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MCGINNIS v. JOYCE

February 2, 1981

ROBERT MCGINNIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WILLIAM D. JOYCE ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shadur, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

On November 19, 1979 Robert McGinnis ("McGinnis") filed this action against defendants William D. Joyce, John D. Kelahan, Frank Wsol, Robert J. Baker, John J. Barranco and Michael P. Murphy. Defendants are trustees of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local No. 710 Pension Fund (the "Pension Fund") and Health and Welfare Fund (the "Welfare Fund") (collectively the "Funds"), of which McGinnis is a beneficiary. In McGinnis' Amended Complaint (the "Complaint") he charges defendants with a continuing and wilful refusal to grant McGinnis access to plan-year reports of the Funds, to which he is entitled under Sections 104(b)(2) and 104(b)(4) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA").

On December 4, 1980 McGinnis moved to amend the Complaint to include allegations that (1) defendants have unlawfully refused to provide McGinnis with a list of all employers contributing to the Pension Fund and (2) defendant Wsol and other employees of Local 710 have threatened McGinnis with violence if he continues his opposition activities (including pursuing this action) or ever comes to the union hall where the Funds' offices are located. Defendants oppose the proposed amendment, maintaining that its allegations are non-actionable under ERISA. For the reasons stated in this memorandum opinion and order, McGinnis' motion to amend the Complaint is granted in part and denied in part.

McGinnis' Request for a List of Contributing Employers

McGinnis initially alleges in the proposed amendment that on June 30, 1980 he requested a list of all employers who were contributing to the Pension Fund and, being told to put that request in writing, did so about July 16. Beneficiaries were in fact entitled to that information under the terms of each Fund's plan (singly the "Plan," collectively the "Plans") as originally promulgated. However, by letters to all beneficiaries dated July 1, 1980, defendant trustees advised that both Plans had been amended so that beneficiary inquiries are now limited to whether specifically named employers are Fund contributors. McGinnis alleges that modification was intended to deny him access to documents and information covered by his requests in violation of ERISA § 104(b)(4).

Defendants raise a single argument in opposition to that proposed amendment*fn1: Under the relevant labor regulation (CFR § 2520.102-3(b)(3)) trustees may elect alternatively to provide beneficiaries upon request either with a complete list of employer contributors or with information only as to specifically identified employers. In short, defendants contend that because they had the right to amend the Plans as they did, McGinnis has no basis for seeking relief.

That argument plainly misses the mark. Under ERISA § 502 a beneficiary may bring a civil action "to enforce his rights under the terms of the plan." McGinnis alleges that at the time he made his request, his rights under the terms of the Pension Plan included access to the requested information.*fn2 That being true, the trustees were certainly not free to amend the Plan retroactively to deny him that right. Defendants' contentions are thus insufficient to justify denial (in effect a dismissal) of McGinnis' first proposed amendment.

Interference with McGinnis' Exercise of Rights

McGinnis' second offered amendment is a new Count IV alleging that:

    (1) On February 3, 1980 Wsol and other employees of
  Local 710 under his direction threatened McGinnis
  with violence if he continued his "opposition
  activities," including the continued prosecution of
  this action to enforce his ERISA rights.
    (2) In that respect, the same persons threatened to
  beat McGinnis severely if he ever came to the union
  hall, where the Funds' offices are located.

McGinnis seeks injunctive and monetary relief under ERISA § 510:

  It shall be unlawful for any person to discharge,
  fine, suspend, expel, discipline, or discriminate
  against a participant or beneficiary for exercising
  any right to which he is entitled under the
  provisions of an employee benefit plan, [or] this
  subchapter . . . or for the purpose of interfering
  with the attainment of any right to which such
  participant may become entitled under the plan, [or]
  this subchapter. . . . The provisions of [ERISA §
  502] shall be applicable in the enforcement of this
  section.

Defendants argue that McGinnis' charges track ERISA ยง 511, a criminal statute that does not imply ...


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