The U.S. Supreme Court has asked the solicitor general's opinion about a 14-year-old case in which PricewaterhouseCoopers is contesting an adverse ruling by a New York federal appeals court about calculations for the company's cash balance plan.
Former participants in the plan sued in 2006, saying PwC violated ERISA by incorrectly calculating lump-sum payments taken by participants before August 2006 when ERISA was amended.
They contended that the plan's definition of "normal retirement age" violates ERISA's guidelines and that the plan's use of 30-year Treasury securities in making its calculations undervalued their accounts, according to court documents in the case of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP et al. vs. Laurent et al.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York agreed with the participants in December 2019, reversing and remanding a U.S. District Court's dismissal of the case against PricewaterhouseCoopers and its fiduciaries.
The company and its fiduciaries filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court in July, arguing that the appeals court's ruling conflicts "with this court's precedent and the position of numerous federal courts of appeals." They asked the justices to "restore needed clarity and uniformity."
The appeals court's actions "will invite forum shopping by making available to plaintiffs in the Second Circuit remedies not permitted in other courts."
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Benefits Council and The Business Roundtable filed a joint friend of the court brief in August supporting PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Calling the appeals court ruling "misguided," they asked the Supreme Court to overturn the decision. Otherwise, it "will open the door to new liability and undermine Congress's goal of encouraging companies to sponsor ERISA plans."