We are pleased and proud to present our services as Expert Witnesses, as we are highly experienced and seasoned practitioners in all areas of ERISA, employee benefits and executive compensation. We have represented clients from a legal and consultative perspective in all areas of commerce regarding plan design, benefit administration, financial issues, fiduciary matters, best practices and evolving industry standards. A sampling of our Expert Witness experience is below.
Prior Expert Witness Testimony
Shirk v. Fifth Third Bancorp
Shirk was a stock drop-case in which participants in a 401(k) plan that also qualified as an ESOP incurred losses due to the decline in value of the plan's investment in employer stock. Wagner was requested by plaintiffs to render an opinion on the fiduciary standards that applied to the plan fiduciary's decision to continue the plan's investment in employer stock in light of the employer's deteriorating financial condition. Wagner concluded that, given the plan's structure and the facts applicable to the employer, the plan fiduciaries could and should have exercised their fiduciary duty to terminate the investment in employer stock.
Walker v. Monsanto Company Pension Plan
Monsanto involved a cash balance plan where the plan sponsor had discontinued making interest credits on behalf of participants after the attainment of age 55. Wagner rendered an expert opinion on behalf of the plaintiffs that this practice failed to meet statutory requirements prohibiting age discrimination.
Abbott v. Lockheed Martin Corporation
Wagner was retained by plaintiffs to render an expert opinion as to the operational procedures employed by Lockheed Martin with respect to its 401(k) plans for the purpose of meeting the requirements of section 404(c) of ERISA. That provision relieves ERISA fiduciaries of liability where investment losses result from a plan participant's exercise of discretion and control with respect to the investment of his or her plan account, provided the plan sponsor furnishes participants with sufficient investment information and discloses certain material facts about the plan and its administration. Wagner concluded that Lockheed Martin's actions during a specified period consistently fell short of what was required to obtain this relief from fiduciary responsibility.
Harris v. Koenig
Wagner was asked by plaintiffs to evaluate the conduct of State Street Bank and Trust Company, as plan trustee, in settling securities law claims held by the Waste Management Retirement Savings Plan against the plan sponsor. Wagner concluded that State Street's actions and omissions in responding to the offer of settlement violated the standard of care applicable to fiduciaries settling and releasing claims, as prescribed by statute as well administrative guidance, such as Prohibited Transaction Exemption 2003-39. These duties are premised on the assumption that a claim for fiduciary breach is an asset of the plan and that a fiduciary's decision whether or not to opt out of a class action settlement must include an evaluation of the dollar value of the claim to be relinquished and whether the terms of the release are too broad and might be modified to preserve ERISA claims.
Spaz Beverage Co. Defined Benefit Pension Plan v. 1st Global Advisors
Wagner was retained by defendants to provide an expert report and to testify in arbitration proceedings as an expert in rebuttal to a claim that ERISA fiduciary standards require liquidation of defined benefit pension plan assets within a precise period of time following notice of the plan's impending termination. The plan in question suffered severe losses in the financial downturn of 2008 - 2009 as a result of its equity investments which were liquidated by the plan without the concurrence of the defendant investment advisor.
Tax Deferred Services Group v. Cetera Advisors Network, LLC
Wagner furnished an expert report and is engaged as an expert witness in arbitration proceedings contesting a third party administrator's putative authority to exercise signature authority on behalf of a plan sponsor and, pursuant to such purported authority, to transfer 457(b) plan accounts to investment providers selected by the administrator. Wagner concluded that such an assumption of fiduciary authority would violate the exclusive benefit and prudence standards of ERISA and California law. Moreover, based on Wagner's experience, it would have exceeded the authority of the typical administrator so that a specific delegation of fiduciary authority (not mere signatory authority) would have been required to move funds.
Dunkin' Brands, Inc. v. Pernod Ricard USA, LLC
Wagner delivered an expert report in a case involving a dispute over the allocation of plan expenses between formerly affiliated plan sponsors under an administrative cost sharing agreement. The report includes a review of plan expenses, discussion of those expenses properly paid from plan assets and an explanation of required procedures for reimbursement of expenses paid by an employer.
DeLollis et al. v. Investment Performance Services, LLC
Wagner prepared an expert report on behalf of a national investment consulting firm on investment allocation practices by Taft-Hartley plans seeking recovery of funds lost as a result of investment in Madoff feeder funds. The case entails issues of adherence to investment policy guidelines with respect to alternative investments and following appropriate steps to comply with ERISA standards of procedural prudence.