District Judge Lorna G. Schofield

 

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In 1989 Colgate’s defined benefit pension plan (Plan) changed from a final average pay formula to a cash balance plan using a career average pay formula. On retirement, a participant’s Personal Retirement Account balance was converted into an annuity or lump sum. In its 2005 Residual Annuity Amendment (RAA), effective as of July 1989, Colgate granted an “additional benefit” so that participants with pre-July 1989 benefits received the full benefits they were entitled to under the Plan in light of the changed formula. Co-plaintiff McCutcheon (formerly Staley) took lump sum Plan benefits when she left Colgate in 1994. In their ERISA action, the court granted plaintiffs class certification on their claim for recovery of RAA benefits due to four errors Colgate, the Plan, and others made in calculating such benefits. Plaintiffs proved, by preponderant evidence, that FRCP 23 was satisfied, and that McCutcheon had class standing. Defendants did not clearly show McCutcheon’s claim time-barred by the Plan’s 180-day contractual limitations period. Also, other courts have certified, under Rule 23(b), cases similar to plaintiffs’ action seeking a ruling as to the correct way of calculating RAA, which could incidentally cause the Plan to distribute benefits to class members.