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Trustees of Amalgamated Insurance Fund v. Sheldon Hall Clothing Inc.

argued: September 16, 1988.

TRUSTEES OF THE AMALGAMATED INSURANCE FUND
v.
SHELDON HALL CLOTHING, INC. AND SHELDON MEHRMAN, T/A MEYER D. MEHRMAN & SON AND SHELDON MEHRMAN, APPELLANTS



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, D.C. Civil Action No. 84-6184.

Becker, Hutchinson and Scirica, Circuit Judges.

Author: Scirica

Opinion OF THE COURT

SCIRICA, Circuit Judge.

This appeal arises under the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act of 1980 ("MPPAA"), Pub.L. No. 96-364, 94 Stat. 1208 (codified in scattered sections of 5, 26 & 29 U.S.C.). The principal question raised is whether, under 29 U.S.C. § 1401(b)(2), a pension plan qualified under MPPAA that wins an arbitration award against a withdrawing employer must file an action in federal district court to confirm the award within 30 days or forever be barred from execution. We hold it does not and we will affirm the judgment of the district court.

Due to an apparent contradiction between the provisions of this complex statute, we believe a brief analysis of the MPPAA is necessary.

I.

The MPPAA was enacted as an amendment to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, Pub.L. No. 93-406, 88 Stat. 1020 ("ERISA") (codified as amended at 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001-1461 (1982)), and was intended, in part, to discourage employers from withdrawing from multiemployer pension plans and, thus, leaving those plans with unfunded liabilities. H.R. Rep. No. 869, 96th Cong., 2d Sess. 67, reprinted in 1980 U.S. Code Cong. & Admin. News 2918, 2935. It does so by imposing upon the withdrawing employer a mandatory liability, defined in the statute as the employer's adjusted "allocable amount of unfunded vested benefits." 29 U.S.C. § 1381(b)(1).

Upon an employer's withdrawal from a pension plan, the plan's trustees determine the amount of the withdrawal liability. 29 U.S.C. § 1381. The trustees then notify the employer of both the amount of liability and a schedule for payments, and make a formal demand for payment. 29 U.S.C. § 1399(b)(1). After the employer receives notice of the amount of its withdrawal liability, it may, within ninety days, request review by the plan's trustees. 29 U.S.C. § 1399(b)(2)(A). If a dispute persists after review, then either party may initiate arbitration proceedings. 29 U.S.C. § 1401(a)(1).

Section 1401(b)(2) provides for review of the arbitrator's award by the district court:

Upon completion of the arbitration proceedings in favor of one of the parties, any party thereto may bring an action, no later than 30 days after the issuance of an arbitrator's award, in an appropriate United States district court in accordance with section 1451 of this title to enforce, vacate, or modify the arbitrator's award.

An aggrieved party, however, need not go to arbitration. Section 1451 creates an independent cause of action in federal district court for any party to a multiemployer plan "who is adversely affected by any act or omission" under the MPPAA. Section 1451(f) provides:

An action under this section may not be brought after the later of--(1) 6 years after the date on which the cause of action arose, or (2) 3 years after the earliest date when the plaintiff acquired or should have acquired actual knowledge of the existence of such cause; except that in the case of fraud or concealment, such action may be brought not later than 6 years after the date of discovery of the existence of such cause of action.

These two sections, on their face, appear to contradict each other. Section 1401(b)(2) provides in one clause for a 30-day limitation period and yet, in the next clause, limits itself to the terms of § 1451, which provides for a three- or six-year limitation period.

II.

Appellant Sheldon Hall Clothing, Inc. ("SHC"), was a Pennsylvania corporation, with Sheldon Mehrman as its president and sole shareholder. Appellant Meyer D. Mehrman & Son ("MMS"), was a sole proprietorship founded by Sheldon Mehrman's father, but solely owned and operated by Sheldon Mehrman at all times ...


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