Many of you may have seen the February 5, 2024 Wall Street Journal article (here) describing the new lawsuit filed against Johnson & Johnson accusing the company of mismanaging its workers’ prescription-drug benefits. The new complaint, a copy of which can be found here, arguably represents a new direction in ERISA liability litigation, perhaps the next big thing after all of the ERISA excess fee litigation. In the following guest post, Dan Aronowitz, President of Encore [formerly Euclid] Fiduciary, examines the new lawsuit and assesses what it may represent. He also considers the company’s defenses as well as the need for a vigorous response to lawsuits of this kind. A version of this article previously was published on the Fid Guru Blog. I would like to thank Dan for allowing me to publish his article on this site. I welcome guest post submissions from responsible authors on topics of interest to this site’s readers. Please contact me directly if you would like to submit a guest post. Here is Dan’s article.Continue Reading Guest Post: Flipping the Script on the New Excess Health Plan Fee Case Against Johnson & Johnson
According to a new report, the number of excess fee and performance lawsuits filed in 2023 declined relative to the extraordinary filings levels in 2022, but excess fee lawsuit filings remained elevated. By contrast to prior years in which plaintiffs’ lawyers seemingly targeted benefit plans of all sizes, in 2023 the excess benefit plan lawsuits filed in 2023 primarily targeted companies with larger benefit plans. The number and aggregate total value of excess fee lawsuit settlements in 2023 was a record levels during the year. The January 8, 2024, report about the excess fee lawsuit filings, written by Daniel Aronowitz of Euclid Specialty, can be found here.Continue Reading Excess Fee Lawsuit Filings Declined in 2023 Due to Backlog of Prior Cases
In prior posts, I have noted the growing phenomenon of an anti-ESG backlash. The ESG backlash has taken the form of both legislation and litigation. In the latest examples of ESG backlash litigation, plaintiffs recently have filed two lawsuits against U.S.-based airlines based on the companies’ alleged actions supporting ESG-related initiatives. As discussed below, these latest lawsuits reconfirm that it is not the ESG laggards that are getting hit with ESG-related litigation; rather, the lawsuits are coming against companies that are taking ESG-supportive initiatives.Continue Reading Airlines Hit with ESG-Backlash Lawsuits
The filing of excessive fee litigation against plan fiduciaries is nothing new. However, according to a recent white paper, this type of litigation has entered a dangerous new phase, characterized by both heightened frequency and severity and affecting companies of all sizes. In this new phase, the risk of litigation has, according to the report, reached “unprecedented levels.” A copy of the report, written by Allison Barrett and Joel Townsend of AIG and entitled “Fiduciary Liability Insurance: Understanding the Rapid Rise of Excessive Fee Claims,” can be found here.
Continue Reading A New Wave of Excessive Fee Fiduciary Liability Litigation
In the settlement documents prepared in connection with securities class action settlements, the documents typically specify that certain groups are excluded from the settlement class. Among the groups typically excluded are “affiliates” of the class action defendant company. In a recent decision (here), the Second Circuit examined the question whether an ERISA-regulated benefit plan that the defendant company sponsors is an “affiliate” of the company and therefore precluded from sharing in the settlement proceeds. In the following guest post, members of the Paul Weiss law firm take a look at the Second Circuit’s decision and discuss its implications. I would like to thank the Paul Weiss attorneys for their willingness to publish their article on my site. I welcome guest post submissions from responsible parties on topics of interest to this blog’s readers. Please contact me directly if would like to submit a guest post. Here is the Paul Weiss attorney’s guest post.
Continue Reading Guest Post: ERISA-Regulated Benefit Plans Not “Affiliates” for Securities Class Settlement Purposes
As part of our beat here at The D&O Diary, we regularly monitor new lawsuit filings and try to identify trends and patterns. Over the years, we have noted and commented on this blog about many of the trends and patterns we have identified. More than once we have noted the incidence of director and officer liability litigation arising out of environmental issues. We have also noted that D&O litigation often follows after the announcement of FCPA investigations. As discussed below, there has been a flurry of recent filings involving environmental issues. I have also noted below an interesting variant on the FCPA follow-on civil lawsuit pattern.
Continue Reading Field Notes on Recent Corporate Suit Filing Trends
The Affordable Care Act – better known as Obamacare – contains numerous provisions that define the relationships between employers and their employees with respect to health care benefits. Among the most critical are the statute’s employer mandates requiring employers with more than 50 employees to offer health insurance coverage to its employees who work 30 hours or more a week or face statutory penalties. As I have previously noted in discussing possible Obamacare-related employer liability issues, the ACA’s mandate creates incentives for employers to try to restructure their workforce to avoid the statute’s requirements. However, as I have also noted, employer actions to restructure their workforces to avoid providing health plan benefits could lead to liability claims under ERISA.
A recent decision from the Southern District of New York shows how an employer’s actions to reduce full-time staff to part-time status — allegedly undertaken in an effort to avoid the health care law’s impact — can lead to ERISA class action claims. The decision also underscores how the affected employees may be able to assert viable ERISA claims.
Continue Reading Can Workforce Changes Made in Response to Obamacare Mandates Lead to Employer Liability Claims? Yes, They Can
ERISA plan fiduciaries have a continuing duty to monitor selected plan investments and to remove imprudent investment selections, according to the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous May 18, 2015 opinion in Tibble v. Edison International. Although the Court affirmed the fiduciary duty to monitor, it otherwise left the development of the duty’s contours to be delineated…
On June 25, 2014, in an unexpected development at the end of its current term, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Fifth Third Bank v. Dudenhoeffer that ESOP fiduciaries are not entitled to a “presumption of prudence” in connection with their decision to invest in or maintain investments in employer stock. In a unanimous opinion …
The U.S. Supreme Court has already taken up a case this term that potentially could alter the way private securities cases are litigated. The Court has now granted cert in a different case that could have a significant impact on ERISA stock-drop litigation. On December 13, 2013, the Court granted the petition of defendant Fifth…