The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (commonly known as “ERISA”) governs pension and welfare benefit plans offered by private employers and protects the rights of participants and beneficiaries in these plans. The public enforcement of ERISA provisions is handled by the Department of Labor, the Department of the Treasury (particularly the Internal Revenue Service), and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Litigation between private parties under ERISA is subject to an intricate and complex federal enforcement scheme that has been repeatedly honed and construed by the Supreme Court and lower federal courts.
Lawsuits arising under ERISA include disputes over benefits denials and exclusions from coverage, claims regarding fiduciary obligations and liability, efforts to enforce plan subrogation rights, and suits challenging or in connection with the termination of funded or under-funded pension plans. These matters encompass ERISA pension plans, disability plans, and health benefits plans, and often take the form of class actions. Parties represented in ERISA litigation matters can include the ERISA plans themselves, plan administrators, insurance companies, health maintenance organizations, employers, and participants and beneficiaries. ERISA matters also often involve the extent to which state law is preempted or saved under a special “insurance” saving clause in ERISA, as well as complicated jurisdictional questions.