Supreme Court Will Consider Norcal Stock Lawsuit

Date: April 19, 2002

Source: News Room

The Supreme Court has asked the Justice Department to consider whether former shareholders of Norcal Waste Systems Inc., a San Francisco garbage hauler, can sue the company's employee stock-ownership plan in state court for failing to look after their interests. Norcal says the allegations belong in federal court because ESOPs are governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA. ERISA trumps most state-law claims against private worker pension and benefit plans. The high court is seeking to decide whether to hear an appeal from Norcal and Bank of America Corp. (BAC), which served as trustee under an agreement that governed $36.5 million in long-term notes issued to the former shareholders. Norcal issued the notes and $65 million in cash in 1986 when it created the ESOP to purchase shares of its stock from current and former employees. The ESOP defaulted on the notes in 1991 after taking on additional debt in a pair of mergers.

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