The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) is a federal law that protects participants in employee pension plans, and other benefit plans offered by employers. ERISA governs various types of retirement plans, including defined benefit pension plans, 401k plans and employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs). ERISA also covers many employer-sponsored medical, disability, and other benefit programs. Under ERISA, plan participants and beneficiaries may seek redress for breaches of fiduciary responsibility, denial of benefits, or failure to provide adequate disclosures of plan terms or benefit changes.
In the retirement plan context, employers are supposed to act prudently, loyally, and with the highest regard for the interests of employees when it comes to selecting plan investment options and investing plan assets. These fiduciary duties apply to the selection of all plan investments and investment options, but in recent years plan investments in company stock have come under close scrutiny. Employers often invest millions of dollars of plan assets in their own company stock and offer employees the option of investing their plan contributions in company stock. At the same time, employers frequently engage in highly risky and illegal business and accounting practices, which are misrepresented to investors and employees, and sometimes lead to the financial collapse of the companies. These practices cause company stock to be an imprudent and highly inappropriate plan investment option, and often result in enormous plan losses. When employers fall short on their ERISA fiduciary duties, employees can seek to hold their employers accountable for plan losses that result.
Shapiro Haber & Urmy LLP has been at the forefront of this type of ERISA litigation. We brought one of the first ERISA class actions involving retirement plan investments in company stock and represented former employees of Stone & Webster, Inc. to recover damages suffered by the company's retirement plans for breach of fiduciary duty under ERISA. In the wake of the financial collapse of Stone & Webster, many company employees not only lost their jobs, but also lost their retirement savings. Shapiro Haber & Urmy protected their rights and recovered millions of dollars for their benefit.
Shapiro Haber & Urmy LLP has also championed many other types of ERISA class actions for plan participants and beneficiaries, including claims that:
- 401k plans were being improperly charged excessive fees, or that 401k plan administrators improperly benefited from revenue sharing arrangements or kick-backs from mutual funds
- Employers improperly reduced pension or other benefits without proper notice to plan participants
- Healthcare or disability benefits were improperly denied based on inappropriate or arbitrary criteria.
If you believe that you have been harmed by any these types of practices, please contact us. We can investigate your potential claim and talk to you about your rights under ERISA.