Sidley has a top-ranked appellate practice. We have consistently obtained excellent results on ERISA litigation issues in the Courts of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Sidley Secures Dismissal with Prejudice for Officers and Directors of SunEdison
- Plaintiffs brought an ERISA class action alleging that defendants breached their fiduciary duties by allowing participants in the SunEdison 401(k) plan to retain their stock in SunEdison as public information suggested that the company was heading to bankruptcy. Plaintiffs also alleged that defendants should have disallowed further investment because they had insider information that the stock was overvalued.
- We won dismissal with prejudice. The Second Circuit held that plaintiffs’ claim based on public information was foreclosed under Supreme Court precedent because they failed to allege “special circumstances” affecting the reliability of the market’s valuation of SunEdison stock. The Second Circuit also rejected plaintiffs’ claim based on non-public information, holding that plaintiffs failed to plausibly allege that a prudent fiduciary could not have concluded that halting further purchases would have done more harm than good to the plan and its participants. In re: SunEdison, Inc. ERISA Litig., 331 F. Supp. 3d 101 (S.D.N.Y. 2018), affirmed, O’Day v. Chatila, 2019 WL 2404660 (2nd Cir. June 7, 2019).
Sidley Wins Dismissal with Prejudice for MEMC
- Plaintiff filed an ERISA class action alleging that the fiduciaries of MEMC, LLC’s 401(k) plan breached their fiduciary duties by allowing participants to retain their holdings in SunEdison stock after MEMC was spun off from SunEdison, when public information suggested that SunEdison was headed to bankruptcy.
- Sidley obtained a dismissal on the pleadings, which was affirmed by the Eighth Circuit. The Eighth Circuit held that the Supreme Court’s pleading standard under Fifth Third Bancorp. v. Dudenhoeffer applies to all publicly-traded securities and is not limited to employer securities. The court held that plaintiff’s claim was properly dismissed because plaintiff failed to allege any “special circumstances” that would affect the reliability of SunEdison’s market price. Usenko v. MEMC, LLC, 2018 WL 999982 (E.D. Mo. Feb. 21, 2018), affirmed, 926 F.3d 468 (8th Cir. 2019).
Eighth Circuit Upholds Dismissal of Claims Against Principal Life
- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a class action alleging that a retirement plan service provider violated fiduciary duties under ERISA. The case provides helpful precedent for defendants in similar cases at a time when federal courts around the country are experiencing an uptick in ERISA class actions. McCaffree v. Principal Life Ins. Co., 811 F.3d 998 (8th Cir. 2016).
Sidley Secures Landmark Victory in Claims Against Plan Fiduciaries
- The Seventh Circuit announced that it was adopting the Moench presumption of prudence to evaluate claims against plan fiduciaries who follow plan terms by offering company stock as an investment option.
- The court expressed “fundamental doubts” about common theories of liability in 401(k) stock drop cases and stated that “it will be difficult” for any future plaintiff to rebut the presumption of prudence.
- Absent misrepresentations or other misconduct, “plaintiffs in such cases under ERISA must try to hit a very small and perhaps non-existent target.” White v. Marshall & Ilsley Corp., 714 F.3d 980 (7th Cir. 2013).
Victory for American United Life Limits Reach of ERISA’s Definition of “Fiduciary”
- In a victory with broad implications for the financial services and health insurance industries – and ERISA cases in general – the Seventh Circuit limited the reach of ERISA’s definition of “fiduciary.”
- The court held that our client, a 401(k) service provider, was not a fiduciary with respect to its receipt of “revenue sharing” from mutual fund companies. The opinion rejected a novel theory of fiduciary liability that the Department of Labor had espoused in an amicus brief. Leimkuehler v. American United Life Ins. Co., 713 F.3d 905 (7th Cir. 2013).
Sidley Secures Landmark Victory in U.S. Supreme Court
- In this landmark Supreme Court case, Sidley successfully argued that a health maintenance organization was not acting as a fiduciary under ERISA when it made treatment decisions. Pegram v. Herdrich, 530 U.S. 211 (2000).
Highly Favorable Verdict in ERISA Claims Against Bank of America
- Sidley won dismissal of class action ERISA claims challenging a cash balance plan’s “normal retirement age.” The case involved complex “whipsaw,” “backloading,” lump sum benefit, and disclosure claims.
- The Fourth Circuit held that the plan complied with ERISA and that the plan terms were adequately disclosed to participants. McCorkle v. Bank of America Corp., 688 F.3d 164 (4th Cir. 2012).
Sidley Secures Dismissal of All Claims Against Exelon Corporation
- We won dismissal of all claims against Exelon Corporation and certain of its directors and officers. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Loomis v. Exelon Corp., 658 F.3d 667 (7th Cir. 2011).
Sidley Secures Summary Judgment in $6 Billion Class Action
- Sidley won summary judgment on all claims in a $6 billion class action seeking expansion of ERISA and fiduciary liability through the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The Third Circuit affirmed. Engers v. AT&T, No. 10-2752, 2011 WL 2507089 (3d Cir. June 22, 2011).
- The suit was the largest collective action ever certified under the ADEA.
Working with Pfizer Inc. Sidley Secured Victory On All Claims
- Sidley prevailed on all claims in an ERISA suit challenging the design of a cash balance plan.
- The Seventh Circuit affirmed, creating favorable precedent on issues relating to benefit accrual. Walker v. Monsanto Co. Pension Plan, 614 F.3d 415 (7th Cir. 2010).
Sidley Secures Summary Judgment in Favor of Owens Corning
- Based on the statute of limitations, we won summary judgment in favor of Owens Corning’s CEO and members of the senior management team.
- The Sixth Circuit clarified important questions about how to interpret ERISA’s three-year “actual knowledge” statute of limitations and when a claim for breach of fiduciary duty accrues. Brown v. Tober, 622 F.3d 564 (6th Cir. 2010).
Cash Balance Victories for Exelon Corporation
- Sidley won significant victories in a pair of ERISA cases for Exelon Corporation. First, Exelon won a class action that challenged its discretion to define “normal retirement age.” Fry v. Exelon Corp. Cash Balance Pension Plan, 571 F.3d 644 (7th Cir. 2009).
- The next year, Exelon won summary judgment in a related class action involving the interpretation of the plan. Fry v. Exelon Corp. Cash Balance Pension Plan, No. 09 C 53, 2010 WL 4740109 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 12, 2010).
Successful Dismissal of Claims on Behalf of Tribune Company
- Sidley won dismissal of all claims against Tribune Company in a class action filed on behalf of participants in the company’s 401(k) plans.
- The Seventh Circuit observed that “ERISA imposes no duty on plan fiduciaries to continuously audit operational affairs.” Pugh v. Tribune Co., 521 F.3d 686 (7th Cir. 2008).
Successful Dismissal for Southern California Gas Company
- Sidley won dismissal of this ERISA age discrimination and statutory notice violation class action in the trial court.
- The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the age discrimination, backloading, and California claims in a closely watched, precedent-setting appeal. Hurlic v. Southern Calif. Gas Co., 539 F.3d 1024 (9th Cir. 2008).
Summary Judgment Victory for Quaker Oats
- Sidley won affirmance of summary judgment in a strong opinion upholding the plan terms over allegedly contrary statements from the company and the plan. Kannapien v. Quaker Oats Co., 507 F.3d 629 (7th Cir. 2007).
Notable Verdict in Third Circuit for AT&T
- The Third Circuit agreed that AT&T did not breach its fiduciary duties under ERISA when it allegedly failed to tell retiring employees that it was contemplating a change to the pension plan that would have provided them with better benefits. Peterson v. AT&T, 127 Fed. Appx. 67, 2005 WL 751925 (3d Cir. 2005).