Court Certifies Class in 'Change in Control' Case

A class of former participants in the Anheuser-Busch Companies Pension Plan can move forward with a claim for benefits.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio certified a class of all persons who were participants in or beneficiaries of the  Anheuser-Busch  Companies’  Pension  Plan  and  the supplement  for  the  Anheuser-Busch  Salaried  Employees’ Pension Plan who were employed at any Metal Container Corporation plan within the controlled group of Anheuser-Busch-related companies that was sold to a buyer  outside  the  controlled  group at any time between November 18, 2008 and November 17, 2011.  

The plaintiffs in the case are former employees of Metal Container Corp. (MCC), a former subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch Companies (ABC).  ABC was acquired by InBev, N.V., a Belgian beverage company, in 2008. MCC was later sold to Ball Corp. on or about October 1, 2009, and plaintiffs were then employed by Ball.  

The plaintiffs made claims for benefits under §19.11 of the plan, titled “Change in Control,” which provided that the “Accrued Benefit of each Participant who is actively employed by a participating employer as of the date of a Change in Control shall be fully vested.”  

The plan further provided that during the three years following a change in control, formulas for determining benefits and the forms of payments available under the plan shall not be reduced, and offered an increased benefit for participants who were involuntarily terminated within three years of the change in control.  

The plaintiffs argue that because they were no longer employed by an ABC-affiliated company within three years of the acquisition of ABC, they had been involuntarily terminated. However, their claims for benefits were denied because they had accepted employment with Ball Corp.  

The opinion in Adams v. Anheuser-Busch Companies is here.