Interested in training for your team? Click here to learn more

A Challenge to Actuarial Assumptions in Defined Benefit Plans: Latest Developments in the Legal Landscape

Recent Case Law, Claims and Defenses, Fiduciary Obligations, Avoiding Administrative Pitfalls, Plan Modifications

Recording of a 90-minute premium CLE webinar with Q&A

This program is included with the Strafford CLE Pass. Click for more information.
This program is included with the Strafford All-Access Pass. Click for more information.

Conducted on Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Recorded event now available

or call 1-800-926-7926

This CLE course will provide ERISA counsel and advisers an in-depth analysis of the use of actuarial assumptions in defined benefit plans. The panel will discuss the current litigation landscape and developments in the cases that challenge plan actuarial equivalence factors. The panel will also review critical considerations for plan sponsors and fiduciaries who may be at risk of facing these claims from participants and beneficiaries.


Defined benefit plans use actuarial assumptions when calculating optional forms of benefits (such as joint-and-survivor or certain-and-life annuities) or early retirement benefits, which are typically actuarially equivalent to a single life annuity. Many plans use assumptions that may not reflect current mortality tables or interest rates.

In 2018, plaintiffs began filing lawsuits challenging these actuarial assumptions--typically the use of an older mortality table--claiming that the assumptions do not produce actuarially equivalent benefits as required under ERISA. The plaintiffs argue this causes retirees to lose portions of their vested retirement benefits.

Developments in these lawsuits against plan sponsors, such as MetLife and Pepsi, have shed some light on the risks and potential liability associated with the use of older actuarial assumptions. These developments will serve to guide sponsors and their ERISA counsel on whether and what actions to take to address these issues.

Listen as our panel discusses developments in the actuarial equivalence cases, as well as potential defenses to these plaintiffs’ claims. The panel will also discuss possible plan modifications and other critical considerations for plan sponsors and fiduciaries.



  1. Overview of the use of actuarial assumptions in retirement plans
  2. Fiduciary obligations and liability
  3. Recent cases and developments
  4. Best practices for ERISA counsel and plan sponsors


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • The use of actuarial assumptions in retirement plans' calculation of optional forms of benefits
  • Recent court cases challenging plans' actuarial assumptions
  • Plan sponsor and administrator defenses
  • Critical considerations for plan sponsors and administrators


Kohn, Katherine
Katherine B. Kohn

Senior Counsel
Groom Law Group

Ms. Kohn is Of Counsel in Groom Law Group’s Litigation practice group. She specializes in ERISA litigation...  |  Read More

Lamb, Brian
Brian J. Lamb

Thompson Hine

Mr. Lamb represents companies and their directors and officers in complex business disputes, including ERISA...  |  Read More

Shapiro, Joshua
Joshua Shapiro

Senior Actuarial Advisor
Groom Law Group

Mr. Shapiro’s practice focuses on the design funding, and administration of multiemployer, single employer, and...  |  Read More

Access Anytime, Anywhere

Strafford will process CLE credit for one person on each recording. All formats include course handouts.

To find out which recorded format will provide the best CLE option, select your state:

CLE On-Demand Video