Summary of the Lawsuit

This lawsuit alleges that certain participants of the Pacific Telesis Group Cash Balance Plan for Salaried Employees (the “1996 PTG Pension Plan” or “Plan”) who elected to receive a discounted Accelerated Transition Benefit (“ATB”) as a lump sum distribution at their first termination between March 1, 1996 and October 31, 1996 and subsequently were rehired on or after November 1, 1997, and bridged their service by returning to work for a participating company for at least five years are entitled to an enhanced ATB upon their second termination as well as a cash balance (“CB”) benefit. 

Summary of the Claims

In 1996, Pacific Bell (“PacBell”) and other affiliated companies began offering an ATB to terminating employees.  Under the terms of the 1996 PTG Pension Plan, an employee who terminated employment at less than 55 years of age with 20 years of service was entitled to a discounted ATB to reflect his or her age and service at the time of termination.  Under the terms of the 1996 Plan, a participant who retired between March 31, 1996 and October 31, 1997, was subsequently rehired on or after November 1, 1997, and worked 5 additional years, the employee “bridged” his or her service and was entitled to a “redetermined” ATB calculated on the basis of the employee’s age and service at the time of his or her next termination plus a CB benefit (or after 2001 a CAM benefit).   Effective October 31, 1997, PacBell executed an amendment to the PTG Pension Plan which had the effect of reducing or eliminating the accrued right to receive benefits which are available to participants who terminated their employment prior to the Amendment and were rehired by a Participating Company on or after November 1, 1997. 

In this action, Plaintiff claims that the 1997 Amendment is invalid and that the PTG Pension Plan has improperly failed to provide both an adjusted ATB plus a CB/CAM to employees who, like Plaintiff Dwyer who terminated their employment prior to the Amendment,  were rehired by a Participating Company on or after November 1, 1997 and bridged service.  Plaintiffs allege that by implementing the 1997 Amendment, which decreased, or eliminated altogether the benefits otherwise available under the 1996 PTG Pension Plan, the Defendant has violated various provisions of ERISA, the federal law governing pension benefits, including the anti-cutback provisions under ERISA § 204(g).

Class Action Allegations

This lawsuit is brought on behalf of the following persons:

1.  Participants in the 1996 PTG Pension Plan, who meet the following requirements:

(a) who terminated their employment with a company that participated in the 1996 PTG Pension Plan on or after March 22, 1996 and on or before October 31, 1997 (“First Termination”);

(b) who were eligible for an Accelerated Transition Benefit (“ATB”), which, because they had not attained the requisite age or years of credited service, was subject to an ATB Discount;

(c) who were subsequently rehired by a company that participated in the 1996 PTG Pension Plan or a Successor Pension Plan, on or after November 1, 1997, and worked at least five additional years; and

(d) who, either (i) at their next termination (“Second Termination”), were not provided with an ATB adjusted to reflect their age and term of employment at their next termination of employment plus a Modified CB or a CAM, if it was greater, or (ii) are still employed at a Participating Company,

2.  Beneficiaries of any of the persons described in Group 1.

Current Status of the Case

Plaintiff filed his complaint on December 20, 2010.  On April 20, 2011, the Court determined that Plaintiff was required to file a claim with the Plan and exhaust administrative remedies through the Plan’s internal claims procedure. On April 22, 2011, the Court ordered the motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to exhaust the administrative remedies under the Plan. Plaintiff then submitted his claim for benefits with the Plan and on January 24, 2013, Plaintiff received a letter denying his claim and informing that he had one year from the date of the letter to file a lawsuit.  On January 17th, 2014, both parties signed a tolling agreement, which extended the right to file a complaint 60 days after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals responds to the notice to appeal the Northern District of California Court’s summary decision on Count II against the Lump Sum Class Members in Barnes v. AT&T Pension Benefit Plan – NonBargained Program.

Whom To Contact For More Information

If you are a current or former participant in the PTG Pension Plan and terminated your employment with PacBell or an affiliated company that participated in the PTG Pension Plan on or after March 22, 1996 and on or before October 31, 1997 and were thereafter rehired on or after November 1, 1997, you may be a member of the class in the present litigation.  Please contact Cohen Milstein via our toll free number, email or mail, to learn more about the case.

R. Joseph Barton, Esq., jbarton@cohenmilstein.com  
Ming Siegel, Paralegal msiegel@cohenmilstein.com  
Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC
1100 New York Avenue, N.W., Suite 500
Washington, D.C. 20005
Telephone: (202) 408-4600
Or Toll Free: 1-888-240-0775

If you are a potential member of the class, please fill out and return the questionnaire and return the completed questionnaire to Ming Siegel at the above address.