Mertens v. Hewitt Associates

508 U.S. 248 (1993)

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Mertens v. Hewitt Associates

United States Supreme Court
508 U.S. 248 (1993)

Facts

William Mertens and other individuals (plaintiffs) were employees of the Kaiser Steel Corporation (Kaiser) and enrolled in the Kaiser Steel Retirement Plan, a benefit plan governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Hewitt Associates (Hewitt) (defendant) served as the retirement plan’s actuary in 1980, when Kaiser began phasing out some of its operations. Due to the phaseout, Mertens and many other employees retired early. However, Hewitt failed to change the plan’s actuarial assumptions to reflect the impact of the early retirements. As a result, Kaiser failed to adequately fund the plan, causing the plan to be terminated and denying Mertens and the other retirees a substantial amount of the benefit entitled to them under the plan. The retirees sued Hewitt in federal district court for acting as a nonfiduciary that knowingly participated in the plan fiduciaries’ breach of their duty. The district court dismissed the complaint, and the retirees appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The court of appeals affirmed, and the retirees appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Scalia, J.)

Dissent (White, J.)

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