Justia ERISA Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Business Law
Sullivan v. Running Waters Irrigation, Inc.
Alpine was an irrigation business owned by Robert from 1961 until it closed in 2009. Alpine was in arrears on pension fund payments to the Union. After a Joint Arbitration Board awarded it $56,269.97, the Union sought to compel the award under the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 185, and the Employee Retirement Security Act, 29 U.S.C. 1132(e)(1). During a deposition, Robert’s son, Jeffery, admitted his sole ownership of RWI and JV, which were established upon Alpine’s closing. Like Alpine, RWI services and installs lawn irrigation systems. JV’s sole business is leasing to RWI equipment that it purchased from Alpine. RWI operates out of Jeffery’s home, Alpine’s prior business address; all but one of RWI’s employees worked for Alpine. Almost all of RWI’s customers are former Alpine customers. The magistrate first denied the Union’s motion to impose judgment against RWI and JV as successors, but determined that the companies were successors under ERISA and that FRCP 25(c) provided an appropriate procedure and granted a motion to substitute. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the court properly applied the multifactor ERISA successorship test to find that an “interest” had been transferred within the meaning of FRCP 25(c) and properly resolved the motion without an evidentiary hearing.View "Sullivan v. Running Waters Irrigation, Inc." on Justia Law
Sun Capital Partners III, LP v. New England Teamsters & Trucking Indus. Pension Fund
This case concerned the withdrawal liability for a pro rata share of unfunded vested benefits to a multiemployer pension fund of Scott Brass, Inc. (SBI), a bankrupt company. SBI had withdrawal pension obligations to the multiemployer pension fund (TPF), which sought to impose the obligations on two private equity funds (Plaintiffs). Plaintiffs asserted they were passive investors that indirectly controlled SBI and sought a declaratory judgment against the TPF. The TPF counterclaimed and sought payment of the withdrawal liability at issue. The district court entered summary judgment for Plaintiffs. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part, and vacated in part, holding (1) at least one of the private equity funds that operated SBI sufficiently operated and was advantaged by its relationship with SBI, and further factual development was necessary as to the other equity fund; (2) the district court erred in entering summary judgment for Plaintiffs under the "trades or businesses" aspect of a two-part "control group" test under 29 U.S.C. 1301(b)(1); and (3) the district court correctly entered summary judgment for Plaintiffs on TPF's claim of liability on the ground that the funds had engaged in a transaction to evade or avoid withdrawal liability. Remanded. View "Sun Capital Partners III, LP v. New England Teamsters & Trucking Indus. Pension Fund" on Justia Law
Jensen, et al v. Solvay Chemicals, Inc., et al
Employees of Solvay Chemicals, Inc. brought an ERISA claim against the company for what they contended was improper notice with regard to changes in the company retirement program. At one time the company offered a defined benefit plan, but changed it to a "cash balance" plan that required a defined contribution from the company (rather than defined payments to employees). While the Tenth Circuit held that the company violated its notice obligations with regard to preexisting early retirement subsidies, the notice was sufficient in all other respects. As remedy for the defective notice, employees asked that the company revert back to the abandoned defined benefit plan. The district court found that the company's notice failure was not "egregious" to grant the employees' requested relief. The employees appealed the district court's denial of their request. Agreeing that the employees were not entitled to their requested relief, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Jensen, et al v. Solvay Chemicals, Inc., et al" on Justia Law
Gardner v. Heartland Indus. Partners, LP
Heartland is an investment firm that formerly held an ownership interest in Metaldyne, an automotive supplier. Leuliette is a co-founder of Heartland and was the CEO and Chairman of the Board of Metaldyne. Tredwell is also a Heartland co-founder and a Metaldyne Board member. In 2006, Heartland agreed to sell its interest in Metaldyne to Ripplewood. Metaldyne submitted an SEC “Schedule 14A and 14C Information” report that detailed the terms of the acquisition, but failed to mention that Metaldyne would owe plaintiffs, former executives, approximately $13 million as a result of the sale, under a change-of-control provision in Metaldyne’s “Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan,” in which Plaintiffs participated. The SERP is subject to Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. Ripplewood threatened to back out of the deal when it found out about the obligation. In response, Leuliette and Tredwell persuaded Metaldyne’s Board to declare the SERP invalid without notifying Plaintiffs. The Ripplewood deal closed less than a month later. Leuliette personally collected more than $10 million as a result. Plaintiffs claimed tortious interference with contractual relations. The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that the state law claims were not “completely preempted” under section 1132(a)(1)(B) of ERISA. View "Gardner v. Heartland Indus. Partners, LP" on Justia Law
Evans, et al. v. Sterling Chemicals, Inc., et al.
This appeal required the court to determine what effect, if any, a retiree benefits-related provision included in an asset purchase agreement had on the acquiring company's retiree benefits plans governed under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1000 et seq. The court held that the provision constituted a valid plan amendment. Moreover, the court held that the provision was assumed, not rejected, in bankruptcy. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Evans, et al. v. Sterling Chemicals, Inc., et al." on Justia Law