ERISA Class Actions Picked up in 2009

The nation’s economic downturn has prompted plaintiffs’ lawyers to increase the pace of filing of class action lawsuits to recover 401(k) plan losses under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), a new analysis found.

A news release from the Seyfarth Shaw LLP law firm about its 2009 study of workplace class-action settlements said the monetary value of the top 10 private settlements of ERISA class actions worked out or paid last year was $499.5 million—down from $17.7-billion the year before.

However the report indicated that the 2008 figure includes three large settlements of cases involving voluntary employees beneficiary association (VEBA) cases. That means 2009 ERISA class settlements were actually greater than the previous year, according to the report.

 “The lesson to draw from 2009 is that plaintiffs’ attorneys and government enforcement lawyers are apt to be equally, if not more, aggressive in 2010 in bringing class-action and collective-action litigation against employers,” the study said. “As class actions are a pervasive aspect of litigation in corporate America, defending and defeating this type of litigation is a top priority for management. Identifying, addressing, and remediating class action vulnerabilities, therefore, will have a place at the top of management’s priorities list for 2010.”

A copy of the report is available free with registration at or by e-mail at