Dennison v. MONY Life Ret. Income Sec. Plan for Emps., No. 12-2407 (7th Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff left his senior position in 1996, having participated in the Retirement Income Security Plan for Employees (RISPE), a tax-qualified defined benefits plan that guarantees specified retirement benefits, and in the Excess Benefit Plan, a defined unfunded benefits pension plan under which benefits are paid directly by the employer rather than by a trust funded by the employer. Both plans allowed him to choose between an annuity and an actuarial equivalent lump sum distribution. In 2009 he received his RISPE lump sum, $325,054.28 and his Excess Plan lump sum, $218,726.38. The discount rate used to calculate lump sum RISPE benefits was a “segment rate,” 26 U.S.C. 417(e)(3)(C), of 5.24 percent. The discount rate applied to the Excess Plan lump sum was 7.5 percent. The district court rejected his ERISA claim that the discount rate required by both plans was a rate computed by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation on the basis of annuity premiums charged by insurance companies. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. With respect to the RISPE, the accrued benefit, which cannot be reduced retroactively, is the annuity; the lump sum is not the accrued benefit and can be reduced retroactively. The court rejected a conflict-of-interest argument concerning calculation of the Excess Benefit Plan discount rate.