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ERISA Litigation

Spencer Fane has represented employers, trustees, and other benefits providers since before the enactment of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”). From routine disputes involving claims for benefits to complex, class action employer stock cases, our ERISA Litigation Practice Group provides clients sophisticated representation in a cost-effective manner. Our nationally-recognized expertise and substantial experience enable us to bring concentrated resources and practical considerations to bear for our clients. With one of the largest ERISA litigation practices in the region, we successfully fashion innovative and practical settlements that yield significant cost savings and recoveries for our clients.

Team Approach

Our ERISA Litigation Group uses a “team” approach. On each case, ERISA litigators partner with members of the firm’s Employee Benefits Practice Group, who provide ERISA and tax advice to benefit plan sponsors. Working together, we are able to identify and take advantage of claims and defenses that are hidden within the minutiae of ERISA and the Tax Code.

Benefits Litigation

We have prosecuted and defended a wide variety of claims related to benefit plans, including individual and class-action lawsuits alleging breaches of ERISA’s fiduciary duty and prohibited transaction rules; challenges to plan denials of claims for benefits; actions challenging the investment of retirement plan assets; delinquent contribution and withdrawal liability claims arising under multiemployer plans; and claims involving retiree medical obligations. We successfully fashion innovative and practical settlements that yield significant cost savings and recoveries for our clients.

Our experience includes:

Fiduciary Duty Claims – We have defended a number of claims alleging that our clients breached their obligations as plan fiduciaries, within ERISA’s special definition of that term, resolving many of those claims on pre-trial motions.

Claims for Benefits – Our attorneys have established a record of resolving challenges to benefit denials before trial, reducing our clients’ legal fees.

Employer Stock Claims – Spencer Fane attorneys served as local counsel in one of the largest employer stock cases in the country, and as lead counsel in the principal case addressing the responsibilities of directed trustees.

Claims Arising out of Reductions in Force – We recently prevailed at the trial and appellate court levels on multi-plaintiff claims under Section 510 of ERISA, alleging that our client interfered with the benefit rights of employees who were terminated during a reduction in force.

Claims in the Bankruptcy Context – Our ERISA litigators work closely with the firm’s bankruptcy attorneys on ERISA claims arising out of corporate insolvencies. We currently are lead counsel for a group of retirees who are challenging their bankrupt former employer’s attempt to eliminate over $1 billion in retiree health and other benefits.

Litigation Avoidance Strategies

Recent litigation involving employee benefit plans has renewed the focus of regulators and plan sponsors on the fiduciary obligations imposed by ERISA. Our unparalleled expertise in this area enables the Group to help clients avoid fiduciary liability. We have devised sophisticated plan governance structures to minimize our clients’ fiduciary risk. In an effort to help clients prevent fiduciary-related claims, we provide fiduciary education and training, and conduct comprehensive reviews of their existing fiduciary processes and procedures. On many occasions, the Group has successfully negotiated with Department of Labor officials to resolve fiduciary problems before formal action is taken against our clients.