Crime victims can tap their assailants’ pension funds for restitution despite federal laws that offer broad protections for retirement accounts, a split en banc panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has held.

The ruling marks the first time an appellate court has spoken on the inherent conflict between the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act, which authorizes the government to seize personal assets of a convicted criminal, and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which shields private pension funds from creditors, according to Martin Bakst, the Encino, Calif., attorney representing the pension-holder in this case.

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