(E.D. Mich. 1989). Furthermore, plaintiff herein seeks only an award of extracontractual interest: no questions of plan interpretation, benefits due or enforcement of rights under the plan's terms are presented. Defendant Retirement Committee therefore urges this Court to hold that extracontractual damages are not available under ERISA § 502(a). Scott at 1097-98; cf. Russell, 473 U.S. at 144 (no recovery of extracontractual damages flowing from breach of fiduciary duties under ERISA § 409.)
Plaintiff points out that Russell involved only a breach of fiduciary duty claim under ERISA § 502(a)(1) and that in Burkhart, 991 F.2d at 1004, the Second Circuit did not reach the issue of Russell's applicability to causes of action under § 502(a)(1)(B) and (a)(3). See Burkhart, 991 F.2d at 1008. Plaintiff further urges that his claim is not extracontractual but rather requires enforcement of his rights under a plan term because the Retirement Committee expressly found that he was entitled to interest: by calculating that interest via the plan rate of return for the entire pre-repayment period (including the negative interest rate in the post-favorable decision but pre-actual payment period) the Committee violated the terms of its own decision and order.
This Court finds that it need not decide the extracontractual recovery question because it is clear that, assuming arguendo that plaintiff could proceed with his claim for extracontractual interest only under § 502(a)(1)(B), this Court would review the Retirement Committee's decision to calculate plaintiff's interest by applying the plan rate of return to the whole period the benefits were unpaid under the arbitrary and capricious standard. See Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. v. Bruch, 489 U.S. 101, 103 L. Ed. 2d 80, 109 S. Ct. 948 (1989); Jordan v. Retirement Committee of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, No. 92-1648, slip op. at 10 (N.D.N.Y. May 1, 1994), appeal docketed, No. 94-7550, (2d Cir. 1994)("[RPI's CRP] unambiguously grants the Retirement Committee the highest degree of discretion both to determine eligibility for benefits and to construe the terms of the plan.") This Court further finds, after careful examination of the parties' submissions, the Committee's decision and plaintiff's objections thereto, that the Committee's interpretation and application of its decision to award plaintiff interest on his successful claim were both eminently reasonable.
As an initial matter, the CRP neither required nor prohibited the payment of interest. The Committee had no obligation to order interest payments to plaintiff and ERISA does not require such payments. Where the same body which undertook to award those payments, with neither guidance nor compulsion from the CRP, then selects a rational method by which those payments will be calculated, likewise with no guidance or compulsion by the CRP, it is difficult to conceive of how that decision could be held unreasonable under any standard of review. cf. Scott, 727 F. Supp. at 1098.
Furthermore, by choosing to apply the CRP's assets actual rate of return the Committee ensured that the CRP would neither profit by nor be penalized for its earlier miscalculation. It is in this context that the Court notes that, notwithstanding the tone of righteous indignation in plaintiff's correspondence with the Committee, there are no allegations of Committee bad faith regarding either the initial miscalculation or the delay between the decision favorable to plaintiff and his actual receipt of repayment. Defendant's miscalculation appears to be one of innocent prior plan misinterpertation, corrected by the Committee's self review after examining plaintiff's claim. There is likewise no indication that the period between notification to plaintiff that his view had prevailed and plaintiff's receipt of the underpayments was anything but an understandable and acceptable delay necessitated by administrative review and recalculation. Furthermore, under these innocent circumstances plaintiff proffers no rationale which would compel this Court to treat the pre and post-Committee decision periods of underpayment differently. The Committee's decision to neither penalize nor unjustly enrich RPI's CRP was, under these circumstances, entirely rational and reasonable. See Short v. Central States, Southeast & Southwest Areas Pension Fund, 729 F.2d 567, 576 (8th Cir. 1984).
Finally, although plaintiff would have this Court force a different rate of post-decision interest by "analogy," plaintiff ignores 28 U.S.C. § 1961, the statutory post-judgment interest rate applicable to district court judgments. Had plaintiff been forced to litigate his underlying claim and prevailed, prejudgment interest would have been awarded at the Court's discretion, exercised only "where such an award is 'fair, equitable, and necessary to compensate the wronged party fully.'" Connecticut Gen. Life Ins. Co. v. Cole, 821 F. Supp. 193, 202 (S.D.N.Y. 1993) (citations omitted). Post-judgment however--the precise analogy to that which plaintiff herein seeks--any interest plaintiff received he would have received at the rate established by § 1961. See Cefali v. Buffalo Brass Co., 748 F. Supp. 1011, 1026 (W.D.N.Y. 1990) (applying § 1961 rate to pre and post-judgment award); see also Freedman v. Wallace Steel, Inc. Profit Sharing Trust, 1987 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 926, *9 (N.D.N.Y. 1987) ("ERISA is a federal statute reflecting concerns of the federal government, and the interests of uniformity are best served by calculating interest in accordance with a single standard established by a federal statute.")
The defendant Committee has established that had interest been calculated over the entire miscalculation period under § 1961, See Cefali, 748 F. Supp. at 1026, plaintiff would actually have been entitled to less than he received by virtue of the Committee's decision to calculate via the CRP's assets' rate of return. (Dft.'s Memo. of Law Pt. III). Plaintiff neither disputes nor controverts defendant's § 1961 calculations, and responds only by offering the non-sequitur that "what the Committee might have done does not alter what it did in fact do." (Pltff.'s Reply Memo. of Law at 5). Presented with plaintiff's hair-splitting pre and post-decision dichotomy however, this Court finds that what it would have done, at best, would have resulted in an award of less interest than that granted to plaintiff by the defendant Committee. It follows then that this Court would not and will not today hold that the Committee's decision was unreasonable and therefore arbitrary and capricious. See Firestone 489 U.S. at 111.
Assuming arguendo that under ERISA plaintiff could prosecute a claim solely for interest against a retirement plan which makes no provision for interest awards, this Court finds that defendant Retirement Committee's decision to pay interest at its plan's investments' actual rate of return for the entire period that benefits were underpaid, both before and after its concession that recalculation was warranted, was rational and reasonable and neither arbitrary nor capricious. Therefore, plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is DENIED and defendant's motion for summary judgment is hereby GRANTED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
February 5, 1995
Binghamton, New York
Thomas J. McAvoy
Chief U.S. District Judge