Employee Benefits / ERISA

Relentless advocates protecting
retirement savings.

Hardworking people should enjoy the full fruits of their retirement benefits. When corporate mismanagement interferes, we step in.

Overview

Our nationally acclaimed attorneys represent the interests of employees, retirees, and plan participants or beneficiaries in their pursuit of economic justice. Through often cutting-edge class actions, we address the mismanagement of employee retirement benefit plans governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), including:

  • 401(k) plans
  • Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs)
  • Traditional pension plans

We also address mismanagement issues of other types of health and employee benefit plans.  

Our nationally recognized team has led some of the most significant ERISA-related litigation in recent U.S. history, including up to the U.S. Supreme Court. Precedent-setting decisions include:

  • Defeating Motion to Compel Arbitration: Enforceability of arbitration clauses is a crucial issue for workers, which can entirely shift the dynamics of a case and their pursuit of economic justice. We have achieved precedent-setting decisions before the Third, Seventh, and Tenth Circuits – all addressing lower court rulings denying Defendants’ motions to compel arbitration under ERISA. On October 10, 2023, the United States Supreme Court declined to review our 10th Circuit win in Harrison v. Envision Management Holding, Inc. Boards of Directors, et al. (D. Col.). To date, Cohen Milstein has won decisions striking down arbitration and class waivers in three appellate courts and five district courts.
  • In re Beacon Association Litigation: Acted as ERISA Counsel for a certified class which settled their claims for $219 million, representing 70% of the Class members’ out-of-pocket losses. The judge praised the settlement, describing the outcome as “extraordinary” and the praising the “hard work” done by plaintiffs’ counsel, including Cohen Milstein.

We also have the unique capability to represent employees who purchased overvalued employer stock through employer-sponsored 401(k) retirement plans, given our extensive experience with securities fraud and investor protection litigation. While employees may pursue claims under securities fraud laws, ERISA provides additional rights and remedies to recover losses in 401(k) retirement plans.

Building on the experience of our colleagues in the Securities Litigation and Investor Protection practice area, we also represent employees who purchased overvalued employer stock through employer-sponsored 401(k) retirement plans. In these cases, we represent employees alleging breach of fiduciary duties to hold employers and plan fiduciaries accountable for misrepresentations which artificially inflated the value of the employer stock purchased through their 401(k) plans. While these employees may also have claims under the securities laws, ERISA provides employees with significant additional rights and remedies to recover losses in employer stock lost through a 401(k) retirement plan.

Other Employee Benefits

OregonSaves: Cohen Milstein successfully represented Oregon’s state implemented savings program against a lawsuit brought by the ERISA Industry Committee regarding the program’s employer reporting requirement. 

AMICUS AND OTHER ERISA ADVICE

We have represented entities as amicus and provided advice on ERISA issues; see for example:

  • National Employment Lawyers Association: As amicus before the Second Circuit making the argument that when a contract gives a service provider the discretion to determine what will be charged to the plans and their participants, then the service provider becomes a fiduciary of the plan.
  • Pension Rights Center” as amicus before the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the petitioners on the merits in Tibble v. Edison International, arguing that 401(k) plan fiduciaries must monitor the fees charged by plan investments on a periodic basis, and that participants can sue to require fiduciaries to replace overpriced investment options in 401(k) plans more than six years after the investment options were initially added to the plan.
  • National Association of Insurance Commissioners: As amicus before the U.S. Supreme Court in Rush Prudential HMO, Inc. v. Moran, a case involving the scope of the ERISA preemption of state insurance laws.
  • Pension Rights Center: As amicus before the United States Supreme Court supporting certiorari in Harley v. 3M Company, involving the issue of whether plan participants may sue to recover losses to overfunded defined benefit plans caused by a breach of fiduciary duty.

Current Cases

Litigio ESOP de Western Milling

Resumen de la Demanda Esta demanda, Zavala v. Kruse-Western Inc. et al., presentada en nombre de los participantes y beneficiarios del Plan de Propiedad de Acciones para Empleados de Western Milling (“ESOP”), alega numerosas violaciones de la Ley de Seguridad de los Ingresos de Jubilación de los Empleados Retirados (“ERISA”) en relación con la venta […]

AMPAM Parks Mechanical ESOP Litigation

Barrios, et al. v. AMPAM Parks Mechanical, Inc., et al. (S.D. Cal.): Cohen Milstein represents employee participants and beneficiaries of the AMPAM Parks Mechanical, Inc. Employee Stock Ownership Plan in a class action lawsuit alleging that AMPAM Parks Mechanical and the founders of AMPAM, Buddy Parks, John D. Parks, James Parks, and Jason Parks breached their fiduciary duties in the management of the ESOP in violation of ERISA.

GWA, LLC 401(k) Profit Sharing Plan Litigation

GWA, LLC 401(k) Profit Sharing Plan Litigation (D. Conn.): We represent participants in the GWA, LLC 401(k) Profit Sharing Plan who allege that GWA, LLC and George A. Weiss breached their fiduciary duties and misused employee retirement plan assets to further their own pecuniary interest, in violation of ERISA. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that 100% of the Plan’s investments (all of which are 401(k) assets) were and continue to be invested in “The Weiss Funds,” which includes the company’s flagship hedge fund named the “Weiss Multi-Strategy Partners Ltd.” and the company’s mutual fund named the “Weiss Alternative Multi-Strategy Fund,” which generally “replicates” the hedge fund’s strategy.

Past Cases

BlackRock 401(k) Retirement Plan Litigation

BlackRock 401(k) Litigation (N.D. Cal.): Cohen Milstein successfully settled this certified class action, in which plaintiffs alleged that the BlackRock 401(k) plan administrators engaged in corporate self-dealing—restricting plan options to BlackRock’s own proprietary funds, and in many cases failing to provide the lowest cost versions of those funds. On November 3 2021, the Court granted final approval of a $9.65 million settlement.

World Travel ESOP Litigation

World Travel ESOP Litigation (E.D. Pa.): Cohen Milstein represented a certified class of employee stock option plan participants and beneficiaries who allege that the founders of World Travel and the ESOP trustees created the ESOP and then sold 100% of the employees World Travel stock to the ESOP at an above-market price, saddling it with over $200 million in debt. On June 22, 2023, the Court granted plaintiffs unopposed motion for class certification and final approval of a $8.7 million settlement.

Triad Manufacturing, Inc. ESOP Litigation

Triad Manufacturing, Inc. ESOP Litigation (N.D. Ill.): Cohen Milstein represented participants and beneficiaries in the Triad Manufacturing ESOP who alleged that the ESOP’s trustees breached their fiduciary duties in connection with the sale of Triad Manufacturing to the ESOP. In September 2021, the Seventh Circuit, in a precedent-setting decision, cited an exception to the Federal Arbitration Act that permits a court to overrule an arbitration agreement if it blocks a party from being able to bring claims under federal law. On August 23, 2023, the court granted final approval of a $14.8 million settlement and granted class certification.