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Employee Benefits Security Administration

Media Release

Release Date: 06/18/2002
Release Number: 02-127
Contact Name: Rita Ford

Phone Number: 202.693.8671

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Labor Department Secures Temporary Restraining Order Against Georgia Health Plan Operators

Atlanta, Georgia - The U.S. Department of Labor secured a temporary restraining order on June 13 for the immediate removal of OTR Truckers Association of Cumming, Georgia, and the trustees of its health plan for improperly managing the plan, resulting in $998,515.50 in unpaid claims owed to participants.

The restraining order removes the trustees, bars them from exercising any authority or control over the plan and enjoins them from acting as service providers to the plan. The order also appoints Jeanne Barnes Bryant, Esq., as the successor trustee to take over the plan, ensure that it is properly bonded, distribute any plan assets and terminate the plan, if necessary.

“This action demonstrates our commitment to protect the hard-earned benefits of American workers and their families," said Howard Marsh, director of the department’s Atlanta Regional Office of the Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration, which investigated the case.

The restraining order resulted from a lawsuit filed by the department on June 7 alleging that the Association and trustees Rusk L. Jones and James F. Mustoe violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by breaching their fiduciary duties in failing to properly operate the plan, a multiple employer welfare arrangement (MEWA), in compliance with Georgia law. As a result of this failure, for which the Georgia Commissioner of Insurance issued a Cease and Desist Order on April 2, 2002, the defendants caused the plan to be without a plan administrator. The suit also alleges that the defendants failed to properly accumulate sufficient assets to pay claims resulting in nearly $1 million in unpaid claims, and that they failed to obtain a fidelity bond for the plan. In addition to seeking the removal of the trustees and the appointment of a successor trustee, the suit also seeks to restore all of the plan losses.

OTR Truckers Association, Inc. established the MEWA in June 1999 to provide health and welfare benefits to its members. As of February 2002, there were 18 employers and 350 participants taking part in the plan.

Employers and workers can contact the regional office at 1.404.562.2156 or PWBA’s Toll-Free Employee & Employer Hotline number, 1.866.275.7922 for help with any problems relating to private-sector pension and health plans.

U.S. Department of Labor news releases are accessible on the Internet. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format upon request (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the Central Office for Assistive Services and Technology. Please specify which news release when placing your request. Call 202.693.7773 or TTY 202.693.7775.