Justia ERISA Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Criminal Law
United States v. Frank
Frank embezzled $19 million from his former employer, NCI, and pleaded guilty to wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343. The district court sentenced Frank to 78-months’ imprisonment and ordered Frank to pay restitution of $19,440,331. The government has recovered over $7 million and attempted to garnish Frank’s 401(k) retirement account under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act (MVRA), filing an Application for Writ of Continuing Garnishment, 18 U.S.C. 3664(m)(1)(A)(i), naming Schwab as the garnishee. Schwab currently holds approximately $479,504 in Frank's 401(k) account, which is covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001. Frank argued that ERISA’s anti-alienation provision protects retirement plans against claims by third parties. The Fourth Circuit affirmed that the MVRA permits the seizure of Frank’s 401(k) retirement account, notwithstanding ERISA’s protections. When the government enforces a restitution order under the MVRA, it stands in the shoes of the defendant, acquiring whatever rights to 401(k) retirement funds he possesses; the government’s access to the funds in Frank’s 401(k) account may be limited by terms set out in Frank’s plan documents or by early withdrawal penalties to which Frank would be subject. The court remanded so that the district court may decide what present property right Frank has in his account. The court rejected an argument that the Consumer Credit Protection Act, 15 U.S.C. 1673(a), limits the government to taking 25 percent of the funds. View "United States v. Frank" on Justia Law
Nat’l Labor Relations Bd. v. HH3 Trucking, Inc.
The National Labor Relations Board found that HH3 Trucking had committed unfair labor practices and ordered back pay for its workers. HH3 failed to comply. The NLRB petitioned for judicial enforcement. HH3 did not reply to the petitions. The Seventh Circuit we enforced the orders summarily. HH3’s liability is $190,000 plus interest. After finding that HH3’s owners, the Hudsons, could comply but had chosen not to do so, the court held the Hudsons in civil contempt, and ordered them to pay at least $600 a month until the full judgment had been satisfied. Nothing happened. The court directed the Marshals Service to place the Hudsons in custody until they paid. They promised compliance and were released. They paid $600, then stopped. They went back to jail. After they asserted that they are no longer able to comply, the court allowed them to be transferred to home confinement and investigated. Finding that, although Gretchen Hudson considers herself retired and William Hudson had (recently) become medically unable to work, they remain able to pay something by drawing on savings and sources of current income that include benefits from a retirement plan. They argued that money received from a pension plan covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), as their plan is, is free of all legal claims by third parties, 29 U.S.C. 1056(d)(1). The Seventh Circuit rejected the argument and, noting that the “scofflaws” have begun to receive Social Security benefits, which themselves exceed $600 monthly, ordered them to pay at least that amount. View "Nat'l Labor Relations Bd. v. HH3 Trucking, Inc." on Justia Law
United States v. Eriksen
Defendants, the chairman and chief executive officer of Lunde Electric Company ("company"), appealed convictions stemming from the misappropriation of employee 401(k) contributions to pay the company's operating expenses. At issue was whether there was sufficient evidence to support defendants' convictions under 18 U.S.C. 664, for embezzlement or conversion of elective deferrals, and 18 U.S.C. 1027, for false or misleading statements in a required Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C 1001 et seq., document. The court held that there was sufficient evidence to support defendants' convictions on Counts 17 and 18 under section 664 where there was sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude that the 1991 Profit Sharing Plan had been restated before defendants retained their employees' elective deferrals in the company's general account; where defendants commingled their employees' contributions with the company's assets to prop up their failing business and therefore, intentionally used their employees' assets for an unauthorized purpose; where they sent participants account statements showing 401(k) balances which were in fact non-existent; where defendants' decision to deviate was the wilful criminal misappropriation punished by section 664; and where defendants were alerted repeatedly about their obligation to remit the deferrals and defendants hid their actions from employees. The court also held that there was sufficient evidence to support defendants' convictions on Count 21 under section 1027 where defendants' initial decision to mislead their own employees about the solvency of their retirement plans by filing false account statements and false Form 5500s were the behaviors targeted by section 1027.