ERISA Update: Extended Deadlines, Cyr v. Reliance Standard Life Ins Co, and More

For your reference, here’s what law firms on JD Supra are telling us what to think about recent Department of Labor ERISA-related developments:

Deadline Extension for ERISA Disclosures

Extension of Applicability Dates for New ERISA Disclosure Rules (Morgan Lewis):

“On July 13, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced a final rule extending the compliance dates for the DOL’s new service provider (408(b)(2)) and participant-level (404a-5) disclosure regulations. The final rule, which is currently available on the DOL website,1 is expected to be published in the Federal Register on July 19.” Read more»

Department of Labor’s EBSA Provides Extension to Applicability Dates for Retirement Plan Fee Disclosures (International Lawyers Network):

“… These extensions will hopefully afford plan sponsors and administrators the requisite additional time for compliance with and coordination of responsibilities with respect to these two requirements.” Read more»

DOL Sets Final Effective Dates for ERISA Fee Disclosure Rules (Ropes & Gray LLP):

“The Department’s decision comes as a response to comments on its May 31, 2011 notice, many of which stated that additional time is needed to comply with the new disclosure rules. The Department stated that extending the effective dates as described above strikes a balance between providing additional time needed for effective compliance and timely implementation of the new rules.” Read more»

Cyr v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company

Insurers May Be Sued Directly Under ERISA (Sedgwick LLP):

“On June 22, 2011, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its long awaited en banc decision in Cyr v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company with the expected result: a claimant may sue an insurer directly under ERISA section 1132(a)(1)(B) for unpaid benefits.” Read more»

Legal Alert: Ninth Circuit Holds that Third Party Insurers may be Sued Under ERISA (Ford & Harrison LLP):

“Specifically overruling the holdings of four prior decisions, a full panel of the Ninth Circuit has held that ERISA permits the beneficiaries of an employee benefits plan to sue parties other than the plan administrator to recover benefits due under the plan.” Read more»

Insurers That Fund ERISA Plans and Administer Claims Are Proper Defendants in Lawsuits for Benefits (Barger & Wolen):

The Ninth Circuit’s ruling in Cyr is not likely to have any significant impact. That is because often times third-party insurers that fund ERISA plans and administer claims were named as defendants in lawsuits involving disputes over ERISA benefits, notwithstanding prior case law. And even when the plans themselves were named as defendants, the insurers would often defend the litigation.” Read more»

Other ERISA-Related Developments

Where Untimely Death Occurred Outside Coverage Grant, Claimant’s Recovery Under ERISA Section 502(a)(3) Was Limited to Reimbursement of Premiums (Sedgwick LLP):

“In McCravy v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., __ F.3d __, 2011 WL 1833873 (4th Cir. (S.C.) May 16, 2011), the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a claim for breach of fiduciary duty under ERISA section 502(a)(3) necessarily sought legal, not equitable, relief, and therefore benefits under an accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) plan were not recoverable as a remedy for a claimed violation of that section.” Read more»

Supreme Court Creates Confusion Concerning Availability of Equitable Relief Under ERISA Where An Employer Provides Inadequate and Misleading Information About a Plan’s Terms (Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP):

“The Supreme Court’s holding that Section 502(a)(1)(B) does not authorize the relief the district court had granted provided sufficient basis, without more, to vacate the decisions of the courts below and remand the case for a determination as to whether any other provision of ERISA could allow for relief. Indeed, Justice Scalia (joined by Justice Thomas) correctly said so in an opinion concurring only in the judgment vacating the lower court decisions.” Read more»

Supreme Court Considers Important Fiduciary Issues Under ERISA (Bryan Cave):

“The opinion points up the importance of thorough compliance with an employer’s fiduciary duty to participants under an employee benefit plan. If the plan administrator’s disclosures to participants had been clear and complete, there would have been no legal basis for the participants’ claim in this case.” Read more»

Why the 401(k) Fiduciary Guarantee Should Get The F******** Out (The Rosenbaum Law Firm P.C.):

“When they hear the words “fiduciary guarantee”, I assume most plan sponsors think that these plan providers will either serve in some sort of a fiduciary capacity or indemnify the plan sponsor in any lawsuits brought by plan participants for any claim for a breach of fiduciary duty. Of course, these providers go out of their way to make sure that they are not identified as serving in any fiduciary capacity and the fine print in these guarantees indicate that the providers will only defend plan sponsors only in rare instances.” Read more»


“On June 11, 2011, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Hetty A. Viera v. Life Insurance Company of North America. The Court ruled that the phrase “satisfactory to us” in ERISA insurance plans does not give the plan administrator discretion when making eligibility decisions. This ruling is significant because a denial of benefit claim will be subject to “de novo” review rather than review under an “arbitrary and capricious” standard.” Read more»


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