The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has reached an agreement with a California fruit and nut company to restore $1,287,901 to the company's pension plan.
In a consent judgment, officers of Los Angeles-based Western Mixers Inc. agreed to restore $802,901 to participants' accounts within 10 days. During the course of the investigation leading up to the lawsuit, the company repaid to the plan $485,000 of the total funds identified as missing.
The consent judgment fully recovers unpaid contributions and unauthorized withdrawals, plus interest. The agreement follows an investigation by the Los Angeles Regional Office of the Labor Department's Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA).
The investigation determined that, over a five-year period, the company and two officers who served as trustees of the plan failed to make approximately $952,511 in mandatory employer contributions for the benefit of participants and beneficiaries.
Investigators also found that the same two officers as well as the company's chief financial officer made $565,000 in unauthorized withdrawals from the plan accounts and used those funds for the benefit of the business. In addition to repaying the missing funds with interest, the defendants will be assessed a penalty equal to 20 percent of the recovered amount.
The court has appointed an independent fiduciary to terminate the plan and to collect, marshal, pay out, and administer plan assets. Owners of the company have been removed as plan trustees and fiduciaries. In addition, the owners and the chief financial officer are permanently enjoined and restrained from violating the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and from serving as fiduciary or service providers to any ERISA-covered plan in the future.