Retirement Benefit Claims for Former Coastal and ANR Employees
Welcome to the website for former Coastal Corporation and American Natural Resources Company ("ANR") employees who are in the Kinder Morgan Retirement Plan (previously the El Paso Corporation Pension Plan). We represent Curtis Pedersen and Beverly Leutloff, two former employees of Coastal Corp. and ANR, and an estimated 10,000 former employees who are like them, in their claims for additional retirement benefits. Mr. Pedersen and Ms. Leutloff claim that their retirement benefits were slashed in two major ways after a series of corporate acquisitions left their retirement benefits under the control of Kinder Morgan, Inc., a company for which they never worked.
The Federal Court Decision on August 18, 2022 that the Kinder Morgan Defendants Must Face the Claims of the Former Coastal/ANR Employees
The class action complaint to recover lost retirement benefits for the former ANR and Coastal Corporation employees was filed on February 22, 2021. The plaintiffs did not take this action lightly. Although it was not required, they tried to resolve this matter several times through Kinder Morgan’s internal claims process before filing the lawsuit in federal district court.
The complaint was originally filed in the Eastern District of Michigan, which encompasses Detroit where ANR was founded. The complaint was amended on May 18, 2021 and is now 78 pages long (click to download). On November 1, 2021, the case was transferred to the Southern District of Texas in Houston, where Kinder Morgan, Inc. is headquartered.
After extensive briefing and oral argument, the District Court issued a 31-page decision on August 18, 2022, requiring the Kinder Morgan Defendants to face the claims that Mr. Pedersen and Ms. Leutloff are making. The Court’s largely favorable decision is attached (click to download). The Court’s decision does not mean that this case is over. But it rejects almost all of Kinder Morgan’s arguments that the former employees’ claims should be dismissed.
The Claims for "Unreduced" Retirement Benefits at Age 62 and For the Full "2% of Pay Benefit for Up to 30 Years of Service"
Until mid-2018, El Paso Corp. and later Kinder Morgan allowed former ANR employees to receive "unreduced" retirement benefits if they retired at age 62 or older. Kinder Morgan and El Paso transmitted written group and individual communications, made oral presentations with PowerPoint slides, and provided benefit projections to Mr. Pedersen, Ms. Leutloff and others showing them as eligible for "unreduced" retirement benefits at age 62 and older. Most critically, El Paso and Kinder Morgan paid former ANR employees who reached age 62 "unreduced" benefits. But in mid-2018, Kinder Morgan changed its mind and took the position that all of its communications and performances were the result of a "calculation error" and that ANR employees who had not retired could no longer receive the valuable unreduced benefits at age 62.
Through review of detailed calculations of Mr. Pedersen’s benefits that Kinder Morgan prepared, Plaintiffs’ counsel also uncovered that the Kinder Morgan Defendants have been quietly applying "fractions" to decrease the retirement benefits of employees who began work at ANR or Coastal before age 35. These "fractions" have been decreasing the "2% of pay benefit for up to 30 years" promised in all of the communications with the former ANR and Coastal employees. In practice, the 2% of pay benefits for employees who started work for ANR or Coastal at younger ages (for example, Mr. Pedersen started work for ANR at age 21) have been reduced by as much as 33%. As the District Court's August 12, 2022 decision confirmed, the federal pension law requires any significant reductions in benefits that employees "reasonably expect the plan to provide based on the description of a benefit formula of 2% of pay for up to 30 years" to be "clearly" identified and disclosed - which we believe that El Paso and Kinder Morgan never did.
Contact Information for Questions or Comments
If you are a former Coastal Corp. or ANR employee like Mr. Pedersen and Ms. Leutloff and have questions, or believe that you have information or documents related to the claims in this matter, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Side bar links to:
Decision dated August 18, 2022