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Jenner & Block Partners Craig C. Martin and Amanda S. Amert won a victory for Northern Trust when an Illinois federal judge dismissed a putative class action suit against the financial services and advisory firm. At issue was a complaint that Northern Trust violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) through changes to its employees’ pension plan. The lead plaintiff, James Teufel, alleged that a 2012 policy to cap yearly benefit increases at 1.5 percent violated a previous policy that tied the increases to wages.
But on March 6, 2017, US District Judge John W. Darrah held that such wage increases were speculative, so Northern Trust did not violate ERISA’s provision against cutting “accrued” benefits by making the plan change. Judge Darrah wrote that “additional service and raises are not wholly outside plaintiff’s control, and an increase accrued benefit would not have necessarily occurred. At most, plaintiff here had an expectation of future accrual of a higher accrued benefit.”
News of Judge Darrah’s dismissal was reported in Law360.