ILNews

Man gets money for not paying into pension

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

In a strange twist in a bankruptcy case, a businessman actually benefited financially by not paying into a pension fund for his company.

In the appeal of Barry G. Radcliffe's bankruptcy case by International Painters and Allied Trades Industry Pension Fund, No. 08-2885, International Painters appealed an order from the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Indiana, which affirmed the judgment of the bankruptcy court finding International violated bankruptcy law and had to pay damages to Radcliffe for withholding his pension payments.

Radcliffe owned a company in which he had a labor agreement to contribute to the fund; he stopped making payments, but personally guaranteed to pay. When he didn't, International got a declaratory judgment against him; before it could recover, Radcliffe filed for bankruptcy. Prior to filing bankruptcy, Radcliffe requested his pension benefits from the fund. International withheld part of his payments in order to satisfy his debt arising from the default judgment, despite his notification he believed the setoff violated the automatic stay that took effect when he filed for bankruptcy.

The bankruptcy court, which the District Court affirmed, ordered International to pay compensatory damages, interest, punitive damages, and attorney fees.

Despite being "somewhat uneasy" with the end result that affirming the lower courts' decisions means Radcliffe gets a seemingly undeserved windfall, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.

The federal appellate court found the setoff by the fund - withhold some pension benefits to satisfy the default judgment - violated the automatic stay under 11 U.S.C. Section 362(a)(6). International argued the benefits weren't property of the estate, so the offset was proper, and it didn't violate the statute because the letter it sent Radcliffe informing him of the offset wasn't coercive or harassing. The 7th Circuit judges disagreed, writing the letter did violate the statute because it made the decision to withhold funds without first seeking court approval, wrote Judge Terence Evans.

The fund acted willfully in its violation and Radcliffe is therefore entitled to damages.

The 7th Circuit agreed with the lower courts that the stay shouldn't have been lifted under Employment Retirement Income Security Act's anti-alienation provisions. None of the exemptions under the anti-alienation provisions apply to International and its reliance on Kennedy v. Plan Administrator for DuPont Savings and Investment Plan, 129 S. Ct. 865 (2009), is misplaced, wrote the judge. The bankruptcy judge was well within his discretion in refusing to lift the stay and to act otherwise would have been an exercise in futility, wrote Judge Evans.

The federal appellate judges also affirmed the bankruptcy court's calculation of compensatory damages for pre-petition pension benefits, the award of punitive damages, and the interest rate applied to the damage award.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  2. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

  3. This outbreak illustrates the absurdity of the extreme positions taken by today's liberalism, specifically individualism and the modern cult of endless personal "freedom." Ebola reminds us that at some point the person's own "freedom" to do this and that comes into contact with the needs of the common good and "freedom" must be curtailed. This is not rocket science, except, today there is nonstop propaganda elevating individual preferences over the common good, so some pundits have a hard time fathoming the obvious necessity of quarantine in some situations....or even NATIONAL BORDERS...propagandists have also amazingly used this as another chance to accuse Western nations of "racism" which is preposterous and offensive. So one the one hand the idolatry of individualism has to stop and on the other hand facts people don't like that intersect with race-- remain facts nonetheless. People who respond to facts over propaganda do better in the long run. We call it Truth. Sometimes it seems hard to find.

  4. It would be hard not to feel the Kramers' anguish. But Catholic Charities, by definition, performed due diligence and held to the statutory standard of care. No good can come from punishing them for doing their duty. Should Indiana wish to change its laws regarding adoption agreements and or putative fathers, the place for that is the legislature and can only apply to future cases. We do not apply new laws to past actions, as the Kramers seem intent on doing, to no helpful end.

  5. I am saddened to hear about the loss of Zeff Weiss. He was an outstanding member of the Indianapolis legal community. My thoughts are with his family.

ADVERTISEMENT