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News Release

Atlanta engineering firm’s owners agree to restore more than $150,000 in lost earnings to pension plan following U.S. Labor Department lawsuit

Atlanta – The owners of Williams-Russell & Johnson, an Atlanta engineering firm, have agreed to restore $150,129 in lost earnings plus accrued interest to the company’s 401(k) retirement plan after being sued by the U.S. Department of Labor for violating the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. In addition to restitution, the defendants have agreed to pay a $30,673 penalty and to reimburse the plan for the fees and expenses of a fiduciary appointed to administer the plan’s assets.

The losses occurred when Pelham C. Williams and Charles E. Johnson Sr. withheld $262,370 in employee contributions and participant loan repayments but failed to forward them to the plan in a timely manner. The contributions and loan repayments were later repaid to the plan. The judgment restores funds that the plan would have earned if the fiduciaries had complied with ERISA rules.

The consent judgment and order, entered in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia-Atlanta Division, also barred these defendants from acting as fiduciaries of any employee benefit plan except the company’s current health plan. In the consent judgment, the defendants admit to all allegations contained in the original lawsuit, including their failure to maintain an adequate fidelity bond.

“Corporate executives have a duty of loyalty to protect plan assets in order to pay benefits owed to plan participants and beneficiaries, and the Labor Department will not allow them to misuse that trust by abusing plan assets for other purposes,” said R.C. Marshall, regional director of the department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration in Atlanta.

Williams-Russell & Johnson is a planning, engineering, architectural and construction management company headquartered in Atlanta. Pelham Williams and Charles Johnson Sr. are listed as owners of the firm.

Employers who are not yet subjects of EBSA investigations may be eligible to participate in the Labor Department’s Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program. Participation requires employers to make workers whole but allows them to avoid EBSA enforcement actions and civil penalties as well as any applicable excise taxes.

In fiscal year 2009, EBSA achieved monetary results of $1.3 billion related to pension, 401(k), health and other benefits for millions of American workers and their families. Employers and workers can reach EBSA’s Atlanta Regional Office at 404.302.3900 or toll-free at 866.444.3272 for help with problems relating to private sector retirement and health plans. For more information, see

Solis v. Pelham C. Williams
Civil Action File Number 1:09-cv-3674

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Employee Benefits Security Administration
June 28, 2010
Release Number
10-867-ATL (373)