For Immediate Release
Washington, DC – The ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC) has filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Geoffrey Osberg v. Foot Locker, Inc. et al arguing that the District Court was wrong when it found Foot Locker liable without proof of detrimental reliance and allowed the case to move forward despite tolling of ERISA’s statute of limitations.
ERIC, the only national trade association advocating solely for the employee benefit and compensation interests of the country’s largest employers, is the voice of large employer plan sponsors on public policies impacting their ability to provide benefits to millions of active workers, retired persons, and their families nationwide. ERIC frequently participates as amicus curiae in cases that have the potential for far-reaching effects on employee benefit plan design or administration and filed the brief jointly with the American Benefits Council and the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America.
The amicus brief argues that by law a fiduciary-breach claim based on an alleged misrepresentation requires proof of detrimental reliance, but the District Court found Foot Locker liable without evidence that any class member relied on an alleged misstatement to his or her detriment. Instead the District Court held that reliance could be “presumed” on a class-wide basis. The ruling negates the detrimental-reliance requirement. It also violates well-established circuit precedent holding that reliance may not be inferred from generalized or circumstantial evidence.
The District Court also effectively nullified ERISA’s statute of limitations, ruling that claims are continuously timely as long as the plaintiff acknowledges ignorance of their claims.
As stated in the brief, “If allowed to stand, the District Court’s legally erroneous decision will undermine the foundation on which ERISA’s system of voluntary, employer-provided benefits rests, to the detriment of both employers and employees.
“If the District Court’s rulings are upheld, existing ERISA plans would be threatened and employers could be deterred from offering them in the future or continuing to maintain the plans they have. We urge the Second Circuit to reverse the District Court’s judgment,” said Annette Guarisco Fildes, president and CEO.