Since its enactment, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) has confused and frustrated practitioners, businesspeople, and citizens alike. This convoluted statute encompassing over 1,000 pages has become increasingly more difficult through several amendments as new Congresses continue to patch the statute and "kick the can" of retirement benefits to later sessions.
In WestRock RKT Co. v. Pace Industry Union Management Fund, WestRock RKT Company (WestRock), a contributing employer, brought an action against Pace Industry Union Management Fund (The Fund) arguing a violation under ERISA, which sets minimum standards for pension plans in private industries. WestRock pursued this action under a newer amendment of ERISA that, while not yet litigated, may allow employers to challenge the substance of certain management decisions of a fund's sponsors or directors. While the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ultimately dismissed the case on procedural grounds, its opinion may provide a roadmap for future employers to challenge the actions of their common pension funds on substantive grounds, specifically, to challenge the "reasonableness" of measures adopted by the fund.
This avenue would contribute to an already growing field of ERISA litigation. Given the trillions of dollars at stake, a long history filled with scandal, and the third-rail political connotation associated with retirement benefits," this robust source of litigation could have drastic implications on the management and oversight of one of our nation's most controversial institutions
Michael Berthiaume, Casenote, First Rock to the West, Straight on 'Til Morning: WestRock Draws Potential Roadmap to Substantive Challenges of ERISA Rehabilitation Plans Under Section 1132, 69 Mercer L. Rev. 1267 (2018).