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September 23, 2021

Ninth Circuit Holds Promise to Provide ERISA Benefits for Life Not Binding Unless in Plan Documents

In an ERISA benefits and fiduciary breach action, the Ninth Circuit recently rejected a benefits claim that an employer’s promise to provide benefits for life made in PowerPoint presentations overrode the general rule that ERISA health benefits do not vest. The Ninth Circuit reasoned that a contractual agreement for vesting of ERISA benefits must be found in the governing plan documents. Although the court rejected the benefits claim, it vacated the district court’s order granting summary judgment of a fiduciary breach claim based on the same facts, Finding that there was a genuine question of fact regarding whether the employer incorrectly represented the plan provided benefits for life.