Anheuser-Busch Companies Pension Plan has been ordered to pay $52 million in enhanced pension benefits to former employees because they were involuntarily terminated following a change of ownership.
The class-action plaintiffs in Knowlton v. Anheuser-Busch Companies Pension Plan are former salaried employees of Busch Entertainment Corp., a subsidiary of Anheuser–Busch Co. The company changed control in 2008, when Anheuser-Busch InBev combined the companies, and again in 2009, when BEC was sold to Blackstone Capital Partners.
Anheuser-Busch Companies Pension Plan provides an enhanced pension benefit equal to five years of the participant's credited service if the employee was involuntarily terminated from employment with a member of the company's controlled group within three years of a change in control.
The plaintiffs filed claims in 2012 to receive the enhanced benefits, which the plan administrator denied. After losing an appeal to the company, the plaintiffs launched an ERISA class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri in St. Louis in 2013.
In July 2015, Judge Stephen Limbaugh found that the enhanced benefits provision applied because there was a change in control when Anheuser-Busch InBev combined the Anheuser-Busch Cos., and the employees were involuntarily terminated the next year when BEC was sold to Blackstone Capital Partners.
The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment in February 2017 and sent to case back to the District Court to rule on the awards.
In the latest ruling on Sept. 27, Mr. Limbaugh ordered the pension plan to pay a total of $51.7 million to the plaintiffs and $71,716 in increased monthly annuity payments to members of the class.