For Immediate Release: January 16, 2013
Contact: Michael D'Aquino
Release Number: 13-41-ATL (07)
Savannah, Ga., lawyer and firm ordered to restore losses and interest to
employee retirement plans following US Labor Department investigation
SAVANNAH, Ga. – A judge has ordered former Savannah attorney Benjamin S. Eichholz and the Eichholz Law Firm P.C. to restore losses and interest to the firm’s retirement and pension plans. The order resolves a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor, which was based on an investigation by the department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration. EBSA found that Eichholz and his former law firm breached their fiduciary responsibilities in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and caused losses to the plans in excess of $1 million.
Under the terms of the order, Eichholz and his mother, Harriet B. Eichholz, forfeited their right to any cash benefits from the plans. Eichholz and the firm will restore $15,053 to the plans and transfer $32,206 in plan assets to an independent fiduciary. In December 2009, Eichholz pleaded guilty to obstructing EBSA’s investigation. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $50,117 to the plans.
“Workers deserve to reap the full benefits of their hard-earned retirement savings,” said Isabel Colon, EBSA’s regional director in Atlanta. “This agency is committed to taking action on behalf of workers when plan fiduciaries fail in their duty to act solely in the interest of the participants.”
The department filed the lawsuit in 2010 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia-Savannah Division, alleging that the defendants violated ERISA by improperly transferring and lending plan assets to prohibited individuals or organizations, such as the firm, Eichholz, his former wife, and companies he owned or controlled.
In addition to paying restitution, the judgment permanently bars Eichholz and the firm from acting as fiduciaries of any plan subject to ERISA, it appointed an independent fiduciary to administer the plans, and it requires the defendants to reimburse the plan for those fees and expenses. The independent fiduciary is now responsible for the plans’ assets and distributing them to eligible participants and beneficiaries. Eichholz and the firm are also required to pay a civil penalty equal to 20 percent of the applicable recovery amount.
The case was investigated by the EBSA’s Atlanta District Office. It was litigated by the department’s Regional Office of the Solicitor in Atlanta.
Workers participating in employer-sponsored health and retirement benefit plans who feel that they have been denied a benefit inappropriately or have questions about benefits laws can contact an EBSA benefits adviser by visiting www.askebsa.dol.gov or calling 866-444-EBSA (3272).
Solis v. The Eichholz Law Firm, P.C
Civil Action Number: 4:10-cv-00162-BAE-GRS
U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at www.dol.gov. The information above is available in large print, Braille, audio tape or disc from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.