Lawyers representing the employee relations committee for Colgate-Palmolive Co. filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming the committee did not breach fiduciary duty when a former employee had the entire balance of her retirement account stolen.
In July 2022, former Colgate-Palmolive employee Paula Disberry filed a lawsuit against the company's employee relations committee; her retirement plan's record keeper, Alight Solutions; and the plan's custodian, Bank of New York Mellon, claiming all three violated ERISA via breaches of fiduciary duty. Disberry is represented by lawyers at Renaker Scott and Brustein Law.
A motion for summary judgment is usually filed after the parties have completed discovery, giving a judge the opportunity to review details of a case.
According to Disberry's complaint, the defendants failed to take action when an individual impersonating her changed a host of personal information on file and eventually accessed the entire balance in her account, which consisted of more than $750,000.
However, attorneys at Groom Law Group, representing Colgate-Palmolive's employee relations committee, said the committee is not responsible for Disberry's loss.
"The record simply contains zero evidence that the committee did or failed to do anything that constituted a fiduciary breach or that caused plaintiff's loss," the attorneys wrote in a memorandum supporting the motion.
Furthermore, "the crux of plaintiff's complaint is that it was a fiduciary breach for the plan's recordkeeper (Alight) to mail a temporary PIN to her physical mailing address in South Africa. There is no evidence the committee was even aware of this transaction," they wrote.
When the perpetrator first attempted to change Disberry's contact information, Alight sent her a temporary personal identification number in the mail, which the perpetrator was able to obtain and therefore continue the theft, according to Disberry's complaint.
According to the memorandum, Disberry "was aware that there were problems with the South African postal service, but did not advise Colgate-Palmolive or the ERISA plan at issue of this fact, or the fact that she stopped receiving mail from the plan in late 2018." She also did not make a request for electronic communications, the memorandum states.
"A sophisticated fraud, which began with the compromise of plaintiff's personal information and physical mail, was the cause of the loss, not any act or omission of the committee," the attorneys wrote.
In September 2022, all three defendants filed separate motions to dismiss the lawsuit.
A motion to dismiss, usually requested soon after a complaint is filed, argues that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim.
Colgate-Palmolive, Alight, Groom Law Group and Renaker Scott did not immediately respond to requests for comment.