ERISA Cases We’ve Handled

A national leader in ERISA litigation and other pension-plan matters, Korein Tillery has provided representation in some of the most pivotal cases in this area. Our legal work in ERISA has changed the landscape of how this area is handled in courts throughout the country.

Some of our most notable and momentous results include:

Williams v. Rohm & Haas Pension Plan, 497 F.3d 710 (7th Cir. 2007). The Plaintiff Class, represented by Korein Tillery attorney Douglas R. Sprong,alleged that the Rohm and Haas Pension Plan violated ERISA by failing to include a cost-of-living adjustment in lump sum distributions from the Plan. Following class certification, Korein Tillery obtained summary judgment in favor of the class. On August 14, 2007, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s order granting plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and denying the pension plan’s cross-motion for summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit agreed that the pension plan violated ERISA by failing to include the value of a cost-of-living adjustment in the class members’ lump sum distributions. The Court remanded the case to the district court so that class members’ lump sum benefits could be recalculated to include the value of the cost-of-living adjustment. The Plan’s Petition for Writ ofCertiorari to the United States Supreme Court was denied in May 2008. Click to view the Class Action Settlement Agreement, or the Notice of Class Action and Proposed Final Settlement, or the Order Preliminarily Approving Settlement Agreement.

UPDATE: On April 12, 2010, Judge Sarah Evans Barker entered an Order approving the Class Settlement. Click to view the Final Order Approving Class Settlement and Denying Pending Motions. On September 2, 2011 the Appellate Court for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the District Court’s decision approving the settlement agreement. Pursuant to the settlement agreement, class members can expect to receive election forms for their benefits before the end of the year.

Call v. Ameritech Management Pension Plan, 475 F.3d 816 (7th Cir. 2007). When a participant in a defined-benefit pension plan is given a choice between taking pension benefits as an annuity or in a lump sum, the lump sum must be so calculated as to be the actuarial equivalent of the annuity. Plaintiff brought this class action alleging that Ameritech’s plan amendment, specifying two options for calculating lump-sum distribution amounts, violated the plan’s own anti-cutback provision. Korein Tillery attorney Douglas R. Sprong obtained a judgment on behalf of the Plaintiff Class in excess of $31 million. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s judgment on January 9, 2007. Ameritech’s appeal to the United States Supreme Court was denied on June 9, 2008.

Esden v. Bank of Boston Retirement Plan, 229 F.3d 154 (2nd Cir. 2000). The first case to successfully challenge case balance type defined-benefit plans, this matter required Korein Tillery attorneys Douglas R. Sprong and Steven A. Katz to navigate the complex parallel statutory provisions of the Internal Revenue Code, ERISA and its regulations to remedy the improper reduction of pension benefits by the defendant. This groundbreaking ERISA class action formed the basis for reinstatement of hundreds of millions of dollars in retirement benefits in matters litigated throughout the country. The Second Circuit decision has become a watershed case in ERISA law as it clarifies how retirement benefits must be calculated in cash balance pension plans. The case ultimately settled for approximately $7 million.

Berger v. Xerox Retirement Income Guar. Plan, 231 F.Supp.2d 804 (S.D.Ill. Sep. 30, 2002), aff’d, 338 F.3d 755 (7th Cir. Aug. 1, 2003). Following their victory in Esden, Korein Tillery attorneys contested the legality of Xerox’s cash balance pension plan on behalf of a class of its retirees and obtained a $255 million judgment for the class. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the trial court’s judgment, holding that Xerox’s cash balance plan violated ERISA by, among other things, failing to include the value of future interest credits up through a plan participant’s normal retirement date in valuing the participant’s lump sum pension benefit. The case eventually settled, and more than 15,000 Xerox retirees will share in the $239 million settlement fund Korein Tillery lawyers negotiated for the Class.

Cooper v. IBM Personal Pension Plan, 274 F.Supp.2d 1010 (S.D. Ill. 2003). Representing a class of IBM retirees, Korein Tillery challenged IBM’s pension equity plan on the grounds that it violated ERISA’s prohibition against age discrimination. The trial court entered summary judgment for the Plaintiff Class on the issue of liability. After obtaining class certification and summary judgment in favor of the class, Korein Tillery obtained a $324 million settlement for the class. This case, along with Berger, received an enormous amount of national media attention and is a watershed in ERISA litigation.

Malloy v. Ameritech Pension Plan, 2000 WL 35525477 (S.D.Ill. Feb. 07, 2000). Korein Tillery attorneys Douglas R. Sprong and Steven A. Katz challenged the mortality table used by the plan to calculate payments to those plan participants who, upon termination of employment, elected to receive their pension benefits in the form of a lump sum distribution rather than a monthly annuity benefit as violative of ERISA. Plaintiffs claimed that the plan was required by its terms to use a different mortality table than that which it in fact used. KT recovered approximately $185 million in pension benefits for 17,000 former Ameritech employees whose pension benefits were miscalculated. Class members each received an average of $8,000 in additional pension benefits.

Laurenzano v. Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Mass. Ret. Income Trust, 134 F.Supp.2d 189 (D.Mass. 2001). Under the benefit plan at issue in this class action, a participant’s normal retirement benefit was a life annuity beginning at age 65, increased every year to include a cost-of-living adjustment payment that reflected changes in the Consumer Price Index. Rather than receive a life annuity, the Plaintiff elected to receive the present value of his pension in a single, lump sum distribution. When the Plaintiff received his lump sum distribution, however, it did not include the present value of the projected cost-of-living adjustment payments. Korein Tillery attorneys Douglas R. Sprong and Steven A. Katz served as class counsel and successfully obtained class certification and pressed a motion for judgment on the written record while successfully defeating the defendant’s same motion. KT recovered approximately $18 million for BCBS retirees.

Clevenger v. Dillards, Inc.,412 F. Supp. 2d 832 (S.D. Ohio 2006). The Plaintiff in this case accrued substantial benefits under a benefit plan that was terminated the year her employer was sold to Dillards. Represented by Korein Tillery, she claimed the manner in which lump sum benefits were calculated under the plan and its late amendments violated ERISA. Defendants filed a third party complaint against the company that calculated the annuities and lump sum distributions. Korein Tillery attorneys defeated motions to dismiss and motions for judgment on the pleadings. Subsequently, Korein Tillery obtained a settlement of $35 million in additional benefits for the class.

Tullock v. K-Mart Employees Retirement Plan, 183 F.Supp.2d 1094 (S.D. Ill. 2001).Korein Tillery represented participants in K-Mart’s employee retirement plan who alleged that lump sum distributions from the plan violated ERISA because they were computed using the wrong interest rate. KT successfully obtained class certification and prevailed on summary judgment with respect to the question of ERISA liability. The case settled for $1.25 million.

Asbury v. May Department Store Co. Retirement Plan, No. 97-667-GPM (S.D. Ill. May 3, 1999). Korein Tillery recovered $600,000 in pension benefits for retirees whose lump sum distributions were undervalued.

Kohl v. Association of Trial Lawyers of America, No. AW-97-3264 (D. Md. Nov. 2, 1999). Korein Tillery obtained summary judgment for a class of retirees on their claim that the value of a cost of living adjustment should have been included in their lump sum distributions. The case settled for approximately $450,000.

Nichols v. B.P. America Pension Plan, No. 01-C-6238 (N.D. Ill. July 15, 2002). A$71 million settlement was obtained for approximately 20,000 former employees whose lump sum pension benefits were miscalculated.

Berkowitz v. National Westminister Bancorp Ret. Plan, 2000 WL 852451 (D. Conn. March 30, 2000).Connecticut District Court pension miscalculation case resulting in approximately $4 million to the putative class.

Pierce v. Gold Kist, No. CV-97-L-0748-5 (N.D. Ala. Aug. 11, 1997). ERISA class action concerning miscalculated lump sum distributions. The case settled for approximately $920,000.

Richardson v. Fairchild Space & Defense, No. 99-1867 (M.D. Pa. Oct. 9, 2001). ERSIA class action involving undervalued lump sum distributions.The case settled for approximately $740,000.

Seifert v. May Department Stores Pension Plan, 96-1029-GPM (S.D.Ill. May3, 1999). Korein Tillery recovered approximately $28 million in pension benefits for retirees whose lump sum distributions were miscalculated.

Graf v. Automatic Data Processing, 00-694-GPM (S.D.Ill. Jun. 18, 2001). More than 5,000 former employees of ADP whose pensions were miscalculated shared in a settlement of $7 million.

Medeika v. SNET Pension Plan,97CV01123 (D.Conn. Aug. 9, 1999). A $13.5 million settlement was obtained for several thousand former Southern New England Telephone employees whose pension benefits were miscalculated.

Dunn v. BOC Group Pension Plan, 01-CV-382-DRH (S.D.Ill. Dec. 11, 2003). A $69 million settlement was reached for former employees whose pension benefits were miscalculated.