Duke Energy Settles Cash Balance Suit for $30M

A federal judge in South Carolina approved a $30 million settlement against Duke Energy over its conversion to a cash balance retirement plan.

The Charlotte Observer reports that approximately 20,000 Duke Energy retirees and employees will receive the settlement. U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina awarded the plaintiffs’ attorneys $9 million in fees to come out of the $30 million settlement, according to the Observer.  

The lawsuit claimed that the Duke plan ran afoul of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act’s (ERISA’s) anti-discrimination and anti-backloading prohibitions, and claimed that the plan treated older workers differently than their younger counterparts in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). These claims were dismissed in 2008 by another federal judge (see “Duke Energy Cash Balance Ruling a Mixed Bag“).  

However, that same ruling included: 

  • a refusal to throw out a claim that the plan’s “wear away” effect violated the ADEA
  • permission for the plan participants to pursue claims that Duke breached its duties by misleading participants about the effect the conversion would have on their benefits
  • a finding that the plan improperly calculated lump-sum distributions by failing to perform a whipsaw calculation
  • a finding that the plan applied the wrong interest rate credits for the plan years 1997 and 1998, rejecting Duke Energy’s claim that it was permitted to use interest rates found in a summary plan description rather than the rates in the formal plan documents