I blogged about Williams v. The Interpublic Severance Pay Plan a couple of days ago. As I look at it a little more, a couple of additional thoughts come to mind.
First, under the case analysis, what would a claimant have to present to demonstrate a cognizable conflict of interest? It is very clear under Seventh Circuit law, as well as the law of every other Circuit, that with an arbitrary and capricious standard of review in place claimants have very little ability to conduct any discovery. So how is a claimant expected to present evidence of a direct conflict of interest such as demonstrating that compensation is directly linked to denied claims?
Second, the last third of the decision contains the holding of the case: under a de novo standard of review, the plan's denial of the claim was the correct decision. So what's with the panel's determination to spend the middle third of the decision on the absurd and unnecessary tangent comparing an insurer or other self interested payor to a federal judge? It has no application to a de novo review of an ERISA denial. It's a completely gratuitous diversion. Folks who complain about activist judges ought to take a look at this decision.