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Pete Pederson has extensive experience with litigation involving employee benefits under ERISA and non-ERISA plans. He defends insurers, third-party administrators, and plan fiduciaries in actions alleging improper plan administration and management. He frequently handles cases that challenge the denial of health, life insurance, disability, and pension benefits. He also represents managed-care companies and health plans in disputes with medical providers, and he counsels clients regarding compliance with ERISA and other code-based areas of the law.

In addition to his employee benefits practice, Pete regularly represents parties in commercial disputes that arise from insurance policies, vendor contracts, partnership and shareholder agreements, and employment agreements. He has represented business owners in the drafting of operating and employment agreements and successfully resolved contract and business-tort claims arising in a variety of contexts. Pete also has a track record of successfully defending and resolving class actions under ERISA, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, and other consumer protection laws. He has defeated motions for class certification in a number of high-exposure suits.

In the course of his work, Pete has practiced before courts across the country. He has briefed and argued appeals in the First and Seventh Circuits, and he has achieved favorable results for clients in matters pending before U.S. district courts in the First, Fourth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Eleventh, and D.C. Circuits. His practice has resulted in reported case law regarding, among other things, the scope of discovery under ERISA, the disclosure obligations of plan fiduciaries, and the formation of insurance policies and reinsurance treaties.

Professional Background

After graduating cum laude from the University of Illinois with a B.A. in economics and statistics, Pete earned his J.D., cum laude, at Boston University School of Law. Pete later obtained an LL.M. in tax, with an emphasis on employee benefits regulation, at the University of Washington. Pete joined the firm as an associate in August 1999.

Representative Matters

The following cases are representative of the ERISA and insurance-related matters Pete has handled. 

  • Action to enforce reinsurance treaty. The Firm’s client, a small health insurer, sought to show that a life insurance company was obligated to reinsure medical insurance policies written by the client although the life insurer had not signed the reinsurance treaty. During the bench trial, Pete cross-examined the life insurer’s senior-most financial executives and obtained admissions that the life insurer had made entries in its books and regulatory filings indicating that the treaty was in force and that it had accepted over $600,000 in premiums remitted by the client. After the trial, the court granted the client’s request for declaratory relief, holding that the treaty was enforceable.
  • Stock-drop class action. Participants in a pension plan established by a waste management company filed a class action alleging that company executives breached their fiduciary duties by imprudently investing plan assets in company stock. The court granted summary judgment to the client, the former CFO, holding that the plaintiffs’ claims were barred by the statute of limitations.
  • Action for rescission of group insurance policies covering union members. A union trust fund sued an insurer and its indirect parent, the clients, for a refund of premiums that the trust fund paid to the insurer for group policies that provided union members with life insurance and accidental death and dismemberment insurance. The district court dismissed the parent corporation for lack of personal jurisdiction, and then entered summary judgment for the insurer on both the trust fund’s claims and the insurer’s counterclaim to recover unpaid premiums. The Seventh Circuit affirmed on all counts. Pete wrote the briefs on appeal and in the district court.
  • Action challenging termination of disability benefits based on limitation for mental illness. A participant in a long-term disability plan established by a credit union sued the plan’s insurer, the client, alleging that its termination of her benefits violated ERISA and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of the insurer. In addition to drafting the motion for summary judgment, Pete drafted the appellee’s brief and argued the appeal before a panel made up of then Chief Circuit Judge Michael Boudin, Circuit Judge Jeffrey Howard, and retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter.
  • Claim for breach of fiduciary duty based on third party administrator’s failure to disclose internal benefit guidelines. A participant in a health insurance plan governed by ERISA alleged that the plan’s third-party claim administrator, the client, denied her claim for speech-therapy services based on internal benefit guidelines that the administrator initially refused to disclose. The district court dismissed all the claims asserted against the administrator under Rule 12(b)(6). The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Pete wrote the briefs in the district court and co-wrote the appellee’s brief.
  • Bench trial in action challenging plan insurer’s termination of disability benefits. A participant in a long-term disability plan sued the plan’s insurer, the client, alleging it improperly terminated her disability benefits and violated ERISA’s mandate to conduct a full and fair review of her claim. Following a bench trial that Pete second-chaired, the chief judge of the Northern District of Illinois entered judgment in favor of the insurer.
  • Action challenging denial of accidental-death benefits based on felony exclusion. The widow of a participant in a life insurance plan submitted a claim to the plan’s insurer, the client, after her husband died in an an automobile crash that occurred while his blood-alcohol content was three times higher than the legal limit. The district court and the Seventh Circuit held that the client correctly denied the claim based on a policy exclusion for loss resulting from the participant’s commission of a felony.
  • Action challenging termination of disability benefits. A participant in a long-term disability plan sued the plan’s insurer, the client, after it terminated her disability benefits. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of the client. Pete wrote the motion for summary judgment in the district court and co-wrote the brief on appeal. The opinion is widely cited for two holdings: (1) that plan participants generally are not entitled to discovery beyond the admininistrative record in cases subject to deferential review; and (2) that the employer expressly granted the insurer discretionary authority over benefits decisions through three separate plan documents, none of which granted such authority to the insurer by name.

The business disputes that Pete has handled include the following:

  • Action for breach of contract arising from prepaid services card. The plaintiff paid a merchant $150,000 for a prepaid services card that could be used to purchase chartered flights brokered by the merchant. Instead of remitting the money to the card issuer (the client), the merchant kept the funds and became insolvent when the financial markets crashed in 2008. The plaintiff sued the card issuer and its affiliate, contending they were liable for the merchant’s default. The district court entered summary judgment for the card issuer and its affiliate based on the motion Pete prepared.
  • Action to enforce buy-sell agreement between shareholders of privately held corporation. The client, who held one third of the company’s stock, sued the other two shareholders to compel them to purchase his shares under the buy-sell agreement. The Circuit Court of Cook County entered partial summary judgment in favor of the client, holding that the agreement required the defendants to purchase his stock. Afterwards the client obtained a favorable cash settlement.

The class actions that Pete has defended include the following: 

  • Action for violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act ("TCPA"). Pete won summary judgment and defeated class certification in an action alleging that a debt collector, the client, violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act ("TCPA") by using automated dialing equipment to call the plaintiff’s cell phone.
  • Action for violations of the TCPA and Fair Credit Reporting Act. Pete won a motion for summary judgment in a putative class action alleging that DirecTV and its vendor (the client) violated the TCPA by using automated dialing equipment to make a fraud notification call to the plaintiff’s cell phone.
  • Action alleging that notice of administrative wage garnishment violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"). The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s summary judgment, holding that a debt collector’s garnishment notice accurately summarized the Department of Education regulations that authorize administrative wage garnishment to collect defaulted student loans. Pete wrote the motion for summary judgment and co-wrote the brief on appeal.
  • Action for violations of the FDCPA. Pete won a motion for summary judgment in a class action alleging that the client, a debt collector, violated the Fair Debt act by sending a debtor a collection letter that failed to state the amount of the debt. In addition to drafting the motion for summary judgment, Pete wrote the appellate brief and argued the appeal before the Seventh Circuit.

Presentations

  • "Pitfalls for Health Care Plan Administrators and Suggestions for Avoiding Them," DRI Life, Health, Disability and ERISA Claims Seminar, April 2014
  • "Requests for the Administrative Record and Update on Litigation Involving Health Benefit Plans," Client Presentation, April 2013
  • "Litigating Disability Benefit Claims Involving Subjective Complaints and Comorbidity," DRI Life, Health, Disability and ERISA Claims Seminar, April 2012

Publications

  • "Does Great-West v. Knudson Extend Seventh Amendment Right to Jury Trial of Claims for ERISA Benefits?" DRI ERISA Report, Winter 2011 and dritoday, May 2012.
  • "U.S. Supreme Court to Decide Whether There Is Federal Question Jurisdiction Over Private TCPA Actions," MAPbulletin, November 2011.
  • "Recent Trends in Claims Against Self-Insured Health Plan Administrators," co-author of presentation given at 30th Annual SIAA National Educational Conference & Expo, October 2010.
  • "Regulatory Developments under the Community Reinvestment Act," Annual Review of Banking Law (1998).

Personal

Pete is a supporter of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, 98.7 WFMT, and PAWS Chicago. He lives with his wife in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. He tries to run his dog on Lake Michigan a couple of times each week, no matter how hot or cold it gets.

Education

J.D., cum laude, Boston University School of Law, 1999

B.A., cum laude, Economics, University of Illinois, 1996

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