EBSA News Release: [04/04/2012]
Contact Name: Deanne Amaden or Jose A. Carnevali
Phone Number: (415) 625-2630 or x2631
Release Number: 12-0540-SAN
Judge orders defunct California construction company to restore nearly $520,000 to employee retirement plan following US Labor Department lawsuit
Explore General failed to remit workers’ fringe benefits
SAN FRANCISCO Fresno-based Explore General Inc. and Jaime M. Gonzalez have been ordered to restore $519,601 to the company's 401(k) profit-sharing plan, according to the terms of a judgment and order entered in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.
The judgment and order resolve a lawsuit that was filed by the U.S. Department of Labor based on an investigation by its Employee Benefits Security Administration. The suit alleged that the defendants failed to pay required fringe benefits to the plan and breached their fiduciary duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by not administering the plan solely in the best interests of participants. At the time of the violations, Gonzalez was the owner and president of the company.
Chief Judge Anthony W. Ishii found that the now-defunct construction company was required to pay its workers an hourly prevailing wage rate, including a fringe benefit for each participant in the form of contributions to the retirement plan, when it was contracted to perform work on projects financed by government agencies. The company was paid in full by the agencies for its work, including fringe benefit amounts, and certified that it was sending the fringe benefits to the plan. However, the company failed to remit more than $300,000 to the plan, choosing instead to use the money for general operating expenses. In addition to that amount, the judge's order requires the company to restore lost earnings to the plan.
"Retirement savings are a vital part of ensuring a steady income after we leave the workforce, which is a key reason that Congress chose to give them special protections," said Phyllis C. Borzi, assistant secretary of labor for employee benefits security. "Unfortunately, the individuals entrusted with protecting this plan violated those safeguards."
This case is part of EBSA's national enforcement initiative to safeguard workers' pension and health benefit plans. The Labor Department's regional solicitor in San Francisco litigated the case. Employers and workers can reach EBSA's San Francisco Regional Office at 415-625-2481 or toll-free at 866-444-3272 for help with problems relating to private sector retirement and health plans. Additional information can be found at http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/.
Solis v. Explore General Inc.
Civil Action No. 1:10-cv-01157-AWI-JLT