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Employee Benefits Security Administration

News Release

For Immediate Release: June 23, 2011
Contact: Scott Allen or Rhonda Burke
Phone: 312-353-6876/312-353-6976
Email: Allen.scott@dol.gov/Burke.rhonda@dol.gov
Release Number: 11-359-CHI

US Labor Department sues Dowe and Wagner of Richmond, Ill., to restore
more than $31,000 to company’s 401(k) plan for employees

ROCKFORD, Ill. – The U.S. Department of Labor has sued Dowe and Wagner Inc., a heating and air conditioning company in Richmond, and its co-owners, Joseph Wagner and Thomas Eppers, to restore $31,650 to the company’s 401(k) plan. The case resulted from an investigation by the department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration into alleged violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

“It is an egregious violation of trust when employees’ voluntary salary contributions are incorporated into the general assets of a company and not forwarded to their retirement plans,” said Steve Haugen, EBSA’s regional director in Chicago. “The Labor Department will continue to fight for workers when fiduciaries fail in their responsibilities to properly administer employee benefits.”

The suit, filed in U.S. district court in Rockford, alleges that the company and its co-owners violated ERISA by failing to forward employee contributions to the plan from Oct. 6, 2006, through July 31, 2009.  Those funds were retained in Dowe and Wagner’s general account and used to pay the company’s operating expenses.  In addition, the defendants failed to remit employee contributions to the plan in a timely manner from Jan. 19, 2005, through Oct. 31, 2006. 

The suit seeks a court order to restore money owed to the plan, including lost opportunity costs, and to prevent the company and the two co-owners from serving as fiduciaries to any ERISA-covered employee benefit plan.  It also seeks the appointment of an independent fiduciary to terminate the plan and distribute its assets to qualified participants and beneficiaries.

EBSA protects the security of the retirement, health and other workplace-related benefits of America’s workers, retirees and their families. The agency oversees approximately 708,000 private sector retirement plans, 2.8 million health plans and a similar number of other workplace related benefit plans that provide benefits to more than 150 million Americans. Collectively, these plans hold more than $6 trillion in assets.

Employers and workers can reach EBSA’s Chicago office at 312-353-0900 or toll-free at 866-444-3272 for help with problems related to private sector retirement and health plans.  Additional information can be found at www.dol.gov/ebsa.

Solis v. Joseph Wagner, Thomas Eppers, Dowe & Wagner Inc.
Civil Action Number: 3:11-cv-50182

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U.S. Department of Labor releases are accessible on the Internet at www.dol.gov. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the COAST office upon request. Please specify which news release when placing your request at 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755. The Labor Department is committed to providing America’s employers and employees with easy access to understandable information on how to comply with its laws and regulations. For more information, please visit www.dol.gov/compliance.