The U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to take up 2 cases involving employee benefit plan fiduciaries accused of making serious plan administration errors.
The court today said it has refused to review Amschwand, Melissa vs. Spherion Corp. et al. and Goeres, Louis G. vs. Charles Schwab & Company et al.
Amschwand involves a plaintiff who has accused an employer that was a plan fiduciary of repeatedly and incorrectly telling her late husband that he had succeeded at buying group term life insurance.
Goeres involves a plaintiff who has accused an employer that was a plan fiduciary of repeatedly and incorrectly telling him that he was not the beneficiary of the retirement plan of a man who had died.
Between the time the plaintiff began seeking control of the plan and the time the fiduciary acknowledged that the plaintiff was the beneficiary, the value of the plan had dropped to $700,000, from $1.2 million, the plaintiff says.
The Employee Retirement Income Security Act normally prevents employees from suing benefit plans for damages.
Amschwand and Goeres argued that they ought to be able to sue plan fiduciaries that had breached their fiduciary duty through a provision of ERISA that permits ERISA plan participants to sue for “equitable relief.”
The plaintiffs said the traditional doctrine of equitable relief would permit plaintiffs to sue plan fiduciaries who had made serious mistakes to make the plaintiffs whole.
The fiduciaries countered that fiduciary relief would permit plan members and beneficiaries to sue only for premiums paid into a plan, insurance company benefit payments clearly earmarked for the plan members or beneficiaries, or transfers of other assets that clearly ought to belong to the plaintiffs.