The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) is one of the nation’s most complex pieces of legislation. At the same time, retirement benefits account for a significant portion of employers’ personnel-related expenditures. Consequently, ERISA disputes are among the most frequently litigated and financially risky areas of employee benefits law. To minimize the likelihood of disputes and to quickly resolve cases in a manner that reduces or eliminates potential liabilities, clients need legal advisors with deep and diverse experience in the application of this often misunderstood law.
With one of the most sophisticated full service employee benefits practices in the world, McDermott lawyers are not only sought out for their knowledge and in-depth counseling capabilities and risk mitigation strategies, but also their strength to litigate complex ERISA and other benefit plan issues. By having a trial team that has litigated hundreds of matters involving ERISA and related benefit plan claims and investigations, we have invested in building out one of the few teams in the US that understands the nuances surrounding these cases, the best tactics to address them and the compliance strategies to prevent future litigation challenges.
Whether it’s representing an employer in a Department of Labor investigation, defending a plan sponsor in an ERISA class action, advising corporate fiduciaries on a routine compliance issue or counseling a plan administrator on a benefits dispute, our litigators have seen it all. By having a litigation team focused solely on these types of claims who work hand-in-hand with our market leading employee benefit counselors, we are plugged into the latest trends and strategies that reduce the costs that our clients need to invest in addressing these complex litigations. Our number one priority is to help our clients prevent litigation and by doing so, we put a great emphasis on making sure we are ahead of the curve on the latest developments so that we can better prepare our clients for developing threats.
Just as critical as the experience that our employee benefit litigators bring to each engagement on substantive issues is the trial experience these individuals also possess. McDermott prides itself on preparing all cases as if they will be litigated through trial, ensuring that we have a pristine trial record throughout the life of matter so that we are prepared to win for our clients during any stage of a case, administrative hearing or government investigation. As noted by Chambers, Legal 500 and US News Best Lawyers, our clients have lauded the positive impact of having a team that is dedicated to solving ERISA and employee benefit issues combined with a courtroom track record that positions our clients for swift and effective resolutions. Chambers USA further praised McDermott as being “adept in acting for clients with respect to the full spectrum of litigation and administrative proceedings connected to benefits plans.”
Beyond our courtroom and counseling strengths, our litigators have substantial experience working with our clients to determine and secure appropriate insurance coverage should a litigation or investigation come to the surface. By having longstanding relationships with most of the major carriers and being on many of their panels, our full service employee benefits team has a tremendous amount of experience reviewing policies, negotiating favorable terms and working with a carrier should a policy need to be enforced.
Our ERISA lawyers have significant experience litigating claims concerning:
Department of Labor Investigations
We represent clients before federal and state agencies and regularly negotiate effective settlements to a broad range of ERISA-related disputes. Among recent matters, we successfully challenged an assessment of withdrawal liability under the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendment Act (MPPAA) upon the sale of a company’s assets, resulting in a favorable ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and defended a “parent” company in federal court against claims involving the MPAA obligations of a bankrupt affiliate, settling the matter for a fraction of the amount claimed. We also represented the former chairman of an international biotechnology manufacturer a dispute involving alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Our ERISA litigation team includes members of McDermott’s highly regarded appellate group. Together, we have successfully handled hundreds of appeals at every level of federal and state appellate courts. Among the numerous ERISA appeals that we have argued and defended, we secured a victory before the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in high-profile litigation for Liberty Mutual Insurance Company against the State of Vermont, challenging a state regulation requiring the disclosure of individuals’ private and confidential medical claims history from health insurers within the state. In another matter, we successfully defended a class action, challenging exclusion of certain pay from pension calculations for 18,000 retirees, before the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
We represent employers, sponsors, insurers, service providers, plan administrators, trustees and other plan fiduciaries in a broad range of ERISA claims disputes involving employee and retiree health, pension and other benefits. Among the broad range of issues under dispute, we have defended clients in matters involving severance-plan terms, age discrimination in cash-balance pension plans, stock investments and business performance, plan liquidity and plan asset values, reductions and terminations of retiree medical benefits, blackout periods, plan administration and plan eligibility. We represent clients in federal courts across the country and negotiate favorable settlements with government agencies such as the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
A Chicago-based Fortune 100 company in the food industry in the successful avoidance of millions of dollars in pension liability by challenging a PBGC determination supporting one of its competitors (Sara Lee)
A multinational chemical company with the successful reversal of an adverse benefit judgment saving millions of dollars in pension plan liabilities (Evonik)
A publicly traded financial services company with an ERISA appellate victory affirming judgment in a welfare benefit dispute transpiring over 20 years (ADP, Inc.)
A US-based privately held corporation in a successful appeal defense of an ERISA judgment on a variety of benefit and fiduciary breach claims (Mars, Inc.)
A manufacturer of clothing and textiles on a 200-participant ERISA administrative benefit claim review involving tens of millions of dollars in liability that avoided litigation on all claims (Hillshire Brands)
A publicly traded company in the automobile and machinery industry in negotiations with the PBGC on an ERISA Section 4062(e) matter that avoided hundreds of millions of dollars of pension liability related to facility closures (Navistar)
Global aerospace and defense giant Northrop Grumman Corporation in various class action district court cases and appeals before the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit involving Northrop’s pension plans, 401(k) plans and other benefit design cases
The Bank of America 401(k) Plan, as a Successor to the Countrywide Financial Corporation 401(k) Savings and Investment Plan, in connection with the Countrywide securities lawsuits.
A third-party financial trustee alleged to have violated fiduciary duties to 401(k) plan participants by holding General Motors company stock during the period leading up to the General Motors bankruptcy, in various cases
ERISA plan fiduciaries, trustees, and related associations in submitting amicus briefs, including taking a position on behalf of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association in a closely watched appeal before the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit