ERISA and Employee Benefits Litigation

Our ERISA litigators, E. Thomas Henefer and James B. Longacre, have extensive experience handling all forms of ERISA and other employee benefits litigation. From complex class action to denial of benefit claims, we litigate all aspects of ERISA in our representation of plan sponsors, plan fiduciaries, insurers of plan benefits and, as applicable, third party administrators and other plan vendors. We regularly litigate issues arising from fiduciary duty violations, plan designs, amendments and terminations, ESOPs, health and welfare benefit plans and group life insurance plans. We also have extensive experience in denial-of-benefits claims and frequently represent employers, plan administrators and others in benefit disputes under pension plans, health and welfare benefit plans, disability plans, AD&D and group life insurance plans.

We also routinely defend clients in state law disputes involving ERISA-exempt employee benefit plans (such as governmental plans) or in individual insurance product cases where, in states such as Pennsylvania, bad faith claims are frequently asserted.

In an era when many litigators have never faced a trial, our ERISA litigators are experienced trial attorneys. We have successfully tried many ERISA cases and have extensive experience defending our clients through appellate review. We have litigated cases on the administrative level, in arbitration and in state and federal courts.

We are also routinely called upon by our clients for risk management advice to avoid litigation or maximize prospects for success in areas such as early retirement windows, reduction of retiree health benefits and communications to participants implicating fiduciary obligations.

Fiduciary Duty Disputes

Fiduciaries face increasing exposure to claims involving investment of plan assets. We have represented several clients in multi-million dollar ERISA actions raising issues of prudence or suitability of investment strategies, diversification of plan investments and compliance with investment guidelines.

Another area where fiduciary duty claims frequently arise concerns business decisions that impact employee benefit plans. We have successfully represented employers and others in cases involving:

  • Notice and disclosure duties of fiduciaries
  • Prohibited transaction claims
  • Statutory penalty claims
  • Conversion of plans between defined benefit and defined contribution structures
  • Partial terminations from layoffs or other corporate events
  • Cases arising from plan mergers or transfers of assets
  • Challenges to benefit design aspects of ERISA welfare benefit plans
  • Wrongful termination claims under ERISA §510

ERISA Class Action Litigation

Stevens & Lee also has substantial expertise in defending ERISA class actions. A comprehensive listing of the firm’s relevant class action experience can be found here.

Denial of Benefit Disputes

We have handled hundreds of lawsuits in which one or more plan participants challenged a decision denying benefits under the terms of an ERISA plan. In this area, we have represented employers, plan administrators, insurers and others in benefit disputes involving pension plans, severance plans, health benefit plans, COBRA benefits, disability plans, AD&D and group life insurance plans.

Department of Labor Investigations

Stevens & Lee has broad experience with Department of Labor investigations. Here, we have handled issues ranging from prohibited transactions to proper procedures for prudent investment policies. Our lawyers have excellent relations with Department of Labor investigators. We have also been active in advocating our clients’ interests through the Department of Labor’s field assistance program.

Top Hat Plans

We have handled numerous cases concerning true top hat plans as well as “failed” top hat plans. We successfully tried one such case in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, winning both the trial and the subsequent Third Circuit appeal. Such cases have involved disputes over:

  • Satisfaction of statutory and regulatory requirements for top hat plan status
  • Regulatory reporting requirements for top hat plans
  • Prudence, diversification and “churning” challenges to use of corporate-owned life insurance as an investment
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