Brown, et al v. Continental Airlines, Inc., et al., No. 10-20015 (5th Cir. 2011)Annotate this Case
Appellants filed suit against nine pilots and their spouses asserting claims for equitable relief under 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(3) of ERISA where appellants alleged that the pilots and their spouses obtained "sham" divorces for the purpose of obtaining lump sum pension distributions from the Continental Pilots Retirement Plan. At issue was whether ERISA, 29 U.S.C. 1056(d)(1), allowed a retirement plan administrator to seek restitution of benefits that were paid to a plan participant's ex-spouse pursuant to a domestic relations order such as a divorce decree, if the administrator subsequently determined that the domestic relations order was based on a "sham" divorce. The court agreed with the district court's holding that subsection 1056(d)(3)(D)(i) did not authorize an administrator to consider or investigate the subjective intentions or good faith underlying a divorce. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of appellants' claims.