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DuPont Family Pension Plan Case

Case Overview

This case involves a pension plan that was established as a trust in 1947 by Mary Chichester duPont to provide pensions to her employees and to the employees of her children and grandchildren. The suit, like the trust itself, has a long and complicated history. But, by the time it was tried in a four-day bench trial before Judge Bataillon in April of 2022, plaintiff T. Kimberly Williams, a former employee of one of the grandchildren and a plan participant, was the one remaining plaintiff in the case.

Attorneys at Kantor & Kantor, with co-counsel at Renaker Scott, obtained a favorable decision for Ms. Williams. Among other things, the court held that the pension plan is covered by ERISA, and that the current and former trustees and the duPont grandchildren breached their fiduciary duties by failing to operate the plan in compliance with ERISA, which caused the plan to become severely underfunded.

The court wrote that the trustees and the duPont employers “breached their fiduciary duties by “failing to comply with funding, vesting, notice and other requirements of ERISA.” The court found the trustees and duPont employers liable both for the plan underfunding and for failing to provide proper notices to potential beneficiaries.

Expert Testimony

The court fully credited the testimony of the plaintiff’s expert, noting that he was well qualified to determine the funding liability of a defined benefit pension plan, his conclusions were based on actuarial sciences and reliable, and his testimony was uncontroverted because the defendants chose not to put on their own expert. The court credited the expert’s testimony that the plan’s estimated current funding needs were $38 million and the plan, at the time of the trial, only had $2.7 million in assets. The court found that the defendants’ criticism of the expert’s opinion as being based on incomplete evidence was a problem of their own making in failing to keep complete employment records and failing to bring the plan into compliance with ERISA. The court held that his “report and conclusions can be used as a starting point,” and the “database [he] built can be used as a base for future plan administration by an appointed independent fiduciary to finally administer the plan in accordance with ERISA.”

With that in mind, the court ordered the appointment of a special master, to be paid by the current trustee, First Republic, which is tasked, among other things, with retaining a qualified trustee to replace it, identifying and notifying all potential plan participants about the plan, and calculating an adequate funding figure.

Case Name

The case is called Wright v. Elton Corp., 2023 WL 112022, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware

Status of the Litigation

Defendants and Third Party Defendants appealed the decision to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and Judge Bataillon stayed the case in the district court pending resolution of the appeal.

This page will be updated as the case proceeds.

If you think we may be eligible for a pension under the DuPont Family Pension Plan or you know someone who may be eligible, please contact Elizabeth Hopkins or Susan Meter at 818-886-2525.