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Golden v. Barnett

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia, Wheeling

May 14, 2018

STANLEY J. GOLDEN, Plaintiff,
v.
DONALD BARNETT and WILLIAM H. HOWE, Trustees of the UMWA 1985 Retired Construction Workers Pension Plan and 1978 Retired Construction Workers Benefit Trust, Defendants. DONALD BARNETT and WILLIAM H. HOWE, Trustees of the UMWA 1985 Retired Construction Workers Pension Plan and 1978 Retired Construction Workers Benefit Trust, Counterclaim Plaintiffs,
v.
STANLEY J. GOLDEN, Counterclaim Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DENYING DEFENDANTS'/ COUNTERCLAIM PLAINTIFFS' CROSS-MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          JOHN PRESTON BAILEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Currently pending before this Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 18], filed December 19, 2017, and Defendants'/Counterclaim Plaintiffs' Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 23], filed March 5, 2018. Having been fully briefed, this matter is now ripe for decision. For the reasons set forth below, this Court GRANTS IN PART Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 18] and DENIES Defendants'/Counterclaim Plaintiffs' Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 23]. Plaintiff's request for an award of attorneys' fees and costs is DENIED. The remainder of plaintiff's Motion is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, Stanley J. Golden, brings this action under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq., against defendants and counterclaim plaintiffs, Donald Barnett and William H. Howe, in their capacities as trustees of the UMWA 1985 Construction Workers Pension Plan (incorrectly named the 1985 Retired Construction Workers Pension Plan in the Complaint) and the 1978 Retired Construction Workers Benefit Trust (collectively, the “Funds”).

         Plaintiff began working for Allegheny Belting, Inc. (“Allegheny”), in 1980 as a construction worker pursuant to a Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”) between the United Mine Workers of America (“UMWA”) and the Association of Bituminous Contractors. Allegheny was a participating employer to the Funds. On April 10, 2015, plaintiff's job at Allegheny was eliminated. Consequently, plaintiff applied for and began receiving retirement benefits and retiree health care benefits from the Funds.

         Sometime later, plaintiff received a letter dated September 14, 2016, which read, in pertinent part, as follows:

Dear Mr. Golden,
As you know, you currently receive a monthly pension benefit from the UMWA 1985 Construction Workers Pension Plan (“Plan”) based in part on your service with Allegheny Belting (“Company”). We recently discovered that you may have held an ownership, management or operational position with Allegheny Belting during all or some of the period during which your pension was earned. As you may know, individuals who hold a management, ownership, or operational position with a contributing employer are not eligible to earn pension credit under the Plan. We are writing to determine whether you held such a position with the Company.
Specifically, Article IV(C)(4) of the Plan provides, “No credit for service shall be awarded a Participant for any period in which such Participant was directly connected with the ownership, operation, or management of a construction employer.” We understand, for instance, that you served as vice-president of the Company. If you served as vice-president during the period when your pension benefit was earned or functioned in some other ownership, management or operational position, your benefit amount must be adjusted. If you believe you did not hold a management, ownership, or operational position with Allegheny while you were receiving credit under the Plan, you must forward documentation of this. . . .

[Doc. 1-8 at 2]. In response, plaintiff vehemently denied ever serving in an ownership, management, or operational position with Allegheny. In a letter dated October 28, 2016, plaintiff stated as follows:

I did not hold an ownership, operational or managerial position with Allegheny. I was not connected with the day to day operations of the company. I did not set up the jobs, bid for jobs, do the work schedules, or decide the wages. I was not privy to the finances of the company, the tax records, or the wages of the other employees. I was not given bonuses or extra compensation that management might receive. Also, I made no decisions on the hiring of employees, etc. Additionally, I am not aware of any time when I was to have been elected as an officer of the company, nor do I have records to that effect.

[Id. at 12]. In an earlier letter, plaintiff indicated he was given stock in Allegheny when it was incorporated and that he continued to be a shareholder [Id. at 3]. However, plaintiff stated in the October 28, 2016, letter that he “never received any written documentation to that effect, ” that he did not have “any proof of ownership, ” and that he “never received any monetary gain of stock from the company” [Id. at 12].

         The Funds' Coordinator then sent a letter to Richard Golden, plaintiff's brother and President of Allegheny, requesting information regarding plaintiff's position with Allegheny [Id. at 14]. Richard Golden's response stated as follows:

We are a family owned business started in 1979 by our parents Stanley T Golden and Ann Golden. The [i]nitial 1000 shares of stock were owned by them. In 1982[, ] Stanley T and Ann gave 150 shares of stock to each of their 3 children. Richard T-150 shares, Stanley John [plaintiff]-150 shares[, ] and Deborah A-150 shares. Stanley T and Ann retained 550 shares.
There was discussion of naming Stanley John [plaintiff] as a vice president in late 1999[, ] however a change of heart by Ann prevented anything from officially being ratified during any of the meetings. She questioned his ability to make financial and personnel decisions and he was never given power or permission to handle either the workforce or finances. He remained a crew leader as many of the other employees (myself included) did during these many years. We never employed over 25 people at one time and have averaged in the low teens over the years[, ] which necessitates all employees produce billable hours.
In September of 2005[, ] after the death of Stanley T and with health concerns of her own[, ] Ann dispersed her stock as follows: Richard T-additional 400 shares for a total of 550[, ] Stanley J [plaintiff] an additional 75 with a total of 225 and Deborah A an additional 75 with a total of 225. Enclosed [are] transfer minutes.
I hope this clears up any confusion and misinformation that may have been understood by all parties involved. As minority stockholders we were not privy to most of the meetings and since the death of Ann last year there has been a tension in the relationships between Stanley J [plaintiff] and his siblings. As a company we take good care of our employees and have gone beyond any contractual obligations to compensate them including generous travel and meal expenses. There also is a 401k that ALL employees share in equally but as for any other profit or dividend sharing there was nothing given to Stanley J [plaintiff] or the other siblings.

[Id. at 15].

         The enclosed minutes supported Richard Golden's statement that in 1982 Stanley T. Golden gave 150 shares to each of his three children, including plaintiff, and that he and Ann Golden retained 550 shares [Id. at 19]. The June 1, 1982, Annual Meeting minutes also show that all five members of the Golden family, including plaintiff, were elected as “Directors” [Id.]. There were no minutes enclosed that memorialized the transfer of stock as described in September 2005. However, there were minutes enclosed from July 20, 2005, that stated, in pertinent part, the following:

Order of Business-Transfer of Stock Owned by Ann Golden to Richard Golden, Stanley J. Golden, and Deborah Riva.
Current Shareholders and Shares:
Stanley T & Ann Golden - 550 shares
Richard T Golden - 150 shares
Stanley J Golden - 150 ...

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