PREVIOUS UPDATES to the CIGNA Pension Plan Class Action Lawsuit
Class counsel are pleased to inform the members of the class that, after a long road, the Court issued a decision on November 29, 2018, ordering Cigna to begin implementing the "A+B" retirement benefit increases as quickly as possible and setting a January 28, 2019 deadline for Cigna to mail notices of the increased benefit amounts to the class. The Court also ordered Cigna to pay any past-due lump sums and back benefits no later than February 28, 2019. The decision further awards attorneys’ fees and makes incentive awards to the Cigna employees who testified about how Cigna reduced their retirement benefits. Class counsel will post individual benefit statements with the increased amounts for class members to access on a secure website by late January. Cigna’s relief amounts are still lower than what Class counsel are calculating for many people, but the Court has ordered that in those cases class members will be notified of both amounts, and Class counsel are to file a motion to enforce the Court’s methodology rulings if Cigna does not pay the full remedy amounts. The Court has already ruled that if additional remedy amounts are found to be due, the Court will sanction Cigna.
On October 17, 2018, the Court issued a ruling, adopting the proposed interest and early retirement methodologies Plaintiffs proposed to calculate the value of the relief. The Court determined that Plaintiffs’ proposals were “more persuasive” than Cigna’s. The Court also warned Cigna that it will be held in “contempt” and sanctioned if it continues to calculate class members’ remedy payments according to its own "interpretation" of the Court's orders and “in violation of its fiduciary duties.” The Court ordered Cigna to provide an updated calculation of the total relief due the class by November 7, 2018.
Many class members have expressed concern about when the remedy payments will be made. Class counsel brought those concerns to the Court's attention. On July 25, 2018, the Court held a one and one-half hour status conference and made several productive rulings designed to start payments before the end of this year. Class counsel submitted a proposed order to memorialize the Court's determinations on August 3, 2018. Unfortunately, Cigna is still contesting the Court's determinations and not cooperating in implementing the relief. We anticipate that the Court will issue an order soon so the process of notifying and paying class members can begin.
A number of people have asked about the status of the Amara relief and are frustrated that it is taking so long. We have been working very diligently on this, but unfortunately Cigna has not been cooperating. On February 12, 2018, Class counsel filed two more notices with the Court to bring this case to a conclusion.
Class counsel have recently filed two detailed notices with the Court to bring this case to a conclusion and pay the increased retirement benefits that are due. The first notice, filed on December 1, 2017, provides the Court with updated information concerning the individual and total relief due the members of the class, with the computations updated to comply with all of the Court’s Orders. The second notice, filed on December 11, 2017, provides the Court with a comprehensive package of letters to be mailed with the individual relief amounts and the election forms required to receive the benefits. Class counsel have asked the Court to order Cigna to cooperate in getting the notices out so everyone can be paid soon.
On July 14, 2017, the Court issued a decision clarifying that the “A + B” relief for class members who have not yet received distributions will be calculated with an offset to account for the "initial retirement account" that Cigna established under the cash balance plan. Class counsel agreed to this offset at the June 2nd hearing, provided that it is based on conservative interest assumptions. The Court’s July 14th decision also modified its previous Orders from January 2016 and January 2017 by agreeing to a proposal from Cigna to use higher interest rates from years ago to offset against the A+B relief for class members who have received distributions. Because Class counsel believe Cigna misinformed the Court about the basis for the higher interest rates, we filed a motion to reconsider this part of the decision, which the Court is considering. Separately, the Court’s July 14th decision orders CIGNA to mail an ERISA-required notice to all former and current employees to belatedly explain how the 1998 changes to the CIGNA’s pension plan produced large reductions in retirement benefits.
The Court has scheduled a hearing on a motion to reconsider filed by Cigna for Friday, June 2, 2017, at 11:00 am in Courtroom Two, Richard C. Lee United States Courthouse, 141 Church Street, New Haven, CT 06510. Cigna filed a motion on January 24, 2017 asking the Court to change its January 14, 2016 and January 10, 2017 Orders in an effort to reduce the relief the Court has ordered Cigna to provide. Class counsel filed an opposition to Cigna’s motion on May 10, 2017, on the ground that Cigna is repeating the same arguments it made before and that those arguments do not warrant any change in the Court's Orders of relief.
At the Court's request, Cigna and Class counsel prepared a Joint Status Report which was filed on February 6, 2017. The Status Report told the Court that Cigna has still not begun revising the relief calculations in compliance with the Court’s January 10, 2017 Order. Counsel for the Class have already revised their relief calculations to comply with the Court’s order and have provided the individual results to Cigna. Counsel for the Class also filed a Notice with the Court on February 27, 2017 advising that Cigna's most recent SEC filing further shows that Cigna is continuing to delay its calculations of relief amounts in this case.
On January 10, 2017, the Court issued a revised ruling on the calculation of the “A+B” relief. The Court agreed with Plaintiffs’ counsel that Cigna shall not be permitted to use a "floor" interest rate to reduce the Court-ordered A+B relief. The Court also agreed with Plaintiffs' counsel that lump sums that Cigna previously paid shall be brought forward for purposes of any offset from the A+B relief with interest at no greater than the applicable interest rate in each successive year. The Court also reaffirmed the complete relief that it has ordered Cigna to provide to class members who have not received an annuity or lump sum distribution.
October 24, 2016: On August 3, 2016, Plaintiffs' counsel filed a brief in response to a request from the Court for further discussion of the appropriateness of Cigna's use of "floor" interest rates that will reduce the A+B relief. On August 23, 2016, Plaintiffs' counsel also filed a response to a proposed reply from Cigna on this. Our best estimate is that the Court will issue rulings on these issues by the end of the year. Because Cigna has clearly not been complying with the Court's Orders, Plaintiffs' counsel continue to work with independent actuaries and accountants to perfect a spreadsheet that computes each class member's relief in full compliance with the Court's Orders.
July 21, 2016: The Amara case has repeatedly been decided by the Courts in favor of the employees and retirees. But Cigna is still not complying with Court orders on calculating the individual amounts of relief and is actively trying to cut almost all of the amounts by more than one-half. In February and March, we went back to the Court with "objections" because of what CIGNA submitted as examples of the amounts. The Court has not ruled on our objections, but recently asked for further papers which we expect to lead to rulings by the end of September. Hopefully, the Court will agree with our objections. Our best guess continues to be that notices with the correct relief amounts can be mailed out before the end of this year.
On February 16, 2016, an article about this case entitled “Long Running Lawsuit by Cigna Employees Nears Finish” was featured on the front page of the Hartford Courant. To read the article, click here (free registration is required to read the entire article).
On November 24, 2015, and January 20, 2016, Plaintiffs’ counsel mailed reminder letters to class members who have not yet returned an Address Verification Form asking them to confirm or update their addresses. If you have not already returned the Address Verification Form, you may print a copy of the Address Verification Form and mail the completed form to KCC Class Action Services, P.O. Box 43395, Providence, RI 02940-9577. To ensure that you receive future notices about the payment of these benefits, please complete the Address Verification Form.
On October 23, 2015, a notice was filed by Plaintiffs' counsel with the Court summarizing five objections to the attorneys’ fee and incentive award request and informing the Court that to that date 16,020 Address Verification Forms have been received from class members.
On June 25, 2015, the U.S. District Court approved a Notice About Increased Retirement Benefits from the CIGNA Pension Plan and Proposed Attorneys' Fee Award and an Address Verification Form, which have been mailed to all class members.
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On December 23, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a 50-page decision affirming the decision of the U.S. District Court in New Haven to provide an “A+B” remedy to all class members and denying Cigna’s appeal in all respects. The “A+B” remedy will ensure that eligible former and current Cigna employees will always receive the full value of the retirement benefits that they earned before Cigna converted its traditional pension formula to a cash balance formula, “plus” all of the cash balance credits that were earned after the conversion.
The Second Circuit recognized that Cigna’s pension plan “is part of a compensation package for employees that stems from their employment agreements” and that employees work in exchange “for their participation in the retirement plan.” The Second Circuit ruled that the plan must be reformed to provide the “A+B” remedy because “Cigna concealed the possibility of wear away from its employees and misled them about the conversion of their accrued benefits into the Part B plan.” The Second Circuit determined that “[b]y hiding the truth about the plan, CIGNA prevented all of its employees from becoming disaffected, spreading knowledge regarding the plan to others who stood to lose more from the benefit conversion, and from planning their retirement.”
The oral argument was held on February 10, 2014, at 10 am, in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Thurgood Marshall US Courthouse, 40 Foley Square, New York City. We are waiting for the Court of Appeals to issue its decision. There is no fixed time period for decisions, but they are generally issued a few months after the oral argument.
The Plaintiffs filed a Notice of Appeal to the Second Circuit on February 7, 2013. Plaintiffs are appealing the District Court’s decision not to award relief for CIGNA’s violation of the “ERISA Section 204(h)” notice rules, which require advance notice of benefit reductions, and CIGNA’s misleading statements to its employees that their benefits were being “enhanced” and were going to be “comparable” or “larger” to the prior plan’s benefits with no “cost savings” for CIGNA.
In October 2012, this case was reassigned to Judge Janet B. Arterton following the untimely death of Judge Mark R. Kravitz. On December 20, 2012, Judge Arterton issued a decision reaffirming Judge Kravitz’s finding that “CIGNA affirmatively misled and prevented employees from obtaining information that would have aided them in evaluating the distinctions between the old and new plans,” and that CIGNA “sought and obtained an advantage from its inequitable actions.” The Court found that CIGNA never told its employees that the new cash balance benefits were much less than the old “Part A” benefits under the CIGNA Pension Plan, often by 50%, that there were no early retirement benefits under the new cash balance plan, or that the old Part A benefits were not fully preserved under the cash balance arrangement. “[A]s a result of CIGNA’s fraud, its employees were mistaken as to its retirement benefits.”
The Court concluded that the appropriate remedy for CIGNA’s disclosure violations is “A + B” relief, which ensures that an employee will receive at least the employee’s frozen “Part A” benefit under the CIGNA Pension Plan as of January 1, 1998, plus all of the “Part B” cash balance pay and interest credits (without the opening account balance) that the employee should have earned after January 1, 1998. However, without offering any reasons, the Court declined to award the full relief that Plaintiffs requested – reinstatement of the old “Part A” formula – for CIGNA’s failure to provide advance notice of the significant reductions in benefits as required by law.
After the December 9, 2011 oral argument, the District Court permitted CIGNA to supplement the record to provide any evidence that CIGNA has of individual issues related to remedies before the District Court reaches its final decision on the remedies for CIGNA's disclosure violations. The parties filed supplemental expert reports from their actuarial experts in March 2012 and an evidentiary hearing was held on March 29-30, 2012.
The parties are filing briefs with the District Court on the appropriate relief for CIGNA's disclosure violations. The United States Department of Labor has filed an amicus brief supporting the Plaintiffs. Briefing will be completed in November and an oral argument before Judge Mark R. Kravitz will be held on December 9, 2011, at 9:00am in Courtroom Four, Richard C. Lee United States Courthouse, 141 Church Street, New Haven, CT 06510.
The Supreme Court issued its decision on May 16, 2011. Click here to read the Supreme Court’s decision. The Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employee Benefits has declared this “a great day for plan participants.” The Supreme Court held that the District Court has the authority to award additional pension benefits to remedy the misleading statements in CIGNA’s Summary Plan Description.
The Court also held that each plan participant does not need to individually prove how he or she detrimentally relied on CIGNA’s misstatements to obtain that relief. We expect the Supreme Court to issue an order in the next 30 days that will formally send the case back to the District Court to apply the standards set forth in its decision. On May 23, 2011, the Supreme Court also granted Plaintiffs’ petition for certiorari about obtaining appropriate relief for CIGNA’s misleading ERISA “Section 204(h)” notice and its representations about providing “comparable benefits” under the cash balance plan. These issues will also be sent back to the District Court to reconsider the appropriate relief, too.
Click here to read a May 21, 2011 article from the Wall Street Journal about the Supreme Court’s important decision. We will continue to update this page as the case moves forward.
The oral argument before the Supreme Court was held on Tuesday, November 30th, 2010 at 10:00 am. The Supreme Court is located at One First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20543. Attorney Stephen Bruce will be arguing on behalf of the Amara respondents. Seating in the courtroom is available on a first-come, first-seated basis. A transcript of the argument is available here.
On June 28, 2010, the Supreme Court granted CIGNA's petition for certiorari asking the Court to review the lower court's order awarding additional pension benefits to remedy CIGNA's "downright misleading" disclosures in its Summary Plan Description concerning periods of "wear-away" in which CIGNA effectively froze the growth of pension benefits for one or more years.
The Supreme Court will decide whether each of the 27,000 employees covered by this case will be required to individually prove how he or she relied on CIGNA's failure to disclose any periods of "wear-away" and its misleading statements that "each dollar's worth of credits is a dollar of retirement benefits payable to you" and that employees "will see the growth in [their] total retirement benefits each year." The Supreme Court is holding the employees' petition for certiorari about the lower court's award of only partial relief for CIGNA's misleading notices until CIGNA's petition is decided.
On October 6, 2009, the court of appeals upheld Judge Kravitz's decision against CIGNA for violating ERISA's disclosure rules and his decision ordering limited remedies for those violations. On January 4, 2010, both parties filed petitions for certiorari asking the Supreme Court to review the court of appeals’ decision (the plaintiff employees have asked the Supreme Court to direct the court of appeals and Judge Kravitz to consider more complete remedies for the violations). The final papers related to those petitions were filed on February 16, 2010. If the Supreme Court denies the parties’ petitions, the case will go back to Judge Kravitz to implement the remedies ordered in his original decision.
On Thursday, May 21, 2009, at 1:00 p.m, the oral argument for the Plaintiffs’ appeal and CIGNA’s cross appeal in the Second Circuit took place. The argument took place in the Ceremonial Courtroom on the 9th Floor of the Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse, located at 500 Pearl Street, New York, NY 10007. A map and more detailed directions are on the Second Circuit's website at http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/travel.htm.
On December 5, 2008, Plaintiffs filed a brief in response to CIGNA’s cross-appeal and in support of their appeal. CIGNA’s reply brief was due on December 19, 2008.
Plaintiffs are appealing the District Court’s decision not to award full relief for CIGNA’s failure to provide notice of benefit reductions and CIGNA’s misleading statements that employees’ cash balance benefits were going to be “comparable” or “larger” to the prior plan’s benefits with no “cost savings” to CIGNA. Plaintiffs are also appealing the District Court’s decision that CIGNA did not have to notify former employees about the change in the “Rehire Rule” which would place them in the cash balance plan upon returning to work at CIGNA.
Plaintiffs filed a Notice of Appeal from the District Court’s judgment on July 7, 2008. On October 2, 2008, Plaintiffs filed their Brief of Plaintiffs-Appellants with the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. CIGNA filed a Notice of Cross-Appeal on July 14, 2008 and filed its brief on November 3, 2008.
On October 14, 2008, AARP and the National Employment Lawyers Association filed an amici curiae (“friends of the Court”) brief on behalf of the Plaintiffs, asking the Court to provide full relief to the Plaintiffs. Read their brief here.
On June 13, 2008, Judge Kravitz issued a decision ordering CIGNA to remedy its failure to disclose “wear-aways” to employees by providing the full value of the old benefits plus the value of their cash balance benefits. But the Court declined to provide full relief for all of CIGNA’s misrepresentations, including CIGNA’s failure to warn employees about significant benefit reductions from the cash balance plan and CIGNA’s misleading representations that the cash balance benefits were going to be “comparable” or “larger” to the old plan with no “cost savings” for CIGNA. The Judge stayed implementation of the relief that he ordered pending the parties’ appeals to the Second Circuit. Read Judge Kravitz’s 50-page decision. You can also read a BNA Pension and Benefits Daily article about the ruling.
The trial in this case took place on September 11-15, 2006 and January 24-25, 2007 in New Haven, CT, before Judge Mark Kravitz. On February 15, 2008, the Court ruled that CIGNA misled plan participants by failing to provide them “with the information they needed to understand the conversion from a traditional defined benefit plan to a cash balance plan and its effect on their retirement benefits.” Read the article about the decision featured in the Hartford Courant on February 20, 2008. Read key quotes from the Court’s decision about CIGNA’s misleading communications. You can also read Judge Kravitz’s 122-page decision.
On June 5, 2006, the Plaintiffs filed proposed findings of fact, conclusions of law, and a trial brief for the bench trial (see above). The Proposed Findings of Fact are attached as a pdf file (please note that this document is 111 pages).
See the November 10, 2004 Appeals Court ruling (pdf) on Cigna's change to an older employee's pension through the cash balance amendments and the Wall Street Journal article of November 12, 2004 (pdf) about the ruling.
The CIGNA lawsuit was certified as a class action (opens in new window) in
December, 2002. The court denied
CIGNA's motion to decertify the class (pdf) in
Do you qualify as a member of the class in this lawsuit? See below.
The CIGNA class action centers on the conversion of the CIGNA pension plan, which significantly reduced the value of benefits for long term older workers. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argue that the pension plan conversion is inconsistent with ERISA requirements and disclosure rules.