Thrivent Financial vs Perez Department of Labor Acosta DOL, Status of lawsuits, Defense of alternative dispute resolution with mandated arbitration
“The MDRP is the sole means for presenting and resolving grievances, complaints, or disputes between Members, insureds, certificate owners or beneficiaries and Thrivent or Thrivent’s directors, officers, agents and employees. The MDRP reflects Thrivent’s Christian belief system and strives to preserve Members’ fraternal relationship.”…Thrivent v. Perez Sept. 29, 2016
“Thrivent contends that its commitment to individual arbitration is ‘”important to the membership because it reflects Thrivent’s Christian Common Bond, helps preserve members’ fraternal relationships, and avoids protracted and adversarial litigation that could undermine Thrivent’s core mission.’”…Thrivent v. Acosta Nov. 3, 2017
“pre-dispute mandatory arbitration provisions are inappropriate in insurance policies and incompatible with the legal duties insurers owe policyholders when handling their claims.”…NAIC, National Association of Insurance Commissioners, August 15, 2016
From Bloomberg Sept. 29, 2016.
“Thrivent Financial for Lutherans is accusing the Department of Labor of exceeding its statutory authority by attempting, with its new fiduciary rule, to force all disputes into federal court rather than allowing for alternative dispute resolution methods (Thrivent Financial for Lutherans v. Perez, D. Minn., 0:16-cv-03289, complaint filed 9/29/16).
Thrivent’s lawsuit, filed Sept. 29 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, takes aim at the rule’s “best interest contract” (BIC) exemption”
From the lawsuit.
“Thrivent’s Member Dispute Resolution Program
42. Thrivent’s MDRP is incorporated into all of Thrivent’s fraternal insurance contracts through the open contract provision by which Thrivent’s Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws are incorporated into all Thrivent insurance contracts, as required under state law. The MDRP Bylaw was adopted by Thrivent’s Member-elected Board of Directors as a part of Thrivent’s Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws in 1999 (at which time Thrivent was known as AAL). In so doing, Thrivent’s Board of Directors determined that the MDRP is in the best interests of Thrivent’s Membership.
43. The MDRP Bylaw, which is Section 11 of Thrivent’s Bylaws, requires binding, mandatory arbitration for any Member disputes with Thrivent. Section 11 “applies to all past, current and future benefit certificates, members, insureds, certificate owners, beneficiaries and the Society. It applies to all claims, actions, disputes and grievances of any kind or nature whatsoever. It includes, but is not limited to, claims based on breach of benefit contract[.]” Bylaws, § 11(b). “No lawsuits or any other actions may be brought for any claims or disputes covered by” Section 11. Id. § 11(c).
44. The MDRP is the sole means for presenting and resolving grievances, complaints, or disputes between Members, insureds, certificate owners or beneficiaries and Thrivent or Thrivent’s directors, officers, agents and employees. The MDRP reflects Thrivent’s Christian belief system and strives to preserve Members’ fraternal relationship.”
“47. A key benefit of the MDRP is that it preserves the fraternal relationship between Thrivent and its Members by avoiding adversarial litigation that could threaten to undermine the organization’s core mission. Thrivent’s Bylaws provide that no lawsuits or other actions are permitted for claims or disputes covered by the MDRP. Thrivent’s MDRP provides for resolution of disputes on an individual basis, involving Thrivent and the Members. Representative or class actions are not permitted under the MDRP Bylaw, which provides that “no disputes may be brought forward in a representative group or on behalf of or against any ‘class’ of persons, and the disputes of multiple members, insureds, certificate owners or beneficiaries (other than immediate family) may not be joined together for purposes of these procedures.” See Bylaws, § 11(e).
48. The MDRP is consistent with Thrivent’s fraternal nature, consistent with the Christian belief system of its Members, and reflects the careful balancing between Thrivent’s and its Members’ desire for a prompt, fair and efficient resolution of disputes, on the one hand, and the protection of the interests of all Members on the other. As such, the MDRP is an integral part of Thrivent’s governance structure. Experience has shown that the MDRP not only provides a fair and efficient process for dispute resolution, but is also in the best interest of Members.”
DOL temporarily stopped enforcing anti-arbitration provision.
“Thrivent Financial for Lutherans convinced a federal judge in Minnesota to temporarily stop the Labor Department from enforcing the fiduciary rule’s anti-arbitration provision against the nonprofit financial entity.
Thrivent showed the threat of irreparable harm to its business model, both now and in the future, was sufficient to have its request for a preliminary injunction granted, Judge Susan Richard Nelson held Nov. 3 (Thrivent Fin. for Lutherans v. Acosta, 2017 BL 396118, D. Minn., No. 0:16-cv-03289-SRN-DTS, order granting preliminary injunction 11/3/17″
Status report January 2, 2018.
“While the administrative process continues forward, it is not yet complete. On November 29, 2017, the Department published in the Federal Register a final rule extending the transition period and delay of applicability dates for the relevant prohibited transaction exemptions from January 1, 2018 to July 1, 2019. See 82 Fed. Reg. 56545 (Nov. 29, 2017). The Department believes that this administrative delay will provide the Department time to complete its review of the underlying Fiduciary Rule and related exemptions and its intended proposal of “a new streamlined class exemption.” Id. at 56548. The Department believes that both its review and any proposed changes can be implemented before July 1, 2019. See id. at 56552 (explaining the Department’s belief that the additional time “is sufficient to complete review of the new information in the record and to implement changes to the Fiduciary Rule and/or PTEs, if any, including opportunity for notice and comment and coordination with other regulatory agencies”) ”
Status report July 2, 2018.
“Pursuant to the Court’s Memorandum Opinion and Order dated November 3, 2017, the parties submit this joint status report to address whether a continued stay of proceedings is necessary. The parties agree that a continued stay of proceedings is appropriate and anticipate providing a subsequent report to the Court on September 4, 2018.
In its Memorandum Opinion and Order, the Court granted a preliminary injunction prohibiting the “implementation and enforcement of the BIC Exemption’s anti-arbitration condition against Thrivent . . . until the conclusion of this litigation or such time as the Court so orders.” ECF No. 111 at 19. The Court also stayed the case, concluding that “[s]taying this matter will allow the administrative process to fully develop, possibly resolving this dispute, and thereby promoting judicial economy.””
A status report for September 2018 has not been located.
However, the following suggests the Department of Labor is continuing to work on the “Fiduciary Rule and Prohibited Transaction Exemptions.”
||Publication ID: Fall 2018
|Title: Fiduciary Rule and Prohibited Transaction Exemptions
|Abstract:The Department of Labor in 1975 issued a regulation defining who is “fiduciary” under section 3(21)(A)(ii) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) as a result of giving investment advice for a fee or other compensation. On April 8, 2016, the Department replaced the 1975 regulation with a new regulatory definition. The new regulatory definition was vacated in toto in Chamber of Commerce v. Department of Labor, 885 F.3d 360 (5th Cir. 2018). The Department is considering regulatory options in light of the Fifth Circuit opinion.
|Agency: Department of Labor(DOL)
||Priority: Other Significant
|RIN Status: Previously published in the Unified Agenda
||Agenda Stage of Rulemaking: Final Rule Stage
||Unfunded Mandates: No
|EO 13771 Designation: Deregulatory
|CFR Citation: Not Yet Determined (To search for a specific CFR, visit the Code of Federal Regulations.)
|Legal Authority: 29 U.S.C. 1002 (ERISA sec. 3(21)) 29 U.S.C. 1108 (ERISA sec. 408)
|Legal Deadline: None
|Request for Information (RFI)
||82 FR 31278
|RFI Comment Period End
How will this play out? Who knows.
The NAIC in 2016 stated: “pre-dispute mandatory arbitration provisions are inappropriate in insurance policies and incompatible with the legal duties insurers owe policyholders when handling their claims.”
Hopefully justice will prevail.
*** Update Mar 15, 2019 ***
According to a USDOJ attorney who worked on the lawsuit, it has ended.