The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lowell A. Reed, Jr., Senior District Judge.
FINDINGS OF FACT, CONCLUSIONS OF LAW, AND VERDICT
This action arises out of the decision of defendant
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 98
Fund to deny a portion of the pension benefits sought by
plaintiff Edward J. Foley, Sr. Plaintiff seeks to recover the
denied portion of his pension benefits under the Employee
Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq.
("ERISA"). Having conducted a non-jury civil trial on August 21
and 22, 2000, at which counsel for all parties participated, and
based upon the pleadings, the exhibits, the stipulations, and
testimony presented at trial, and the arguments of counsel, this
Court now makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of
Plaintiff Edward J. Foley, Sr. ("Foley"), is a participant in
the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union
No. 98 Pension Plan ("Plan"). (Revised Stipulated Facts, at ¶ 23)
The plan is administered by the Board of Trustees ("Trustees")
of defendant International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
Local Union No. 98 Pension Fund ("Fund"), with the assistance of
counsel and staff. (Stipulation, at ¶ 5).
The Plan provides that for the years prior to 1975, a
participant suffers a break in service and forfeits all prior
credited service if he or she failed to work in covered
employment for at least a total of 600 hours in a consecutive
two-year-period. (Plan, Art. I, § C(1)(a), (b), pp. 2-3,
Plaintiff Exh. 1; Stipulation, at ¶ 7)
The Plan contains an exception from its break-in-service rule
under which a participant will be excused from his or her break
in service and will not lose the pension credits already earned
for those prior years if was, during the break in service,
"continuously available for work within the jurisdiction of the
Union and was unable to obtain Covered Employment"
("break-in-service exception"). (Plan, Art. I, Section
C(1)(c)(i), p. 3, Plaintiff's Exh. 1; Stipulation, at ¶ 8).
The Plan provides "that all . . . interpretations and decisions
shall be applied in a uniform manner to all Employees similarly
situated." (Plan, Art. V(A)(1), p. 45, Plaintiff's Exh. 1).
Plaintiff worked in covered employment during the years 1959 to
1971, earning 12.5 years of pension credits under the Plan.
(Stipulation, at ¶ 24).
Plaintiff did not work in covered employment from 1972 to 1981,
and thus experienced a break in service under the Plan.
(Stipulation, at ¶¶ 20, 27).
Plaintiff returned to covered employment in 1981, and retired
in 1996. (Testimony of Edward J. Foley, Sr.).
In December 1988, the Trustees resolved to grant plaintiff
eligibility to receive the pension credits accumulated prior to
his break in service under the break-in-service exception. The
minutes of the 1988 meeting reflect that Foley's 12.5 years of
credited service accrued from 1959-71 were restored after an
investigation by Fund counsel revealed that Foley was available
for work but unable to locate work for the period 1972 through
1980. (Stipulation, at ¶¶ 10, 29).
On October 28, 1994, former Trustee Fred J. Compton sent a
letter to Fund counsel, Laurance E. Baccini, in which Compton
accused Foley of misleading the Trustees with respect to the 1988
resolution to grant Foley an exception from the loss of accrued
credits under the break-in-service rule. (Stipulation, at ¶¶ 13,
In response to Compton's letter, the Trustees created a
subcommittee consisting of Trustee Thomas J. Reilly, Jr., and
Fund counsel, Laurance E. Baccini, as staff, to investigate
Compton's allegations. (Stipulation, at ¶ 31).
The Confidential Report was presented to the Trustees at some
time prior to February 22, 1995. (Testimony of Thomas J. Reilly,
Jr., Roy Dantz, Dennis Link).
The Confidential Report contained a finding that prior to
Foley's case coming before the Trustees, the "available for
work-no work available exception ha[d] been applied liberally in
almost all case in which it has been ...