Sidley has played a major role in developing the law in this area. Few firms have handled as many recent precedent-setting cases involving pension plans, including ground-breaking opinions authored by the Third, Fourth, Seventh, and Ninth Circuits.
Sidley Achieves Victory for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority
- Plaintiffs filed an ERISA class action against the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority. Plaintiffs challenging the Hospital Authority’s benefit plans’ status as government plans exempt from ERISA and asserting that the plans be conformed to comply with ERISA.
- Sidley obtained dismissal on the pleadings. The court held that the Hospital Authority is a political subdivision under federal law and that its plans are exempt from ERISA. Shore v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hosp. Auth., -- F. Supp. 3d --, 2019 WL 4141059 (M.D.N.C. Aug. 30, 2019), voluntarily dismissed on appeal, No. 19-2086 (4th Cir. Dec. 16, 2019).
Sidley Obtains Dismissal for Detroit Energy
- Plaintiff filed an ERISA class action challenging Detroit Energy’s offer to permit employees to voluntarily move from a traditional defined benefit formula to a cash balance formula. Plaintiff alleged that defendants failed to give proper notice of the plan amendment and alleged they were entitled to additional benefits based on the plan terms.
- The court dismissed plaintiff’s claims with prejudice. The court held that the company satisfied ERISA’s notice and disclosure requirements in describing the new formula, and that plaintiff’s claim for benefits was barred by the statute of limitations. Nolan v. Detroit Energy Co., et al., 2019 WL 2996178 (E.D. Mich. July 9, 2019).
Highly Favorable Verdict in ERISA Claims Against a Major Financial Institution
- 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. 688 F.3d 164 (4th Cir. 2012).
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).
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 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).
Successful Defense on Behalf of BankBoston in ERISA suit
- Sidley won a voluntary withdrawal of half of this ERISA suit against the First National Bank of Boston and BankBoston pension plans, which alleged a breach of statutory notice requirements and breach of fiduciary duty.
- We successfully pursued a strategy of informal expert discovery to resolve the remaining claims, saving substantial litigation costs.
Dismissal of “Whipsaw” and Backloading Claims Against Duke Energy
- We defended Duke Energy in this ERISA class action against complex whipsaw and backloading claims, as well as notice and breach of fiduciary duty claims.
- Sidley won dismissal of the bulk of the claims, fought off attempts to expand the complaint, and defeated certification of a fiduciary duty class.
Dismissal for Washington Mutual in ERISA Class Action Suit
- We obtained the dismissal of age discrimination, backloading and notice claims in this ERISA class action.
Favorable Settlement for Fleet Bank
- Sidley defended FleetBoston Financial Corporation and its pension plan against statutory notice, age discrimination, and breach of fiduciary duty claims premised upon complicated financial calculations and actuarial analysis. The suit settled on favorable terms.