January 11, 2013 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – A court has found Anheuser-Busch does not owe enhanced benefits to former employees who accepted employment with a company that bought an Anheuser-Busch subsidiary.
The plaintiffs in the case are former employees of Metal Container Corp. (MCC), a former subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch Companies (ABC). ABC was acquired by InBev, N.V., a Belgian beverage company, in 2008. MCC was later sold to Ball Corp. on or about October 1, 2009, and plaintiffs were then employed by Ball.
Key to the decision of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio was evidence of the intent of the drafters of Section 19.11 of the Plan entitled “Change in Control,” including minutes of the Board of Directors and the pension committee of the Board, which the pension committee used for interpreting ambiguous terms of the plan. The notes indicated that Tom Larson, an Anheuser-Busch employee who was involved in the discussions surrounding the adoption of Section 19.11, said the purpose of the provision was to preserve plan assets for employees and to “compensate for [a] loss of job.” He stated that “if [the employee] was fired [the employee would be entitled to an] enhanced benefit.” The pension committee concluded that the “minutes indicate that the enhanced benefit was intended for individuals who were ‘displaced’ and ‘whose employment is involuntarily terminated’ within three years of a change in control.” The committee observed that the “focus of Section 19.11(f) appears to be the provision of enhanced benefits to those who suffer a loss of employment following a change in control.”