Click here for a short summary of the issue. Click here for a detailed timeline.
See also the Pension Rights Center website.
Click here for ex-St. Peter's CEO John Matuska's 2011 letter to the IRS.
Click here for ex-St. Peter's VP of HR Bruce Pardo's 2011 letter to the IRS.
Haga clic aqui para verun resumen del problema en español.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


We are glad to post the following message from Larry Kaplan's legal counsel:

Please do not contact Larry Kaplan, the named plaintiff in the Kaplan v. Saint Peter's Healthcare System lawsuit.  Larry is represented by counsel.  Please direct any inquires to his lawyers at Cohen Milstein.  They may be reached at (202) 408-4600. Thank you.

We would add that this request does indeed apply to you.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Saint Peter's Response

Saint Peter's on April 3 sent a letter to plan participants and employees, confirming their intent to appeal the recent court order rejecting their claim to church plan status. Susan Ballestero, the hospital's VP of Human Resources, writes that "Saint Peter's plans to appeal this decision and take any action that may be necessary to affirm that Saint Peter’s Healthcare System may maintain its present Church Plan." The hospital apparently plans to continue its present operation of the plan – grossly underfunded, without insurance – until forced to do otherwise. We think they will have to find another venue for appeal, as the judge in the present case has emphatically rejected their arguments so far.

Another article has been published about the decision, this one on April 4 on the website of PLANADVISOR magazine.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Court Ruling Analysis and Follow-up

Numerous news articles have now been published about the recent court ruling in Kaplan v. Saint Peter's Healthcare System that the hospital's pension plan is not a church plan. These include:

We'll get back to those articles a bit later.

Judge Shipp's ruling, in denying Saint Peter's claim that their pension plan is entitled to ERISA's church plan exemption, also denies their motion to dismiss the case. The case can thus now proceed, a process which we expect to take several months.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Yesterday, March 31st, the judge in Kaplan v. Saint Peter's Healthcare System ruled that Saint Peter's pension plan is not a church plan under ERISA as a matter of law, and denied the hospital's motion to dismiss the case. Judge Michael A. Shipp issued the ruling with a lengthy Memorandum Opinion which we are in the process of digesting. In the meantime, the always reliable Thomas E. Clark Jr. at FRA PlanTools has a blog entry summarizing the developments.

The ruling negates the IRS's August 2013 private letter ruling that the Saint Peter's plan is a church plan. It essentially agrees with, and we would say bolsters, the similar recent ruling in the related Dignity Health case in California. Litigation is not complete in either case, but as in the Dignity case, the essence of the Saint Peter's case has been decided by this ruling. We do not know whether Saint Peter's might make changes to the management of the pension plan in the near term. We don't know if they can stand pat until the completion of the case, or afterwards pending an appeal. We do know they can no longer claim that the Saint Peter's plan is a church plan.

Heartfelt congratulations to Larry Kaplan, who took on this burden on behalf of all the Plan members; the law firms arguing the case for the plaintiffs, led by Karen Handorf at Cohen Milstein; and to the members of the Saint Peter's pension plan, those still working and those now retired, whose victory this is. More soon.