The ERISA Industry Committee Files Amicus Defending ERISA Fiduciaries at Yale University

WASHINGTON, March 25, 2024 – The ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC) this week joined a coalition amicus brief filed in Vellali v. Yale University, pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals  for the Second Circuit.  The coalition brief argues that under the burden-shifting framework the Second Circuit recently embraced in Sacerdote v. New York University, the underlying district court decision correctly instructed the jury that disproving loss causation requires defendants to show that a prudent fiduciary “could have” made the same decisions. 

“ERIC urges the U.S. Court of Appeals to recognize the flexibility and discretion that plan sponsors and fiduciaries are afforded by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974,” said Tom Christina, Executive Director of the ERIC Legal Center “If the wrong legal standard is adopted in cases targeting plan sponsors, large employers, like our member companies, would face higher costs, more litigation, and extortionate and baseless settlement demands that would threaten the quality of benefits offered to workers and retirees.”  

The amicus brief filed by ERIC and its allies focused on arguments that: 

  • Congress established a flexible prudence standard for ERISA fiduciaries because of the breadth of decisions that fiduciaries must make in the face of market uncertainty. 
  • This case is one of dozens brought in recent years against university plans, and part of a broader trend of litigation against plan fiduciaries that are costly to defend and do not actually benefit plan participants. 
  • Imposing an overly stringent burden of proof on ERISA defendants on the loss-causation element is inconsistent with the statutory framework and would hurt plans and participants alike.  

The amicus brief filed this week by the coalition may be accessed here. The joint amicus brief was prepared by Goodwin Procter. 


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About The ERISA Industry Committee
ERIC is a national advocacy organization that exclusively represents large employers that provide health, retirement, paid leave, and other benefits to their nationwide workforces. With member companies that are leaders in every sector of the economy, ERIC advocates on the federal, state, and local levels for policies that promote flexibility and uniformity in the administration of their employee benefit plans.