In Lipker v. AK Steel Corp., 2012 WL 5346325 (6th Cir. Oct. 31, 2012), the plaintiff applied for surviving spouse benefits under the pension benefits plan administered by her husband’s former employer. The administrator approved her claim, but she disputed the amount of the benefit. The discrepancy between her expectation and the actual award hinged on “the interpretation of plan language that both parties argue is unambiguous, yet each party interprets differently.” Though the district court had held in favor of the plaintiff’s interpretation, the Sixth Circuit reversed,  finding that the administrator’s proposed interpretation of the plan language to be truer to its plain meaning when read with reference to the law it expressly refers to.
Continue Reading Social Security Statute Aids Interpretation of Ambiguous Plan Offset Provision

There is no question that ERISA provides many litigation benefits. But it doesn’t provide them as a boon to employers, administrators and their lawyers. Instead, the preemption of state laws, limited litigation, flexible plan design, and (especially) the availability of deferential review, are direct results of the careful balancing act that Congress engaged in when

In the 1950s, Congress began studying welfare and pension funds covered by collective bargaining agreements. After years of hearings, it concluded its studies and investigations with the following:

The most serious single weakness in this private social insurance complex is … the too frequent practice of withholding from those most directly affected, the employee-beneficiaries, information which will permit them to determine (1) whether the program is being administered efficiently and equitably, and (2) more importantly, whether or not the assets and prospective income of the programs are sufficient to guarantee the benefits which have been promised to them.

S.Rep.No. 1440, 85th Cong., 2d Sess., 12 (1958); see Malone v. White Motor Corp. 435 U.S. 497, 5061 (1978).Continue Reading Using Congressional Policy – Part 2 – What Policies Did Congress Have?

You’re standing in a room, holding a book in your hands. Another person walks in, and shouts, “Put that book down immediately!” You turn and ask the reason for the demand. Which reason would you find more persuasive: “Because I said so!” or “It’s a rare first edition and you must wear gloves when handling