From landmark Supreme Court rulings in the earliest days of ERISA in Massachusetts Mutual Life Ins. Co. v. Russell and Pilot Life Ins. Co. v. Dedeaux, to the present day, Steptoe has long been recognized as one of the nation’s premier ERISA litigation practices. Steptoe’s ERISA litigation practice is one of only three firms to receive a national number one ranking in the current editions of Chambers USA and The Legal 500 US, a position the group has enjoyed every year these publications have ranked law firms in this category.
This national rating is evident in our lawyers' litigation experience, having successfully litigated cases in federal courts throughout the United States, at both the trial and appellate levels, in matters ranging from simple benefit claim disputes to the most significant and complex ERISA matters involving fiduciary responsibility, prohibited transactions, retiree medical obligations, commercial transactions, and ERISA’s preemption of state law. Our clients in these matters have come from all segments of the employee benefit community, including Fortune 100 companies, major insurance carriers, plan fiduciaries, investment advisors, and service providers to both pension and health benefit plans. In addition, the ERISA litigation team regularly represents clients in investigations conducted by the Department of Labor and other regulatory agencies.
Steptoe also has extensive experience handling class actions which have come to dominate ERISA fiduciary litigation in recent years, particularly with respect to 401(k) and other individual account plans. From employer stock drop cases to cases alleging excessive or improper management fees in violation of ERISA’s fiduciary responsibility and prohibited transaction provisions, the firm has been at the forefront in defending clients, including BP, Honda America, Morgan Stanley, American Express, Dynegy and Visteon, among others. With extensive experience in this area, Steptoe is intimately familiar with these issues, both from a litigation defense and a plan administration standpoint.
Unlike many other firms, Steptoe’s ERISA Litigation Group consists of dedicated ERISA practitioners whose court room experience is complemented by a thorough knowledge and understanding of the underlying substantive law. This dual experience not only assures our clients effective and cost efficient representation in the event of litigation, but also enables us to bring practical considerations to bear, particularly with respect to the avoidance of potential liability and exposure, in providing advice and counsel on planning matters.
Vice Chair & General Counsel
- From the very inception of ERISA employer stock drop litigation, we have been a leader in the defense of these matters. The firm has had lead defense roles in such high-profile cases as Tittle v. Enron Corp. (In re Enron Corp. Sec. Derivative & ERISA Litig.), In re Dynegy, Inc. ERISA Litigation, In re Williams Companies ERISA Litigation, and In re Qwest Savings and Retirement Plan Litigation, and have defended class actions raising these issues in the energy, automotive, retail, and financial services industries.
- Whitley v. BP, P.L.C., 838 F.3d 523 (5th Cir. 2016). Successfully secured the first precedential appellate opinion to address the legal standards for employer stock drop claims based on alleged inside information following the Supreme Court’s decisions in Dudenhoeffer and Amgen. The Fifth Circuit held that plaintiffs’ putative class action complaint seeking to recover plan losses on employer stock following the 2010 Gulf Oil spill failed to state a viable ERISA employer stock drop claim.
- In re Express Scripts/Anthem ERISA Litigation, Case No. 1:16-CV-03399-ER (S.D.N.Y.). Secured dismissal of action against the nation’s largest PBM, in a putative class action brought against it and Anthem, Inc., alleging ERISA fiduciary breach and prohibited transaction, RICO, breach of contract, Affordable Care Act, and other claims.
- Houssain v. Chenault, et al., Case No. 1:15-cv-08184 (S.D.N.Y. 2017). Obtained dismissal of an ERISA employer stock drop putative class action originally filed against American Express and certain alleged fiduciaries of its retirement savings plan alleging breach of ERISA fiduciary duty in connection with the plan’s holding of American Express stock.
- Soehnlen v. Fleet Owners Insurance Fund, 844 F.3d 576 (6th Cir. 2016). Secured decision from the Sixth Circuit affirming dismissal of putative class action asserting ERISA, LMRA and state law breach of contract law claims against multiemployer welfare plan and its trustees based on alleged violations of the Affordable Care Act.
- Skin Pathology Associates, Inc. v. Morgan Stanley & Co., Inc., 27 F. Supp. 3d (S.D.N.Y. 2014). Obtained dismissal of putative class action brought by a 401(k) plan fiduciary alleging our client participated as a “party in interest” in a prohibited transaction in connection with the plan’s acquisition of a third party’s bundled investment/recordkeeping program.
- Fox v. McCormick, 20 F. Supp 3d 133 (D.D.C. 2013). Obtained dismissal of putative class action brought against the trustees of a national Taft-Hartley pension plan alleging breach of fiduciary duty and prohibited transactions.
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