SCOTUS Opinion: Court Strictly Interprets “Actual Knowledge” For ERISA Limitations Period

Under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, a person with “actual knowledge” of an alleged fiduciary breach by the administrator of a pension plan must file suit within three years of gaining such knowledge—otherwise, a six-year limitations period applies. In Intel Corp. Investment Policy Committee v. Sulyma, Intel argued that its former employee filed such a claim too late because the plan administrators had disclosed their investment decisions to him more than three years before he filed suit. Sulyma testified that he did not remember reviewing those disclosures nor had he been aware of the decisions. The district court granted summary judgment to Intel, but the Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that Sulyma’s testimony created a dispute of fact that required a trial. The Court, in a unanimous decision by Justice Alito, affirmed, holding that Sulyma did not have “actual knowledge” of information contained in disclosures that he received but did not read or did not recall reading. The Court did suggest that “actual knowledge” could be proved through circumstantial evidence or a pattern of “willful blindness.”

A link to the opinion is here.