Our ERISA Litigation practice handles the full spectrum of ERISA cases, including ERISA class actions challenging the administration of health care benefit plans, 401(k) plans, and defined benefit pension plans. We represent clients facing sensitive investigations or enforcement actions by the U.S. Department of Labor, the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, state attorney’s general and other administrative agencies. Clients turn to Weil to address their most sophisticated legal issues arising in ERISA litigation, including preemption, standing, exhaustion, fiduciary status, disclosure obligations, withdrawal liability, plan termination, and benefit accrual.
We take an interdisciplinary approach toward ERISA litigations, which has become increasingly important as these matters routinely are accompanied by complex legal issues arising under the bankruptcy code, the securities laws and RICO. Indeed, Weil’s ERISA litigation practice includes more than 15 lawyers drawn from our Employment Litigation and Complex Commercial Litigation practice groups across several of the Firm’s offices.
Weil defended AIG and certain current and former employees in a putative class action under ERISA on behalf of participants in certain 401(k) plans sponsored by AIG (the Plans) during the period August 7, 2007 through May 1, 2009 and whose participant accounts included shares of AIG’s Stock Fund. Plaintiffs alleged, among other things, that the defendants breached their fiduciary responsibilities to the Plans’ participants and their beneficiaries under ERISA by continuing to offer the AIG Stock Fund as an investment option in the Plans after it allegedly became imprudent to do so; they claim that the purported violations caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. The alleged ERISA violations related to, among other things, the defendants’ purported failure to monitor and/or disclose unrealized market valuation losses on AIG Financial Product’s super senior credit default swap portfolio. In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Fifth Third Bancorp v. Dudenhoeffer, No. 12-751 (U.S. June 25, 2014), which rejected the presumption of prudence in favor of ERISA fiduciaries that many courts had previously applied, the Court denied defendants’ motion to dismiss without prejudice to renewal of defendants’ motions on other grounds besides the presumption of prudence. The Court’s order required the parties to meet and confer concerning the impact of the Fifth Third Bancorp case and the possibility of settlement. On January 6, 2015, the parties informed the Court that they had accepted a mediator’s proposal to settle the class action for $40 million – a fraction of the more than $300 million value that the plaintiffs ascribed to their claims. The Court approved the class settlement in September 2015.
Weil successfully represented members of the AIG Retirement Board against claims by a participant claiming that the defendants breached their fiduciary duties under ERISA by failing to bring a professional malpractice claim against PricewaterhouseCoopers for allegedly conducting a negligent audit of AIG.
Weil represented Howard Wohl, a co-founder of Ivy Asset Management LLC and Ivy’s former Chief of Investment Management, in an action commenced by the Trustees of the Upstate Engineers Pension Fund stemming from Ivy’s advice with respect to investments with Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC (Madoff). Plaintiffs alleged, among other things, that Ivy, Mr. Wohl, and certain other individuals employed by Ivy breached their ERISA fiduciary duties by failing to take prudent actions to monitor Madoff and his purported trading and failing to disclose the extent of the suspected misconduct by Madoff. Plaintiffs further alleged that Mr. Wohl and his co-founder placed pension assets at risk for their own benefit when they allegedly failed to disclose their concerns about Madoff to Plaintiffs, purportedly to ensure that the Bank of New York would acquire Ivy. Plaintiffs sought disgorgement under ERISA § 409(a) from Mr. Wohl and his co-founder of the entire $200 million that they received in connection with the Bank of New York’s acquisition of Ivy.
In September 2015, the S.D.N.Y. granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss in its entirety, which was later affirmed by the Second Circuit in 2016. The U.S. Supreme Court denied plaintiffs petition for a writ of certiorari in 2017.
- Weil won dismissal of claims by a participant in the Lehman Brothers Savings Plan who sought to sue the Plan’s auditor for professional malpractice "derivatively on the Plan’s behalf".
- Weil defended the Employee Benefit Plans Committee Of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in a lawsuit filed by the PBGC to terminate Lehman’s retirement plan, and settled the case on favorable terms, relying on a creative interpretation of Title IV of ERISA, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and Constitutional Due Process guarantees.
Weil successfully represented Marsh in an action by two former executives seeking to obtain severance benefits and the value of stock options forfeited when they were terminated in the aftermath of a New York state investigation into the practice of “contingent commissions” and alleged bid-rigging. In June 2012, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims for malicious prosecution and abuse of process on the pleadings. In its January 2015 decision granting Marsh’s motion for summary judgment, the Court dismissed Plaintiffs’ remaining claims for severance benefits under ERISA and for the value of their forfeited equity awards under state law. In June 2016, the Second Circuit affirmed the summary judgment decision in its entirety, and for the first time established a solid legal framework supporting the right of a company to terminate an employee who fails to cooperate in an internal investigation.
Weil serves as lead counsel for UnitedHealth in a nationwide putative class action in Arizona federal court brought by a physical therapy provider who purported to have received an assignment of the rights and benefits of at least 60 plan participants and/or beneficiaries, two individuals treated by the plaintiff provider, and the Arizona Chiropractic Society. Weil also represents 35 of the 45 employer-sponsored health plans named as co-defendants. The Ninth Circuit, in its November 5, 2014 opinion reviewing the district court’s grant of summary judgment in defendants’ favor on all claims, expressed its views on several distinct issues likely to recur in ERISA lawsuits throughout the country, including assignments of benefits, constitutional standing, the enforceability of limitations periods stated in the plan, and whether a claims administrator of a self-funded ERISA plan may be sued for benefits. Following the Ninth Circuit’s decision – which affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded – defendants petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, which was denied on October 13, 2015. Defendants then again moved for partial summary judgment, raising several arguments including constitutional and statutory standing, Arizona’s statute of limitations for ERISA benefits claims, the enforceability of limitations periods stated in different plans, and anti-assignment provisions precluding a provider from filing a civil suit on behalf of a participant. In December 2017, the court granted in part and denied in part defendants’ motion, agreeing with the defendants’ arguments regarding the proper statute of limitations and the enforceability of anti-assignment provisions, and considerably narrowing the case. A settlement is pending.
Weil successfully defended UnitedHealth Group in a putative class action filed by a participant in a self-funded health plan sponsored by AllianceBernstein L.P. alleging violations of ERISA §§ 502(a)(1)(B), 502(a)(3), 503, and 502(c)(1)(B), based primarily on defendants’ alleged improper coordination with Medicare of benefits, and the defendants’ alleged failure to provide a full and fair review of healthcare benefit claims. On November 7, 2014, the court granted UnitedHeath Group’s renewed motion for summary judgment, resulting in a complete dismissal of all remaining claims against UnitedHealth Group. On April 27, 2015, the court denied in its entirety Plaintiff’s motion to amend her complaint again. The matter was resolved amicably in December 2015.
Weil represented OptumInsight, Inc. and UnitedHealth Group, Inc. and related entities, as well as several corporations and their self-funded ERISA health plans, in a putative class action by two California ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) on behalf of a proposed nationwide class of ASCs, alleging that the methods used by UnitedHealth Group to reimburse out-of-network (OON) claims for services performed by ASCs was arbitrary and capricious. In two dismissal orders in March and December 2013, the court dismissed with prejudice plaintiffs’ claims under ERISA §§ 502(a)(3), the RICO claims as well any claims arising out of unidentified methods used to reimburse OON claims for services performed by ASCs. Following mediation in April 2015, the parties agreed to a settlement in principle on terms favorable to our clients, and on May 16, 2016, the court granted final approval. The court entered final judgment dismissing the claims with prejudice on June 3, 2016, and the settlement funds were dispersed on August 15, 2016.
Weil also successfully defended a class action suit filed by members of health care plans in the D.N.J. against UnitedHealth Group, Inc., Ingenix, Inc., and other insurers. Plaintiffs asserted ERISA, RICO, and antitrust claims, among others, based on allegations that the reimbursement rates for out-of-network coverage were artificially low due to the insurers’ use of databases supplied by Ingenix. The district court dismissed the antitrust claims for failure to state a claim, the RICO claim for lack of standing, and the state law claims as pre-empted by ERISA. Plaintiffs took an appeal to the Third Circuit on the RICO claim, and the Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal.
Weil is defending WMI in a purported ERISA class action – part of a consolidated, multi-district litigation also involving securities and derivatives litigations – where plaintiffs claim that WMI and other fiduciaries failed to act solely in the interest of WaMu Savings Plan beneficiaries by allowing imprudent investment in WMI stock as part of the Plan.
Weil has negotiated favorable pending settlements that relate to the putative ERISA class action based on WMI’s “cash balance” pension plan, and WMI’s ownership rights to various “rabbi” trusts set aside in connection with certain ERISA “top-hat” plans.
Weil also defended the debtor’s estate in connection with various employment-related claims, including employment discrimination claims, as well as claims under retention agreements and severance and change of control plans.
Weil is currently ranked as among the top 10 firms nationwide for “ERISA Litigation.”
Legal 500 2018
Ranked Tier 1 for Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law
U.S. News – Best Lawyers* “Best Law Firms” 2018
* Best Lawyers (in America) is by Levine Leichtman Capital Partners