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Kinder Morgan Reduction of Retirement Benefits ERISA Class Action

The first paragraph of the complaint calls this class action “a case study in what can happen to the retirement benefits of employees after a series of corporate acquisitions and divestitures.” It brings suit against Kinder Morgan, Inc., the Kinder Morgan Retirement Plan A, and two individuals, the plan’s claims administrator and a member of its Fiduciary Committee.

The class for this action is all persons (1) who are current or former employees of the ANR Company or the Coastal Corporation, and (2) who participated in the El Paso Pension Plan after El Paso acquired the Coastal Corporation in 2001.

One of the two plaintiffs in this case, Curtis T. Pedersen, the complaint says, was entitled to a retirement benefit of $3,679.98 per month, beginning on December 1, 2019, the first month after he turned 62.

Unfortunately, during “three corporate acquisitions and one divestiture,” the complaint alleges that “key plan terms and statutory protections have been silently dropped, reinterpreted, revised, and cut[ ]back” so that Pedersen has now been told his monthly benefit is $1,933.69. The complaint claims this is only 52.5% of what he should be getting.

The complaint alleges, “Under [the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)], the Kinder Morgan Retirement Plan A is required to preserve all accrued benefits from previous retirement plans.”

Pedersen began working for the ANR Company in June 1979, when he was 21. He stayed with the company through its various corporate changes, then retired in November 2019, when he was 62, at which time he was covered by the Kinder Morgan Retirement Plan A.

The other plaintiff, Beverly Leutloff, began working for the ANR Company when she was 19 and has continued through the various corporate changes until the present. Leutloff did not begin her retirement at age 62 because, the complaint claims, Kinder Morgan’s claims administrator denied she was eligible for ‘unreduced’ retirement benefits at age 62.”

ANR had its origins in the 1800s. It was acquired by the Coastal Corporation in 1985 and became a corporate subsidiary. In 2001, El Paso Natural Gas Company acquired Coastal, including its ANR subsidiary. In 2007, El Paso sold the ANR subsidiary to TransCanada, with which it continued as a separate entity. In 2012, Kinder Morgan acquired El Paso.

The ANR retirement plan offered 2% of final average pay for up to thirty years of credited service. Employees could take early retirement at 55 if they had ten years of service; if they waited until age 62, they would get full retirement, with no reduction in benefits.

The corporate transactions kept the various company entities intact, the complaint says, although under different names. The complaint traces the various policies, retirement plans, and promises made during each change.

Nevertheless, Kinder Morgan in October 2019 claimed Pedersen was only eligible for the reduced benefit amount. Pedersen appealed but the appeal was rejected.

The complaint alleges violations of ERISA’s prohibition on “backloading” benefit accruals and its anti-cutback rule for accrued benefits, among other things.

Article Type: Lawsuit
Topic: Employment

Most Recent Case Event

Kinder Morgan Reduction of Retirement Benefits ERISA Complaint

February 22, 2021

The first paragraph of the complaint calls this class action “a case study in what can happen to the retirement benefits of employees after a series of corporate acquisitions and divestitures.” It brings suit against Kinder Morgan, Inc., the Kinder Morgan Retirement Plan A, and two individuals, the plan’s claims administrator and a member of its Fiduciary Committee.

Kinder Morgan Reduction of Retirement Benefits ERISA Complaint

Case Event History

Kinder Morgan Reduction of Retirement Benefits ERISA Complaint

February 22, 2021

The first paragraph of the complaint calls this class action “a case study in what can happen to the retirement benefits of employees after a series of corporate acquisitions and divestitures.” It brings suit against Kinder Morgan, Inc., the Kinder Morgan Retirement Plan A, and two individuals, the plan’s claims administrator and a member of its Fiduciary Committee.

Kinder Morgan Reduction of Retirement Benefits ERISA Complaint
Tags: Changes to Retirement Terms, ERISA Violations, Employment Violations, Incomplete payment of benefits due, Retirement Plans