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Pinney v. Aegon Companies Pension Plan

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division

March 30, 2015

R. JAN PINNEY, Plaintiff,
v.
AEGON COMPANIES PENSION PLAN, Defendant.

ORDER

LINDA R. READE, Chief District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

The matter before the court is Defendant AEGON Companies Pension Plan's ("the Plan") Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings ("Motion") (docket no. 39).

II. RELEVANT PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On March 4, 2014, Plaintiff R. Jan Pinney filed a Complaint ("Original Complaint") (docket no. 1) in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. On August 25, 2014, Pinney filed an Amended Complaint (docket no. 18) on behalf of himself and a class of similarly situated individuals. The Amended Complaint alleges that the Plan violated the terms of its pension plan when it denied Pinney's claim for pension benefits. On August 29, 2014, the Plan filed a Motion to Dismiss or in Alternative to Transfer ("Motion to Dismiss") (docket no. 21). On October 30, 2014, the case was transferred to this court. See October 30, 2014 Minute Entry (docket no. 21). On November 21, 2014, the Plan filed an Answer (docket no. 36). On that same date, the Plan filed the Motion. On December 22, 2014, Pinney filed a Resistance (docket no. 47). On January 2, 2015, the Plan filed a Reply (docket no. 48). The matter is fully submitted and ready for decision.

III. SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION

The court has federal question jurisdiction over Pinney's claim against the Plan, which arises under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B). See 28 U.S.C. § 1331 ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.").

IV. RELEVANT FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Accepting all factual allegations in the Amended Complaint as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of Pinney, the facts are as follows.

A. Parties

Pinney is a citizen of California and resides in Roseville, California. In 1971, he became an employee of Occidental Life Insurance Company of California ("Occidental"), an affiliate of Transamerica Corporation ("Transamerica"), and thereby became a participant in its employee benefit pension plan. The Plan is an employee benefit pension plan within the meaning of ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1002, and is administered in Iowa.

B. Overview of the Dispute

The case arises out of Pinney's claim that the Plan denied him pension benefits to which he is entitled. In 1971, Pinney began working as an Assistant Branch Manager for Occidental. In 1972, Pinney began working as a General Agent for Occidental. In 1985, Pinney became a Branch Manager for Transamerica. Pinney continued working for Transamerica until July 31, 1997. As an employee of Occidental and Transamerica, Pinney participated in the employee benefit pension plan, which was sponsored by Transamerica and its predecessors and successors in interest.

The pension plan has undergone several amendments and changes since Pinney began his employment, but is currently named the "AEGON Companies Pension Plan." In 2011, Pinney received estimates of his pension benefits and noticed that the Plan had not credited him for thirteen years of his employment-from May 14, 1972 through May 28, 1985-when he worked as a General Agent. On or about December 6, 2011, Pinney submitted documents to the Plan claiming that he was an "employee" eligible for pension benefits during his tenure as a General Agent. The Plan interpreted this as a claim for benefits. On March 5, 2012, the Plan issued an adverse benefit determination, finding that Pinney "was not an Employee' within the meaning of the Plan during the time he worked as a General Agent" because that ...


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