A federal judge in Illinois designated as a class action a lawsuit that claims cash-balance plans offered by Monsanto Co. and companies it spun off since 1997 illegally discriminate against former participants in St. Louis-based Monsantos defined benefit plan.
The lawsuit against Monsanto and spinoffs Solutia Inc., St. Louis, and Pharmacia Corp., which has since been acquired by Pfizer Inc., New York, claims a cash balance conversion provision prevents plan participants who were covered under Monsantos DB plan from continuing to receive DB interest credits after they turn 55.
This (the class certification) means that the case will go forward on behalf of the entire group of people that we contend have been damaged and will go to trial soon, said Jerome Schlichter, founding partner of Schlichter Bogard & Denton, one of the law firms representing plaintiffs in the case.
Spokesmen for Monsanto did not return calls, and a spokesman for Pfizer was unable to provide a comment by press time. Solutia had consented to the class certification in September 2007, and in doing so did not prejudice any of our claims or defenses, said Dan Jenkins, a Solutia spokesman. Solutia has strong defenses, and were moving forward through the legal process.
In the May 22 order, U.S. District Court Judge J. Phil Gilbert in Benton, Ill., said the defendants in the case had agreed not to fight the class certification last year in return for the dismissal of two allegations in the case contending that the cash balance plan violated ERISA provisions against backloading and that the plan discriminated on the basis of age.