SSM Health Care Corp. Settlement
Welcome to the Feather v. SSM Health Care Corp. Settlement website. This website is intended to keep Settlement Class Members informed regarding the Class Action Settlement. The content of this website is the responsibility of Class Counsel and has not been approved by the Court.
On June 6, 2019, the Honorable Henry Edward Autrey granted final approval of the Settlement. On July 17, 2019, Judge Autrey entered an Amended Final Judgment.
Plaintiffs’ First Amended Complaint alleged that Defendants denied ERISA protections to the participants and beneficiaries of the Plans, which are defined benefit pension plans sponsored by SSM, by claiming that the Plans qualify as ERISA exempt “church plans.” The Complaint further alleged that asserting this exemption caused Defendants to deny the Plans’ participants the protections of ERISA. These included, among other violations: underfunding the Plans, failing to furnish Plaintiffs or any member of the class with Plan information to participants as required by ERISA and making lower lump sum payments to participants than ERISA would require.
The Settlement Class
On June 6, 2019, final approval of the Settlement was granted on behalf of the following Settlement Class:
All vested or non-vested present or past participants of the Plans (and their beneficiaries) as of September 6, 2017.
Q: What does the Settlement provide?
The Settlement provides that Named Plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and the Settlement Class, have agreed to settle all Released Claims (as defined in the Settlement Agreement) against Defendants and other Releasees (as defined in the Settlement Agreement) in exchange for, a contribution of a minimum of $15 million per year to the Plans during the calendar years of 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022, for a total of $60 million. Any amount paid in excess of $15 million during the calendar years of 2019, 2020, and 2021 may be used to reduce subsequent contributions. SSM may satisfy its obligation by making payments to the Plans totaling $50 million before December 31, 2020.
The Settlement also provides a different form of relief to certain Settlement Class Members who received a lump-sum distribution of their retirement benefits from the Plans (“Lump-Sum Class Members”). Within 30 days from July 17, 2019, Defendants shall pay or cause a $115.00 payment to be made from the Plans to the Lump-Sum Class Members. Payments shall be made by check, and any checks may be voided and a stop-pay order may be placed on such checks if they have not been cashed within 120 days of the date of their issuance, and the expiration date shall be clearly printed on the checks. Checks voided in accordance with this provision shall revert to the Plans. Lump-Sum Class Members whose checks are voided shall be deemed to have waived irrevocably any right in or claim to any lump-sum payment under this Settlement Agreement, but the Settlement Agreement shall in all other respects, including the release of claims, remain binding on them.
Additionally, the Settlement provides certain equitable guarantees of payment of participants’ benefits for a period of ten (10) years, commencing on October 19, 2018, and protection of participants’ benefits from cutbacks during the same time period.
The above description of the operation of the Settlement is only a summary. The governing provisions are set forth in the Settlement Agreement.
Q: What rights am I giving up in the Settlement?
The Final Judgment fully, finally, and forever releases, relinquishes, and discharges any and all actual or potential claims, actions, causes of action, demands, obligations, liabilities, attorneys’ fees, expenses and costs under federal or state laws arising out of the allegations of the Complaint that were brought or could have been brought as of the date the Settlement Agreement becomes effective, including any current or prospective challenge to the “church plan” status of the Plans, whether or not such claims are accrued, whether already acquired or subsequently acquired, whether known or unknown, in law or equity, brought by way of demand, complaint, cross-claim, counterclaim, third-party claim, or otherwise.
For Settlement Class Members only, Released Claims are not intended to include the release of any of the following:
a. Any rights or duties arising out of the Settlement Agreement, including the express warranties and covenants in the Settlement Agreement;
b. Individual claims for benefits brought pursuant to the applicable Plan’s documents that do not arise out of the allegations of the Complaint, provided that in such an individual claim for benefits no Settlement Class Member shall challenge any of the Plans’ status as a church plan exempt from ERISA or claim that ERISA’s requirements relating to lump-sum calculations apply to past or future lump-sum distributions from the Plans;
c. Claims related to any other plan that is merged, adopted or consolidated into any of the Plans after the Effective Date of the Settlement; or
d. Any claim arising under ERISA with respect to a Plan after: (1) the Internal Revenue Service issues a written ruling that the particular Plan does not qualify as a Church Plan; (2) The Plan’s sponsor elects for the particular Plan to be governed by ERISA; (3) A court of law issues a definitive and final ruling that the particular Plan is not a Church Plan; (4) The Roman Catholic Church no longer claims an association with the particular Plan’s sponsor; or (5) An amendment to ERISA is enacted and becomes effective as a law of the United States eliminating the Church Plan exemption.
Q: How do I know whether I am part of the Settlement?
The Court has certified the Action as a class action. You are a member of the Settlement Class if, you are a vested or non-vested present or past participant of any of the Plans (or one of their beneficiaries) as of September 6, 2017.
Q: Do I have a lawyer in the Action?
The law firms of Keller Rohrback L.L.P., Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check, LLP, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, and Izard, Kindall & Raabe, LLP represent the Named Plaintiffs and the Settlement Class (“Settlement Class Counsel”). Keller Rohrback and Kessler Topaz have been appointed as Settlement Class Counsel Co-Chairs.
Q: How will the lawyers be paid?
Class Counsel applied for an award of attorneys’ fees and expenses, and incentive awards for the Named Plaintiffs. The Court approved that motion at the Fairness Hearing on June 6, 2019.