32BJ North Pension Fund v. Nutrition Management Services, Co., No. 18-0857 (2d Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs filed suit under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), alleging that NMSC failed to make the required contributions from 2008 to 2015. The Second Circuit vacated the district court's final judgment in favor of plaintiffs.
The court clarified, consistent with circuit and Supreme Court precedent, that an employer in an ERISA action for unpaid contributions is bound to the terms of an ERISA plan document (the Trust Agreement in this case) only if the employer objectively manifests an intent to be so bound, as evaluated under ordinary principles of contract interpretation. The court applied these principles here and held that NMSC did not bind itself to the Trust Agreement -- and the interest rate established under its Delinquency Policy -- until NMSC agreed to the Memorandum of Agreement modifying the collective bargaining agreement in 2014. The court also rejected the Fund's alternative argument that applying ERISA‐plan‐based interest provisions is so fundamental to the functioning of a fund that its trustees may unilaterally impose such provisions on a delinquent employer.