Spencer Fane LLP Logo

Federal Court Agrees With Spencer Fane: Former Employees of Enron Subsidiary Lack Standing to Sue

Spencer Fane’s ERISA Litigation Group secured a major victory last month in a case arising from the Enron bankruptcy. The dispute followed the sale of an Enron subsidiary, Northern Natural Gas (“NNG”). As a consequence of the sale, NNG withdrew from Enron’s voluntary employees’ beneficiary association (“VEBA”) and established its own welfare benefit plan, which was funded by a VEBA established by NNG’s ultimate purchaser, MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. (“MEC”). When Enron allegedly failed to transfer to the MEC VEBA the assets necessary to fund the new plan, a group of participants in the new plan, along with the new plan’s trustee and the new plan sponsor’s administrative committee, sued fiduciaries of the Enron plan to compel a transfer of the disputed VEBA assets. On behalf of the Enron plan’s trustee, Spencer Fane argued that none of the plaintiffs had standing to sue fiduciaries of the Enron plan: former Enron plan participants lacked standing because they were no longer participants or beneficiaries of that plan, nor had their benefits under that plan ever vested; and fiduciaries of the new plan lacked standing because they were not fiduciaries of the Enron plan. The federal district court agreed and dismissed all of the claims against the Enron plan fiduciaries. The decision is reported at Geiler v. Jones, 2006 Westlaw 407683 (D. Neb. Feb. 6, 2006).