Government asks Supreme Court to broaden remedies under ERISA

In response to a U.S. Supreme Court request for input, the Solicitor General has asked the Court to hear a case in hopes of broadening the types of equitable remedies available under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

The Solicitor General requested the Court to review Amschwand v. Spherion Corp., in which the Fifth Circuit rejected a breach of fiduciary duty claim by a plan beneficiary’s widow who was denied life insurance policy proceeds after premiums were paid and the company assured the plan beneficiary that the life insurance policy was in proper order.

In its brief, the Solicitor General argued that, “Because of the limited relief available under ERISA’s other remedial provisions, a wide range of injuries would likely go unredressed if Section 502(a)(3) did not provide monetary relief for fiduciary breaches.” The government’s brief also noted a potential split in federal courts regarding these claims. This week, Spherion Corp. filed a brief in response arguing that the government’s real motivation in asking for review was because it “believes the absence of a money-damages remedy for suits against fiduciaries by individual health and welfare plan beneficiaries is unjust.”

The Supreme Court has yet to determine whether it will consider the case but it refused to rule on the same issue earlier this year in the LaRue case.

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