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Walker v. Action Monsanto Company Pension Plan

June 11, 2009

GRANT M. WALKER, EDWARD ZERINGUE, AND RICHARD W. DRAKE, ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ACTION MONSANTO COMPANY PENSION PLAN AND MONSANTO COMPANY, DEFENDANTS.
GLYNN DAVIS, EUGENE FORNERIS, AND JUANITA HAMMOND, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL THOSE SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SOLUTIA INC. EMPLOYEES' PENSION PLAN, DEFENDANT.
FRED DONALDSON, ALBERT WALTER III, MARY CLAWSON, SANDRA BELLON, AUDREY SOKOLOSKI, AND CAROL THOMAS, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL THOSE SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
PHARMACIA CASH BALANCE PENSION PLAN, PHARMACIA CORPORATION, PHARMACIA & UPJOHN COMPANY, AND PFIZER, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert United States District Judge

CONSOLIDATED CLASS

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on the motion for summary judgment on Count X filed by defendants Monsanto Company Pension Plan and Monsanto Company (collectively, "Monsanto") (Doc. 282). Plaintiff Edward Zeringue, class representative, has responded to the motion (Doc. 295), and Monsanto has replied to that response (Doc. 298). The Court also considers the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 285) to the extent it seeks judgment on Count X, Monsanto's response to the plaintiffs' summary judgment arguments about Count X (Doc. 293), and the plaintiffs' reply to that response (Doc. 297).

Summary judgment is appropriate where "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosed materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Spath v. Hayes Wheels Int'l-Ind., Inc., 211 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir. 2000). There are no factual disputes before the Court in relation to Count X; the Court is only asked to decide legal issues to determine whether any party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

I. Background

This dispute arises out of a provision in the Monsanto Company Pension Plan ("Plan") regarding calculation of interest credits where a participant elects to receive his pension in a lump sum but that lump sum is paid a month or more after it becomes payable under the Plan. The account at issue is the Prior Plan Account*fn1 ("PPA"), one of the factors used to determine the amount of the lump sum benefit. The Plan provision at issue states:

If a Participant elects to receive his Accounts as a Lump Sum and such Lump Sum is paid to the Participant after the calendar month containing the Participant's Annuity Starting Date, his Prior Plan Account... shall be credited with Interest Credits in accordance with Section 6.2(d) (regardless of the Participant's age)... for each complete calendar month in the period beginning on the first day of the month containing his Annuity Starting Date and ending on the first day of the month in which the Lump Sum distribution is made to the Participant.

Plan, § 7.3(e)(v) (2002).*fn2 Section 6.2(d), in turn, states that a PPA shall be credited monthly with interest credits at an annual rate of 8.5%.

The Plan's summary plan description ("SPD") describes the awarding of interest credits to a PPA in connection with a lump sum benefit payment as follows:

Your first payment may be delayed for at least one month to allow for payment processing.... If you select a Lump Sum Benefit, your payment will include interest on the amount of your Lump Sum Benefit, for the period from your benefit commencement date to the date of payment, at an annual rate equal to the average yield of 30-year Treasury Bonds for October of the prior year.

SPD at 6 (2002). It further states:

You may also elect to defer receipt of your benefit under the Pension Plan.... During the deferral period, your Prior Plan Account (until age 55)... continue[s] to receive interest credit.

SPD at 8 (2002).

Throughout its life, the Plan administrator has awarded interest credits at a rate of 8.5% for periods where a lump sum benefit payment was delayed because a participant voluntarily elected to defer receipt of the lump sum benefit to a later date (a "deferral"). However, the Plan administrator has historically awarded interest credits at the lower 30-year treasury bond rate for periods where a lump ...


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