FROM: U.S. LABOR DEPARTMENT
Labor Department files suit to restore losses to the Miller's Health Systems Employee Stock Ownership Plan
WARSAW, Ind —The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court to recover losses to the Miller’s Health Systems, Inc., Employee Stock Ownership Plan. The suit alleges that PBI Bank, Inc., the trustee of the plan, authorized the purchase of company stock for $40 million, an amount far in excess of the fair market value of the stock. The suit also alleges that PBI Bank approved financing for the transaction at an excessive interest rate. Miller’s Health is a Warsaw-based company that manages long-term care and assisted-living facilities.
“Fiduciaries must act with undivided loyalty to plan participants. When it comes to ESOP stock purchases, they must ensure that the plan receives full value for its money,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employee Benefits Security Phyllis C. Borzi.
An investigation by the Chicago Regional Office of the department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration focused on a September 2007 stock purchase. The suit alleges that PBI violated ERISA by imprudently and disloyally approving the purchase of stock by the plan. The suit seeks to require PBI to restore all losses suffered by the ESOP, plus interest.
At the time of the stock purchase, Miller’s Health managed 31 long-term care facilities under the name of Miller’s Mary Manor and 10 assisted living facilities under the name Miller’s Senior Living. Miller’s Health also operated Theracare, Inc., an Indiana corporation, which primarily provided physical and occupational therapy and speech-language pathology to residents in Miller’s Health facilities.
After conducting its investigation, the department concluded that, as a result of the design of the transaction and the fiduciary breaches of PBI, the stock purchase was not for the primary benefit of participants and did not promote employee ownership in Miller’s Health. As a result, the department concluded that PBI was responsible and liable for violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.
The lawsuit also seeks to remove PBI as a fiduciary and service provider of the plan and to permanently bar it from serving as a fiduciary or service provider to ERISA-covered plans in the future.
As of Sept. 30, 2012, the ESOP had 2,939 participants and assets of $12,848,000.