US Supreme Court Doesn't Disturb ERISA Rights Waiver Case

December 4, 2003 ( - The US Supreme Court let stand a Texas case allowing pension plan beneficiaries to waive their ERISA rights under federal common law.

>In Keen v. Weaver, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that a pension plan beneficiary may relinquish interest in an ERISA-regulated plan through a specific, knowing and voluntary waiver, according to a Thompson Publishing report.

>To some observers, the decision sidestepped the US Supreme Court’s ruling in a 2001 case that ERISA preempts state laws automatically revoking the designation of a spouse as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy or employee benefit plan upon divorce.

Plaintiff lawyers wanted the decision overturned in order to make clear that ERISA dictates adhering to beneficiary designations in plan documents and that common law considerations are inappropriate, said attorney Maurice Bresenhan. Steven Sloan, attorney for the defendant, countered that the anti-assignment rule applies to participants only. Therefore, nothing prohibits beneficiaries from waiving their rights voluntarily and knowingly.