Browsed by
Category: General

Million Dollar Pension Dispute Highlights Importance of Designating a Beneficiary

Million Dollar Pension Dispute Highlights Importance of Designating a Beneficiary

When a vested pension plan participant dies without having named a beneficiary, there is bound to be litigation as to who is entitled to the participant’s pension benefits. Kinder Morgan, Inc. v Crout, No. 19-20037 (5th Cir. May 18, 2020) is just such a case. In Kinder, Danny Lee Crout was an employee of Kinder Morgan Inc. and participated in its retirement Savings Plan until his death in 2016. As of his passing, Danny’s account balance under the Plan totaled…

Read More Read More

Employers Must INDEFINITELY Maintain Records Sufficient to Determine Their Employees’ Pension Eligibility

Employers Must INDEFINITELY Maintain Records Sufficient to Determine Their Employees’ Pension Eligibility

I cannot tell you how many times over the years pension plan participants have called me to complain that their employer or pension plan administrator has told them they cannot find documents needed to determine whether they are eligible for a pension and, if so, the amount. That is ridiculous! Under §209 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), employers must maintain records with respect to each of their employees sufficient to determine any benefits which are, or may…

Read More Read More

Are Your Contributions to Your 401(k) Plan Protected From Creditors in a Bankruptcy Proceeding?

Are Your Contributions to Your 401(k) Plan Protected From Creditors in a Bankruptcy Proceeding?

The answer depends. But, here’s how the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals answered that question in Davis v. Helbling (In re Davis), No. 19-3117, 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 17223 (6th Cir. June 1, 2020). In 2017, Camille Davis filed a bankruptcy petition under Chapter 13 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Chapter 13 gives individuals with a regular source of income the opportunity to propose a plan of repayment to their creditors while under the bankruptcy court’s protection. When Davis filed…

Read More Read More

Beware Before You Sign a Separation Agreement: It Could Impact Your Pension Benefits

Beware Before You Sign a Separation Agreement: It Could Impact Your Pension Benefits

In conjunction with an employee’s separation of employment, employers frequently ask the employee to sign a separation agreement in exchange for a sum of money, assistance in finding another job, or some other consideration. For many employees, the lure of the money motivates them to sign the separation agreement. However, most separation agreements include a broad release of claims against the employer and its agents, affiliates, representatives, employees and other related individuals and entities. If you later discover that your…

Read More Read More

An Idea Whose Time Has Come: A National “Lost and Found” for Retirement Accounts

An Idea Whose Time Has Come: A National “Lost and Found” for Retirement Accounts

As explained in my prior Post, each year millions of Americans lose thousands of dollars in retirement savings in the process of changing jobs. The problem largely results from employers shifting from defined benefit plans that pay an annuity for life to defined contribution plans, like 401(k) plans, that pay a lump sum upon separation from employment or at a later date when the participant elects to take his/her lump sum. If a separated participant chooses to leave the lump…

Read More Read More

Commit a Crime? Risk Having Your Retirement Account Garnished

Commit a Crime? Risk Having Your Retirement Account Garnished

If you are in a private-sector pension plan covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), you may have been told that your pension benefits cannot be “alienated.” That is, creditors cannot touch your employer-provided pension or retirement funds while those funds are in the plan. However, ERISA’s anti-alienation rule only goes so far, as one criminal recently learned. United States v. Frank, No. 1:17-cr-114 (E.D. Va. May 6, 2020). In 2017, Lawrence Frank pled guilty to one count…

Read More Read More

Oh Where Oh Where Is My Pension?

Oh Where Oh Where Is My Pension?

It just might be in a state “unclaimed” property fund. A recent research paper issued by the Center for Financial Security of the University of Wisconsin-Madison puts a spotlight on these funds and the many unclaimed retirement accounts in them: “Frictions in Saving and Claiming: An Analysis of Unclaimed Retirement Accounts” by Corina Mommaerts and Anita Mukherjee. In the paper, the authors use data collected from state unclaimed property databases to estimate that nationally in 2016 there were 70,000 unclaimed…

Read More Read More

Did You Know? Crimes Committed By Your Spouse May Be Detrimental to Your Pension

Did You Know? Crimes Committed By Your Spouse May Be Detrimental to Your Pension

Our intuition suggests this cannot be the case. After all, YOU did not commit the crime. However, at least in Texas (and possibly some other states) our intuition would be wrong if the retirement savings were jointly possessed during the marriage. A recent Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision makes this point abundantly clear. United States v. Berry, No. 19-20050, 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 6260 (Feb. 28, 2020) In the Berry case, Gwendolyn Berry was convicted of wire fraud, mail…

Read More Read More

Out of a Job Due to Covid-19? You May Be Eligible for a Fully Vested Pension

Out of a Job Due to Covid-19? You May Be Eligible for a Fully Vested Pension

Most of us would be hard pressed to find anything positive to say about the Covid-19 pandemic. But, if you lost your job on account of the pandemic and were a participant in a pension plan where you had not yet vested in your pension, there may be a wee bit of good news. Under the Internal Revenue Code, participants automatically become vested in their accrued pension benefits upon the termination or partial termination of the pension plan. In the…

Read More Read More

It’s High Time to Do-Away With the “Arbitrary and Capricious” Standard of Review for Employee Benefit Claims

It’s High Time to Do-Away With the “Arbitrary and Capricious” Standard of Review for Employee Benefit Claims

The Employee Retirement Security Act (ERISA) has long-required that employee benefit plans (e.g., pension and welfare plans) provide “a full and fair review” of any decision denying a participant’s claim for benefits. ERISA §503, 29 U.S.C. §1133. Accordingly, most employee benefit plans provide procedures for submitting a claim for benefits to the plan administrator and for requesting a review of any denial of the claim. Often, the merits of a participant’s claim will turn on the interpretation of disputed plan…

Read More Read More

Untitled 1