September 12, 2019

Two U.S. Bank retirees have urged the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an Eighth Circuit decision holding that workers can’t sue fully funded pension plans for fiduciary breaches, saying the ruling would let fiduciaries treat plan assets as their “personal piggybank.”

In their Wednesday brief, the retirees said the Eighth Circuit wrongly concluded that they couldn’t sue U.S. Bank for allegedly losing their pension plan three-quarters of a billion dollars through fiduciary breaches after the company contributed enough for the plan to meet the Employee Retirement Income Security Act’s minimum funding requirements.

U.S. Bank wrongly contended that unless plan participants suffered individual economic injuries from the alleged fiduciary breaches, they didn’t have standing under Article III of the U.S. Constitution to bring a case in court, the retirees told the high court, which granted their request to hear the dispute in June.

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"As our brief makes clear, our clients are entitled to have their case heard on the merits. The claims they assert have been adjudicated for over 500 years under the common law of trusts, where no one questioned that beneficiaries could sue a breaching fiduciary," Michelle C. Yau, an attorney for the retirees, told Law360 on Thursday. "ERISA was founded upon and expanded trust law remedies. Thus, it cannot be that ERISA beneficiaries have fewer protections and remedies than trust beneficiaries had centuries ago."

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The retirees are represented by Karen L. Handorf, Michelle C. Yau and Mary J. Bortscheller of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and Peter K. Stris, Brendan S. Maher, Rachana A. Pathak, Douglas D. Geyser and John Stokes of Stris & Maher LLP.

The complete article can be accessed here.