4th Circ. Bypasses Review Standards In Top-Hat Plan Suit

By Marianna Jasiukaitis (November 20, 2017, 4:14 PM EST) -- Last week, in affirming a company's decision to change a top-hat plan's crediting rates, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit addressed the circuit split over the standard of review applicable to plans providing benefits for highly paid executives.[1] Since top-hat plans involve nonfiduciary plan administrators, circuits have divided on whether the Firestone[2] standard of review applies to these plans. The Third and Eighth Circuits treat top-hat plans as unilateral contracts and apply heightened judicial review standard affording no deference to the plan administrators regardless of the plan language.[3] By contrast, the Seventh and Ninth Circuits afford judicial deference to decisions made by top-hat plan administrators.[4]...

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