The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. Kathleen Tomlinson, Magistrate Judge:
Plaintiff Richard Varney ("Plaintiff") brings this action, individually and as the administrator of the estate of Plaintiff's mother, Lillian Varney, (the "Estate"), pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq., against Defendants NYNEX Management Pension Plan (the "Pension Plan" or the "Plan"), NYNEX, NYNEX Initial Claims Committee, NYNEX Employee Benefits Committee, Verizon Communications, Inc., Verizon Employee Benefits Committee, NYNEX Management Group Life Insurance Plan, and NYNEX Supplementary Group Life Insurance Plan (the "Life Insurance Plan") (collectively, "Defendants" or "Verizon") seeking statutory penalties and benefits due under the Pension Plan and the Life Insurance Plan, along with interest, costs, and and attorneys' fees. Compl. [DE 1] at 12-13.*fn1
The parties disagree about the procedural history of this case. In 2007, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss based on, inter alia, Plaintiff's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies. See DE 26. Plaintiff claims that Defendants withdrew this motion "because of their inability to demonstrate that a claim form was provided to plaintiff." Pl.'s Mem. [DE 38] at 3. For their part, Defendants claim that while the motion was pending, Plaintiff "agreed to voluntarily withdraw his complaint and to submit his claims for administrative review." Defs.' Mem. [DE 39] at 3. A letter submitted by Plaintiff to the Court on September 12, 2008 [DE 28] states that the parties agreed "that Plaintiff's claim for benefits will be reviewed by Defendants' administrative committee, rendering the failure to exhaust remedies defense moot . . . ." Without taking a position on which party's version of events is accurate, the Court notes that Plaintiff did indeed submit his claim to Defendants' administrative committee for review, during which time this case was stayed. After the claim was denied, this case was returned to active status and the instant discovery dispute arose.
Before the Court currently is Plaintiff's motion regarding the appropriate scope of discovery. As the Court explained to the parties at the January 20, 2010 Status Conference, where, as here, the plan document provides "discretionary authority" to the plan administrator, the standard of review is "arbitrary and capricious," and discovery is typically limited to the administrative record ("AR"). See DE 33 ¶¶ 3-4. Plaintiff contends that the circumstances of this case justify a departure from the standard limitation on discovery due to an alleged conflict of interest on the part of Defendants. Defendants maintain that there are no circumstances justifying such a departure. After reviewing the parties' submissions, hearing oral argument and considering the applicable case law, I am GRANTING the motion.
II. THE PARTIES'CONTENTIONS
A. Plaintiff's Contentions
Plaintiff asserts that discovery outside the administrative record is warranted here because there is evidence of a structural conflict of interest stemming from Verizon's dual roles as the plan sponsor and plan administrator. The evidence Plaintiff points to is an e-mail written by Verizon employee Michael J. Thivierege (the "Thivierege E-mail") to Hewitt advising Hewitt that no benefit was due Plaintiff.*fn2 Plaintiff also argues that Defendant's interpretation of the plan is "inconsistent with its plain words." Pl.'s Mem. at 3-5. Plaintiff further contends that evidence of procedural irregularities, including (1) Hewitt's reversal of the initial decision to award benefits even though it did not receive any new information about Ms. Varney or Plaintiff; (2) Defendants' shifting explanations for denial of the benefits; and (3) Defendants' failure to provide Plaintiff with a claim form (despite his request for such form) or any explanation for its decision to deny benefits, weigh in favor of allowing the requested discovery. Id. at 2-3, 7-9.
Plaintiff seeks leave to obtain the following limited discovery outside the administrative record:
(1) the deposition of a representative of Hewitt regarding the basis for its initial determination of eligibility and later reversal of that determination;
(2) the deposition of a corporate representative of Defendants pursuant to Federal Rule of Procedure 30(b)(6) regarding the denial of Plaintiff's benefits; and
(3) the transcripts of certain telephonic communications between Plaintiff and Hewittt referred to in documents attached to Plaintiff's motion.
Pl.'s Mem. at 9. Plaintiff asserts that he is entitled to this discovery in order to ascertain the basis for Hewitt's determination that the Estate was entitled to receive the claimed benefit and the process by which the initial determination was ...