DoL Pulls In Outside Fiduciary for MEWA

May 6, 2004 ( - An outside fiduciary will be appointed to run a California union benefit fund, which authorities say spent millions of dollars of fund assets on administrative expenses - including more than $1 million for marketing.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) said the move was part of an out-of-court settlement with the International Union of Industrial and Independent Workers Benefit Fund of a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta. The DoL also charged that fund officials delayed processing health claims, failed to operate the fund in an actuarially sound manner and paid too much in fees for services provided to the fund.

Under the terms of the agreement, the outside fiduciary will serve for 45 days to manage the fund and to conduct an accounting of the plan’s finances and claims. The court-approved agreement also temporarily relieves the trustees and the union of their positions and duties as plan fiduciaries

The DoL filed the lawsuit April 6 against the purported union, former plan administrator Oak Tree Administrators, its owner Cherille Shelp and current and former trustees Geoffrey Beltz, James Miller, David Wright, and Henry Solowiej.  

The department’s suit alleges that the purported union is a multi-employer welfare arrangement (MEWA) that operates in Alpharetta, Georgia, Plano, Texas, and Paramount, California. The purported union was part of a MEWA that marketed health benefits to employers in Texas, Georgia, Oklahoma, California and many other states.   Several states, including Oklahoma and Georgia, have ordered the fund’s operators to stop all insurance activities.  

Employers and workers can call the DoL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration toll-free number, 1-866-444-3272 , for help with problems relating to private-sector health and pension plans.