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ERISA & Employee Benefits Litigation

Vinson & Elkins’ ERISA Litigation team is comprised of accomplished lawyers, experienced in pension and welfare plan development, class action lawsuits, and ERISA procedural rules, who handle disputes in this highly sophisticated and complex area of law. We work closely with clients in cases involving multi-employer pension plan withdrawal liability, breach of fiduciary duty, wrongful denial or miscalculation of a pension benefit, cutback claims, notice issues, and ERISA Section 510 claims.

We know the procedural rules specific to ERISA litigation, including ERISA preemption of state laws, exhaustion of administrative remedies, deferential standards of review, limitations on discovery, restrictions on remedies (such as punitive damages), and the limitations on jury trials. With a thorough knowledge of ERISA’s substantive provisions, we have achieved success in making both threshold motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment in an effort to minimize, or avoid, resource-intensive discovery and trials. We also help clients avoid ERISA litigation or reduce its impact by strengthening retirement plan documentation, administration, and claims review procedures.

Our clients include pension and welfare plans, the employer sponsors of those plans, boards of directors or officers of plan sponsors, and plan fiduciaries. The cases we defend are initiated by potential ERISA plaintiffs, including participant and beneficiary classes and individuals, third-party providers, the IRS, and the Department of Labor. The high-stakes and technical nature of these matters can result in millions of dollars in liability damages. Our team understands the importance of resolving and managing these types of cases, and our clients find comfort in the experience and substantive knowledge our team possesses.

Experience Highlights

  • (Bankr. D.S.C.); (N.D. Ga.) — Defended a supermarket chain, in bankruptcy court and federal district court, against a union multi-employer pension plan’s claim that our client owed $64 million as a result of the withdrawal of another business from the plan; this matter involved the interplay of ERISA law with bankruptcy law and complicated issues concerning multiple business transactions and the motivation for those transactions

  • (S.D. Tex.) — Represented a large airline in a declaratory judgment action under ERISA challenging the asserted rights of a group of employees to effect withdrawal of their defined retirement benefit accounts from the plan by their spouses based on their obtaining sham divorces

  • (5th Cir.) — Obtained summary judgment and Fifth Circuit affirmation of summary judgment on behalf of an international oil company in consolidated ERISA benefits litigation brought by former executive employees

  • Obtained dismissal and Fifth Circuit affirmation in a putative class action on behalf of an airline and its retirement plan in a matter involving the interplay of ERISA and the Railway Labor Act

  • (5th Cir.) — Represented an international oil field service company in connection with an $85 million claim for pension benefits by the Internal Revenue Service on behalf of terminated employees