In Thole v. U.S. Bank, N.A., 140 S.Ct. 1615 (decided June 1, 2020), the Supreme Court held that the plaintiffs, two retired participants in U.S. Bank’s defined benefit pension plan, did not have Article III standing to sue for relief under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). The plaintiffs lacked standing because they did not suffer any actual financial injury. The participants alleged that plan fiduciaries mismanaged the benefit plan, resulting in a $750 million loss, thereby violating their fiduciary duties of loyalty and prudence.
The Court drew a distinction between the plaintiffs’ defined benefit plan, under which participants are paid a fixed monthly amount notwithstanding plan fiduciaries’ investment decisions, and defined contribution plans, which fluctuate based on investment decisions. The Thole plaintiffs did not have Article III standing because they “have received all of their monthly benefit payments so far,” “the outcome of this suit would not affect their future benefit payments,” and they “would still receive the exact same monthly benefits that they are already slated to receive, not a penny less” and “not a penny more.” Id. at 1619.