February 7, 2008
Robert Howley, a former director for Mellon Financial Corporation, will receive displacement benefits, including enhanced pension, retirement and health benefits as well as lifetime medical care for his disabled daughter, as a result of his federal lawsuit.
Following a 20-year career with Mellon Financial Corporation, Mr. Howley was fired as part of a reduction in force (”RIF“) the day after it merged with Affiliated Computer Services, Inc. As a result of his termination, Mr. Howley was a few months shy of his early retirement date under Mellon’s Displacement Program, including enhanced 401k options, as well as significant early retirement, and retirement medical benefits. After his termination, Mr. Howley made a claim for displacement benefits which was denied because, according to Mellon, under the terms of its sale agreement with ACS, Mr. Howley was transferred to and employed by ACS at the time of his termination and thus not displaced by Mellon.
Mr. Howley filed suit under the Federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (”ERISA“) alleging eligibility for displacement benefits as well as intentional interference with his ERISA rights. The suit was filed in the Federal District Court of New Jersey and substantial discovery was conducted on these issues. Through depositions of Mellon's upper management, Mr. Howley was able to prove that the RIF decision was made prior to his termination by Mellon’s upper management, thus, completely undermining Mellon’s entire claim denial rationale. Based on this record, Mr. Howley filed a motion for summary judgment to reinstate his displacement plan benefits and eligibility. Mellon cross-moved for summary judgment on both of Mr. Howley's ERISA claims.
In a published decision, the Honorable Faith S. Hochberg, U.S.D.J. granted Mr. Howley’s summary judgment motion with respect to his claim for displacement benefits. Judge Hochberg also found issues of fact on the ERISA interference claim, but dismissed it because Mr. Howley would receive all of his benefits through the displacement claim. In addition, the Order accompanying the Opinion directed Mr. Howley’s legal counsel to file an application for attorneys' fees.
Mr. Howley was represented by Kevin Barber, Peter J. Heck and Matthew Justin Vance of the Law Firm of Niedweske Barber, LLC in Morristown, New Jersey. Mellon Financial Corporation was represented by Sherri A. Affrunti and Daniel E. Wille of Reed Smith LLP. ACS was represented by Cynthia V. Fitzgerald of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP.