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Trechak v. Seton Company Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan

November 24, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Baylson, J.


I. Introduction

Plaintiff Perry Trechak, a former employee of the Seton Company, brings this action for payment of employee benefits pursuant to Sections 502(a)(1)(B) and502(a)(3) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001, et seq., and applicable supplemental state law. Plaintiff names as Defendants Seton Company Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan ("the SERP"), the SERP Plan Administrator, Seton Company Supplemental Plan to Provide Pre-TRA 86 Benefits ("the FAS 87 Supp"), the FAS 87 Supp Plan Administrator, the Middle Management 1986 Supplemental Retirement Plan ("the MMSR 86"), the MMSR 86 Plan Administrator, the Middle Management 1994 Supplemental Retirement Plan ("the MMSR 94"), the MMSR 94 Plan Administrator, the Seton Company Deferred Compensation Plan ("the DCP"), the DCP Plan Administrator,*fn1 the Seton Company ("Seton"), Seton Chairman, Chief Executive Officer ("CEO"), and substantial shareholder Philip Kaltenbacher, and Seton President Hermann Kampling (collectively, "Defendants").

Plaintiff alleges the following four Counts: (1) wrongful denial of benefits by the Plans and the Plan Administrators pursuant to ERISA Section 501(a)(1)(B); (2) breach of contract by Seton; (3) interference with payment of benefits by Seton, Kaltenbacher, and Kampling pursuant to ERISA Section 510; and (4) unjust enrichment by Seton and Kaltenbacher.*fn2

Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Counts Two, Three, and Four of the Complaint; to dismiss Defendants Kaltenbacher and Kampling; and to dismiss claims for damages for future benefits not yet due.*fn3

For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

II. Factual and Procedural Background

Plaintiff alleges the following facts in his Complaint. Plaintiff was an employee of Seton from October 1, 1974 until December 1, 2004. Compl. ¶¶ 9, 11. Following a brief retirement, Plaintiff was reinstated as an employee from April 1, 2005 until February 28, 2009, when he became a consultant. Compl. ¶ 11. As a Seton employee, Plaintiff was entitled to participate in the employee benefit plans named in this action and to receive benefit payments upon retirement. Compl. ¶ 10. Each of the Plans at issue is a "top hat" employee benefit plan subject to ERISA.*fn4

Compl. ¶ 3.

Plaintiff began receiving monthly benefit payments under the FAS 87 SUPP, the MMSR 86, and the MMSR 94 in December 2004, under the SERP in January 2005, and under the DCP in January 2008. Compl. ¶¶ 12-14. Plaintiff and Seton agreed to reduce by 50% Plaintiff's monthly benefit payments during 2009 under the SERP and DCP, and to increase future payments beginning in 2010. Compl. ¶¶ 15-16. In a letter dated April 29, 2009, Kampling informed Plaintiff that Seton was delaying all deferred compensation payments to Plaintiff "until further notice" due to "difficult business conditions." Compl. ¶ 17. Plaintiff unsuccessfully sought to meet with Kaltenbacher to discuss his benefits. Compl. ¶ 18. Kampling again advised Plaintiff of the delay in benefit payments in a letter dated August 14, 2009. Compl. ¶ 19.

On August 28, 2009, Plaintiff filed an Initial Benefit Claim with the Plan Administrators and requested copies of the Plans. Compl. ¶¶ 20-21. Plaintiff received from Seton's General Counsel and Secretary a letter dated September 28, 2009 enclosing the plan documents that Plaintiff attached to his Complaint. Compl. ¶ 22; Exs. A-E. Plaintiff did not receive a timely response to his Initial Benefit Claim and filed this Complaint. Compl. ¶ 23.

On May 3, 2010, the Defendants filed the Motion to Dismiss and Stay. (Doc. 12). On May 17, 2010, Plaintiff filed a Response Brief in Opposition. (Doc. 14). On May 21, 2010, the Defendants filed a reply. (Doc. 15). On November 9, 2010, Plaintiff filed a sur-reply with leave of the Court. (Doc. 23).

The Court held oral argument on October 1, 2010, which focused primarily on identifying the governing Plan documents and clarifying the arguments related to arbitration. In response to the Court's order, the Defendants filed a Supplemental Brief on October 15, 2010, in which they withdrew the portion of their motion seeking arbitration and a ...

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