Bad Benefits Estimate Not a Fiduciary Breach

October 17, 2007 ( - A Ford Motor Company employee who contested a mistaken November 2002 pension benefits calculation lost a legal battle when a federal judge ruled for the automaker.

U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan ruled that Louis Akouri had not proven he was hurt by the benefits overcalculation. Akouri alleged in his suit that Ford had breached its Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) fiduciary duties by overestimating his benefits by about $400 monthly.

For Akouri to have prevailed, Hood said he would have had to establish that Ford acted as a fiduciary, that the employer had made a “material misrepresentation,” and that he had been harmed by relying on that bad information.

According to Hood’s ruling, Akouri worked for Ford for 39 years until his January 2003 retirement. Before leaving Ford, Akouri was given a benefits statement specifying his monthly benefits at $1,820. A year later, he received a Ford letter admitting the earlier figure was incorrect and that Akouri was actually set to receive $1,454 monthly.

Hood also turned aside Akouri’s contention that he should have been able to rely on the earlier Ford benefits estimate.

The ruling in Akouri v. Ford Motor Co., E.D. Mich., No. 05-73514, 10/12/07 is  here