ERISA Litigation Roundup: Seventh Circuit Weighs in on Arbitration and Class Waiver Provisions in Defined-Contribution Plans

On September 10, 2021, the Seventh Circuit decided Smith v. Board of Directors of Triad Manufacturing Inc., No. 20-2708, holding that benefit plans may require claimants to arbitrate claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq. (ERISA), but may not preclude claimants from obtaining relief that ERISA provides.

Triad Manufacturing, acting through its board of directors, established an employee stock ownership plan (Plan) in December 2015, when several of Triad’s largest shareholders (Selling Shareholders) sold all of their stock to the Plan. The Plan was a defined-contribution employee retirement plan governed by ERISA. Triad, acting through the Board, was the Plan’s sponsor, GreatBanc served as the Plan’s trustee and James Smith was a former Triad employee and a participant in the Plan. When the value of Triad’s stock dropped significantly in the weeks following the ESOP transaction, the value of Smith’s interest in the Plan decreased commensurately, eventually prompting Smith to sue.

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About Author: Stephanie L. Gutwein

Stephanie Gutwein litigates complex business, ERISA, insurance coverage, class action and product liability disputes, as well as claims arising under the United States and Indiana constitutions, in both federal and state court. She is also certified in environmental law. Stephanie works closely with clients to understand their business and financial goals, which helps her achieve optimal results. View all posts by and

About Author: Kimberly Jones

Kimberly Jones advocates for clients in a broad range of ERISA-related matters in federal courts throughout the country. She is co-leader of the firm’s ERISA litigation team, and a member of the benefits and executive compensation practice group. View all posts by and

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