Willkie Wins Trial for Aon in Florida Suit Regarding Pension Investments

April 23, 2021

The trial was the culmination of three years of litigation between Aon and Foundation Resolution Corp. and its pension committee (FRC).

On April 21, at the close of an eight-day trial in Middle District of Florida, Willkie secured a significant victory for its client Aon Hewitt Investment Consulting, Inc. Aon is a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement, and health solutions, including investment consulting services through Aon Hewitt Investment Consulting, Inc. After the close of evidence and immediately after closing arguments, the court found in favor of Aon on all claims. The trial was the culmination of three years of litigation between Aon and Foundation Resolution Corp. and its pension committee (FRC).

In October 2014, FRC engaged Aon to assist FRC with the termination of its pension plan, which faced a significant funding deficit, and held investments poorly suited for the imminent termination of the plan. Accordingly, FRC requested that Aon manage the investment of the plan’s assets. Aon was also hired to assist the plan in providing one-time lump sum payments to eligible plan participants, and in securing an annuity for remaining participants.

Aon successfully invested the plan’s assets, reducing the funding deficit significantly, even in the face of uncertain and difficult market conditions. Aon secured a very favorable annuity contract for remaining plan participants, successfully terminating the plan.

Following the termination of the plan, FRC sued Aon for alleged breaches of Aon’s fiduciary duties. FRC accused Aon of failing to prudently invest the plan assets by delaying investment while it performed assessments of the plan’s funding needs.

At the close of the case, the court found that all of plaintiffs’ allegations were unsupported by the evidence. In issuing findings from the bench, the court recognized the complexity of the case. It concluded that Aon adopted careful and prudent processes in managing the plan and providing advice to FRC. It held that “Aon’s actions and investment decisions and discussions with FRC were appropriate and reasonable and prudent.” The court determined that the proprietary funds it selected were appropriate for the plan and its goals. The court also concluded that had Aon invested plan assets in the manner FRC alleged was more appropriate, Aon “would not have been prudent.” Finally, the court determined that Aon acted prudently in managing the payment of lump sums and the purchase of an annuity for remaining plan participants. In issuing the findings, the court explicitly credited the strength of the testimony of Aon’s fact and expert witnesses.

Aon is represented by partners Craig C. Martin, Amanda Amert and Matt Thomas and associates Aaron Hersh, Samantha Glass, Stephanie Miner, Sara Kim and Brian Yost.