigorously contested litigation by a former executive over his retirement plan and deferred compensation benefits.
- We secured a victory in a hard-fought case for a global financial institution over severance benefits allegedly promised to the litigant but beyond the benefits available under the plan terms.
- We won summary judgment for an aerospace and defense technology company in a benefits action challenging the claim administrator’s determination that the beneficiary’s stay at a residential treatment center was not medically necessary and alleging a violation of the Mental Health Parity Act.
- We won summary judgment for a global telecommunications company in a benefits action challenging the claim administrator’s denial of the participant’s claims for short-term and long-term disability benefits.
- We successfully defended a global life insurance company against a medical benefits claim brought by a recidivist third-party medical provider that sought to obtain standing through an assignment of benefits.
- We represent an aerospace and defense technology company in a nationwide putative class action over severance benefits claimed to be owed under a severance policy after a reduction in force. We also represent the company in a benefits action challenging the terms of the plan under the Mental Health Parity Act and the claim administrator’s denial of benefits for the participant’s stay at a residential treatment center.
- We represent a global auto parts manufacturer in two separate severance benefit lawsuits brought by former executives, alleging that they were entitled to greater severance payments under the company’s severance plan because they were Section 16 officers with significant policymaking authority under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. One of the executives has brought a benefits claim while the other has brought a claim under ERISA that the company interfered with his right to receive the higher severance benefit.
- We represent a global commercial real estate services firm in a benefits action challenging the claim administrator’s determination that the beneficiary’s stay at a residential treatment center was not medically necessary and alleging a violation of the Mental Health Parity Act.
- We successfully resolved multiple short-term and long-term disability benefits actions for a leading direct to consumer marketing and product development company.
- We successfully defended the ESOP Committee of a global shipping company in litigation over the sale of company stock.
- We obtained a favorable settlement for the plan sponsor of an employee stock ownership plan (“ESOP”) in a putative class action brought against the ESOP trustee alleging that the ESOP trustee breached its fiduciary duties by causing the ESOP to engage in a prohibited transaction by paying above market value for shares in the company.
- We represent the plan sponsor of an ESOP in a Department of Labor investigation into whether the plan sponsor, selling shareholders, and ESOP trustee breached their fiduciary duties in connection with the ESOP transaction.
- We represented former executives and fiduciaries of an international renewable energy company’s retirement savings plan in a Department of Labor investigation into the administration of the plan and the activities of the plan’s fiduciaries and service providers. The investigation stemmed from a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing and subsequent drop in the value of the company’s stock.
- We represent a global commercial real estate services firm in a lawsuit brought by a medical services provider challenging the claim administrator’s determination that a medical surgery was not a covered out-of-network benefit under the company’s benefit plan.
- We represented a global food manufacturing company and its employee benefit health plan in a lawsuit brought by a medical services provider challenging a plan amendment that modified the in-network and out-of-network status of, and reimbursement amounts to, medical service providers.
- We successfully resolved multiple lawsuits for an aerospace and defense technology company in which a medical provider alleged that the company refused to reimburse the medical provider for the full value of its out-of-network services.
- Earned a spot in Law360’s “Benefits Practice Group of the Year” category four years in a row (2019 - 2022) for winning dismissals in a wave of ERISA class action lawsuits throughout the United States
- Top-Tier ERISA Litigation Practice – US News/Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” since 2016
- Recognized as a leading ERISA litigation practice nationwide since 2015 – Legal 500 USA
- Recognized as a leading ERISA litigation practice nationwide since 2019 – Chambers USA
- One partner named to the Hall of Fame by Legal 500 USA in ERISA Litigation since 2020
- One partner named to the Hall of Fame by Legal 500 USA in ERISA Litigation in 2020
- Two partners named by The National Law Journal as Employment Law Trailblazers in 2019 and 2020
- Two partners named a Law360 MVP in the category of benefits litigation in 2019 and 2020
- One partner named a Law360 MVP in the category of benefits litigation in 2020 and 2022 and a Law360 rising star in 2023
- One partner recognized as a 2019 “Lawyer of the Year” in category of ERISA Litigation – Best Lawyers