Benefits Challenge Denied – Again

November 15, 2007 ( - Two former Quaker Oats Co. employees fighting to receive additional pension benefits they say were promised them by Quaker have lost a second legal battle.

The 7 th  U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed withU.S. District Judge Elaine E. Bucklo of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois that representations made to the employees were innocent mistakes and that anything told to them orally did not carry the same weight as what the court said were clear plan documents.

Circuit Judge Michael S. Kanne, writing for the appellate court, said   Bucklo correctly found thatthe plan document clearly stated that plan benefits and change in control benefits (within two years of a corporate merger affecting the company) would be calculated using credited years of service, not total years of service.

Bucklo also accurately determined that plaintiffs Geri Kannapien and Janice Rozhon could not pursue their Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) fiduciary breach claims because they had named as defendants non-fiduciaries, the appellate court said.

Referring to Tom Winters, manager of the plant where the two women worked, and Human Resources Manager Jeffrey Satterlee, Kanne asserted: “…nothing in the record suggests that either had any managerial, investment, or discretionary role in the Quaker Retirement Plan.”

The court pointed out that the suit did not name the plan’s administrative committee, which was a fiduciary as a plan administrator, and failed to establish any link between misrepresentations about their benefit levels and the administrative committee.

The opinion in Kannapien v. Quaker Oats Co., 7th Cir., No. 06-2543, 11/14/07 is  here .