Coercive or Fraudulent Interference with ERISA
29 U.S.C. 1141
Title 29 U.S.C. § 1141 states:|
It shall be unlawful for any person through the use of fraud,
violence, or threat of the use of force or violence, to restrain, coerce,
intimidate, or attempt to restrain, coerce, or intimidate any participant or
beneficiary for the purpose of interfering with or preventing the exercise
right to which he is or may become entitled under the plan, this title,
3001, or the Welfare and Pension Plans Disclosure Act. Any person who
violates this section shall be fined $10,000 or imprisoned for not more than
year, or both. The amount of fine is governed by 18 U.S.C. § 3571.
Sentencing Guidelines address 29 U.S.C. § 1141 under the guidelines for
"Fraud and Deceit" (U.S.S.G. § 2F1.1) or for "Extortion by Force or
of Injury or Serious Damage (U.S.S.G. § 2B3.2).
In order to establish a violation of 29 U.S.C. § 1141, the
government must allege and prove the following essential elements:
- The jurisdictional entity involved is an employee benefit plan
meaning of title I of ERISA (29 U.S.C. §§ 1001 et. seq.).
Employee benefit plan is defined as an employee pension benefit plan or an
employee welfare benefit plan. 29 U.S.C. § 1002(1), (2), and (3).
- The victim is a participant or beneficiary as defined in the statute.
"Participant" and "Beneficiary" are defined at 3(7) and 3(8)(29 U.S.C.
- The violator can be any person who uses fraud, force, violence, or
of force or violence.
- The violator restrained, coerced, or intimidated, or attempted to
coerce, or intimidate, a participant or beneficiary for purposes of
with their protected rights.
- Protected rights include any right to which a participant or beneficiary
or may become entitled to under the plan, Title I of ERISA, 29 U.S.C.§
(relating to tax qualification of the plan), or the WPPDA (predecessor
- The violator acted WILLFULLY.
For example, Section 1141 would reach the use of deception directed
misleading a welfare plan beneficiary as to the amount of health benefits
to the beneficiary under the terms of the plan or at misleading a pension
participant as to the amount of retirement benefits to which he would become
entitled under the plan upon his retirement.
[cited in USAM 9-135.010]