June 28, 2019
U.S. Supreme Court To Hear Case That Could Safeguard Millions Of Americans’ Retirement Benefits
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 28, 2019 – The U.S. Supreme Court agreed today to take up Thole v. U.S. Bank, a case arising under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) that will determine whether the millions of Americans whose pensions are held in defined benefit plans have the right to sue the fiduciaries of their plans for mismanaging assets. Oral argument is expected to occur in late 2019.
Plaintiffs filed suit in 2013 after their plan’s fiduciaries engaged in misconduct that caused $750 million in losses to the plan. In October 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit upheld a lower court’s dismissal of the case based on the fact that, despite those massive losses, the court believed that U.S. Bancorp Pension Plan had enough money left over to keep paying benefits.
The case has far reaching implications for working and retired Americans. More than 37 million people are currently enrolled in defined benefit pension plans, which collectively hold more than $2.8 trillion in assets.
“Millions of Americans trust their retirement plan managers to be responsible stewards of their hard-earned money so they can enjoy a stable retirement. When that trust is broken, like it was at U.S. Bank, plan participants should be able to hold fiduciaries accountable for reckless practices that put their retirement security at risk,” said Michelle Yau, a partner at Cohen Milstein and a member of the firm’s Employee Benefits (ERISA) Practice Group. “We are pleased that the Supreme Court agreed to hear this case and that we are now one step closer to getting our clients and the class of all U.S. Bank participants the justice and secure retirement benefits they deserve.”
In June 2018, plaintiff’s counsel, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, PLLC and Stris & Maher LLP, asked the Supreme Court to review the 8th Circuit’s decision. In the fall of 2018, the Supreme Court sought the views of the U.S. Solicitor General on whether to grant certiorari. In May 2019, the Solicitor General urged the Court to take the case and hold that plaintiffs have standing to enforce their ERISA rights, regardless of the plan’s funded status.
Peter K. Stris, founding partner of Stris & Maher LLP, will present argument on behalf of the plaintiffs. It will be his ninth argument before the Court. “The circuit courts, including the 8th Circuit here, have wrongly denied participants in defined benefit plans their right to hold fiduciaries accountable for even the most egregious misconduct,” said Stris. “Under the 8th Circuit’s rule, participants could do nothing to stop a fiduciary from betting their retirement savings on horse races until the plan was underfunded. Not only is this unconscionable, it conflicts with the remedies Congress explicitly authorized and with centuries of precedent allowing trust beneficiaries to sue for fiduciary misconduct. We look forward to presenting our arguments to the Justices.”
About Cohen Milstein
Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC is a national leader in plaintiff-side class action litigation. As one of the premier law firms in the country handling major complex lawsuits, Cohen Milstein, with more than 90 attorneys, has offices in Washington, DC; Chicago, IL; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Palm Beach Gardens, FL; and Raleigh, NC. For more information about the firm, please visit http://www.cohenmilstein.com or call (202) 408-4600.
About Stris & Maher LLP
Stris & Maher is one of the nation’s premier trial and appellate boutiques. It regularly handles complex, high-stakes, and high-profile business disputes in courts nationwide, including the U.S. Supreme Court. Stris & Maher offers expertise and judgment that its clients rely on at every stage of litigation and in virtually any area of law. For more information about the firm, please visit http://www.strismaher.com.