Court Rejects ERISA Challenge to Pension De-Risking Transaction

18 December 2012
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Key takeaways 

  • While employers have always had the ability to manage the balance sheet effects associated with defined benefit pension plan underfunding through the purchase of annuities, these "de-risking" transactions have taken on greater prominence in recent months because of two large, transformative transactions. 
  • In a recent proceeding seeking to enjoin a pension de-risking transaction involving the purchase of a large annuity from Prudential by Verizon's pension plan, a federal district court in Texas rejected a number of claims under ERISA, including holding that the transaction will not result in a breach of fiduciary duty under the ERISA or a "loss of benefits" to participants with respect to the claims presented. 
  • Although not likely to be the final word on de-risking transactions, this favorable ruling is a helpful roadmap for companies considering similar de-risking transactions for their defined benefit plans to improve their financial profile.