On December 6, 2016, the Honorable John Coughenour preliminarily approved a settlement of $351.9 million in this litigation, which alleges that Providence Health & Services underfunded its pension plan by improperly treating it as a “church plan” exempt from federal funding requirements.  The settlement will be made in annual contributions to the Plan for seven years, resolving the claims of the Plaintiffs against all Defendants. The agreement also requires Providence to continue making minimum plan contributions that aim to fully fund the plan by 2029.  
 
On March 21, 2017, the Honorable John C. Coughenour granted the Final Approval Order of the Settlement. The Settlement page can be found here

SUMMARY OF THE LAWSUIT

This lawsuit alleges that the non-profit healthcare conglomerate Providence Health Services and its subsidiaries (“Providence”) improperly claim that Providence’s Health & Services Cash Balance Retirement Plan (“Providence Plan”) qualifies as a “Church Plan” under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”). In operating its Plan as a “Church Plan,” the Complaint alleges that Providence does not comply with many protections afforded to pension beneficiaries under ERISA.  The lawsuit seeks to compel Providence’s Plan to fully comply with ERISA.

SUMMARY OF THE CLAIMS

The Complaint alleges that Providence is violating numerous provisions of ERISA, while claiming that the Providence Plan is exempt from ERISA’s protections because it is a “Church Plan.” The Complaint alleges that the Providence Plan is not a “Church Plan” because Providence is not a church or a convention or association of churches, and because the Providence Plan was not established by a church or a convention or association of churches. The Complaint further alleges that Defendants breached their duties under ERISA by, among other things:
 
  • underfunding the Providence Plan;
  • failing to furnish Plaintiffs or any members of the class with a Summary Plan Description, Summary Annual Reports, Notification of Failure to Meet Minimum Funding, or Funding Notices, Pension Benefit Statements; and
  • failing to file an annual report with respect to the Providence Plan with the Secretary of Labor.

CLASS ACTION ALLEGATIONS

This lawsuit is brought on behalf of the following persons:
 
All persons who are or were participants, whether vested or non-vested, in the Plan on or after January 1, 2008, and their beneficiaries.
 
  • Excluded from the Class are any high-level executives at Providence or any employees who have responsibility or involvement in the administration of the Plan, or who are subsequently determined to be fiduciaries of the Plan.

STATUS OF THE LITIGATION

On December 6, 2016, the Honorable John C. Coughenour granted Preliminary Approval of the ERISA Settlement. On March 21, 2017, the Judge Coughenour granted the Final Approval Order of the Settlement. The Settlement-related documents can be found under Case Documents.

WHOM TO CONTACT FOR MORE INFORMATION

If you are a member of the proposed class and you have questions about the settlement, you may contact us:
 
Karen L. Handorf, Esq.: khandorf@cohenmilstein.com
Julie Goldsmith Reiser, Esq.: jreiser@cohenmilstein.com
Maria Dewees, Paralegal: mdewees@cohenmilstein.com
Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC
1100 New York Avenue, N.W., Suite 500
Washington, D.C. 20005