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June 2017 Archives

Alcoa Cheats Pension Claimant Out of Rightful Pension Amount by Excluding Bonus From Pension Calculation; Read How the Court Ruled

Under ERISA [the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which governs most private-sector employee benefit plans], pension plans must be administered in accordance with their terms. Although this rule is well-known by plan administrators, disputes arise when parties disagree about the meaning of the plan's terms. Nonetheless, if the terms of the plan unambiguously favor your pension claim, do what the participant did in Walton v. Pension Plan, No. 2:16-cv-00397, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 80440 (W.D. Pa. May 24, 2017): FIGHT BACK.

Appellate Court Rules That Lower Court Improperly Placed Burden on Pension Claimant to Produce Documents That Should Have Been Part of the Pension Plan's Records

Pension plans are designed to be long-term such that participants steadily accrue benefits over their period of employment with the plan sponsor and any participating employer. As a result, records of participants' employment history and benefit accruals may span many years. Participants typically do not maintain these records themselves. Rather, these records are maintained (or should be maintained) by the plan administrator. But what are the consequences if the plan administrator fails to maintain such records?ERISA-Attorney_Man Carrying Large Rock on Back_Depositphotos_126376800_m-2015.jpg

ERISA's Anti-Forfeiture Rule and Good Lawyering Net Pension Plan Participant an Additional $109,000 in Pension Benefits

ERISA [the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which governs most private sector pension plans] seeks to protect pension plan participants from losing their promised pension benefits. One way ERISA does this is through an "anti-forfeiture rule" that expressly prohibits the forfeiture of a participant's vested pension benefit at normal retirement age. In a recent court decision, this rule was instrumental in netting the pension claimant an additional $109,000 in past due pension benefits plus interest and the right to seek an award of costs and attorneys' fees incurred in prosecuting the claim. Aicher v. IBEW Local Union No. 269 Joint Trust Funds Office, No. 12-1781, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83061 (D. N.J. May 31, 2017). Here are the facts:Rules Spelled on Cubes Held By Caricatures_Depositphotos_27462397_s-2015.jpg

Tragic Facts and Hard-Line Rules Result in Widow Losing $463,000 in Pension Benefits

Courts interpret pension plans in accordance with their terms and, therefore, will not deviate from them, even when the result seems harsh or unfair. Strang v. Ford Motor Co. General Retirement Plan, No. 16-2090, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 8849 (6th Cir. May 19, 2017) is a recent, albeit sad, example.