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Avoiding Beneficiary Befuddlement

April 13, 2017

Authors

Richard Arenburg and Jennifer Stokes

Avoiding Beneficiary Befuddlement

April 13, 2017

by: Richard Arenburg and Jennifer Stokes

Challenges AheadRetirement plans are complicated creatures to administer so it perhaps is not surprising that the process of determining the beneficiary of a deceased participant can present its own set of challenges and, if things go awry, expose a plan to paying twice for the same benefit.

These risks were recently highlighted in an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decision decided in the aftermath of the Supreme Court case of Kennedy v. Plan Administrator for DuPont Savings and Investment Plan.  In that 2009 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that a beneficiary designation naming a spouse had to be given effect even though the spouse had subsequently waived her interest in any of her husband’s retirement benefits in a divorce agreement.

In the 11th Circuit case, Ruiz v. Publix Super Markets, the question was

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Caution: Non-Compliant COBRA Election Notices may be Costly

December 14, 2016

Authors

Brian Berglund

Caution: Non-Compliant COBRA Election Notices may be Costly

December 14, 2016

by: Brian Berglund

Earlier this year, an employer was sued in a class action in Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida for violating the notice provisions of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) with respect to its COBRA election notice. Specifically, the employees alleged that the COBRA election notices provided by the employer did not include the information required by COBRA regulations. After failing to convince the court that the case should be dismissed, the employer agreed to establish a settlement fund for the affected employees and to correct the alleged deficiencies in its COBRA election notice. Since then, two similar lawsuits have been filed in Florida courts by employees who claim that the election notices provided by their respective employers were deficient and non-compliant with COBRA.

COBRA provides that

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Termination of a Nonqualified Retirement Plan with a Traditional Defined Benefit Formula

October 12, 2015

Authors

Richard Arenburg

Termination of a Nonqualified Retirement Plan with a Traditional Defined Benefit Formula

October 12, 2015

by: Richard Arenburg

A recent case from a federal court in the Northern District of Georgia provides an interesting perspective on the termination of a nonqualified retirement plan with a traditional defined benefit formula offering lifetime annuity payments. In Taylor v. NCR Corporation et. al., NCR elected to terminate such a nonqualified retirement plan. The termination decision not only precluded new entrants to the plan and the cessation of benefit accruals for active employees, but it also affected retirees in payout status receiving lifetime payments. Those retirees received lump sum payments discounted to present value in lieu of the lifetime payments then being paid to them.

At the time NCR terminated the plan, its provisions apparently provided that the plan could be terminated at any time provided that “no such action shall adversely affect any Participant’s, former Participant’s or Spouse’s accrued benefits prior to such action under the Plan. . . ” The

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Signature Authority Can Trigger ERISA Fiduciary Responsibility

September 8, 2014

Authors

benefitsbclp

Signature Authority Can Trigger ERISA Fiduciary Responsibility

September 8, 2014

by: benefitsbclp

When is a signature more than just a signature?

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In Perez v. Geopharma, decided on July 25, 2014, Geopharma’s CEO, Mihir Taneja, brought a motion to dismiss an ERISA breach of fiduciary duty claim under the company’s health and welfare plan brought against him by the DOL. In its suit, the DOL alleged that because Taneja had signature authority on Geopharma’s bank accounts – which included the plan’s participant contributions – he was a plan fiduciary. The claim arose from findings that the company: (1) withheld employee premium contributions over a two-month and ten-month period in 2009 and 2010 respectively; (2) failed to segregate the contributions from company assets as soon reasonably possible; and (3) failed to use the funds to pay claims. The DOL alleged that the company also

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11th Circuit: Claimant’s Attorney’s Protest Letter Doesn’t Constitute Administrative Appeal for Exhaustion Purposes

November 14, 2012

Authors

Bard Brockman

11th Circuit: Claimant’s Attorney’s Protest Letter Doesn’t Constitute Administrative Appeal for Exhaustion Purposes

November 14, 2012

by: Bard Brockman

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently issued an opinion that provides guidance on what constitutes an appeal for purposes of exhausting administrative remedies under ERISA § 503.  In Florida Health Sciences Center, Inc. v. Total Plastics, Inc. (Nov. 6, 2012), the Court held that a participant’s written protest to the signing of a subrogation agreement did not constitute an administrative appeal of the plan administrator’s claim denial.  To read a copy of the Eleventh Circuit’s opinion, click here.

The case involves tragic facts.  Kristy Schwade’s infant son started to exhibit symptoms of “shaken baby syndrome” when he was five months old.  The cause of the condition was ultimately traced to a daycare provider, who later pled guilty to aggravated child abuse.  Doctors determined that the child had incurred catastrophic and permanent brain damage, which required hospitalization and continuous medical treatment.  The child later died at age four.

For

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Wellness is Alive & Well in the 11th Circuit

August 23, 2012

Authors

benefitsbclp

Wellness is Alive & Well in the 11th Circuit

August 23, 2012

by: benefitsbclp

On Monday, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Seff v. Broward County that Broward County, Florida’s wellness program qualified for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) bona fide benefit plan safe harbor and therefore was not discriminatory under the ADA.  This is a helpful ruling for employers maintaining or looking to implement wellness programs.

Background.  The ADA generally provides that an employer can only require medical examinations of its employees if they are job-related and consistent with business necessity.  However, the ADA also says that it is not intended to prohibit an employer “from establishing, sponsoring, observing or administering the terms of a bona fide benefit plan that are based on underwriting risks, classifying risks, or administering such risks that are based on or not inconsistent with State law.”

The Case. In the case, Broward had a wellness program with biometric screening and an online health

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District Court’s Remand To Plan Administrator Is Not Final And Appealable

April 23, 2012

Authors

Bard Brockman

District Court’s Remand To Plan Administrator Is Not Final And Appealable

April 23, 2012

by: Bard Brockman

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that a district court’s remand of a benefits claim to the plan administrator is not appealable to the circuit court. For a copy of the court’s opinion in Young v. Prudential Ins. Co., 2012 WL 538955 (11th Cir. Feb. 21, 2012), click here.

The plaintiff in Young submitted a claim for long-term disability benefits, which was denied by Prudential. After she exhausted her administrative appeals, the plaintiff sued for benefits. On cross motions for summary judgment, the district court found in favor of the plaintiff and remanded the case to Prudential for reconsideration of whether the plaintiff was disabled. The district court clerk then entered what purported to be a final judgment and closed the case. Prudential initiated an appeal to the Eleventh Circuit, and while that appeal was pending, Prudential (in its capacity as plan administrator)

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