United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT RE: DKT. NO. 133
J. DAVILA, United States District Judge
remand from the Ninth Circuit, Plaintiff Charles Guenther
(“Plaintiff”) alleges in this action that
Defendants Lockheed Martin Corporation and Lockheed Martin
Corporation Retirement Plan for Certain Salaried Employees
(the “Plan”) breached a fiduciary duty in violation
the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974
(“ERISA”) by failing to make accurate
representations concerning Plaintiff's ability to
“bridge” prior employment service credit with
future service credit.
jurisdiction arises pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and
1132(e). Presently before the court is Lockheed's Motion
for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 133), which Plaintiff opposes.
has successfully shown that Plaintiff's sole claim is
barred by ERISA's three year statute of limitations, and
Plaintiff has not satisfied his responsive burden to produce
evidence on which a reasonable factfinder could conclude
otherwise. Thus, Lockheed is entitled to summary judgment for
the reasons explained below.
two prior employment periods, Plaintiff began his most recent
period of employment with Lockheed on September 11, 2006.
Depo. of Charles F. Guenther (“Guenther Depo.”),
Dkt. No. 134, at 16:21-23; 124:17-19. It is undisputed that
this period commenced after the Plan had been amended in
2005, effective January 1, 2006, to unambiguously state that
“no person who is re-employed by [Lockheed] on or after
January 1, 2006, shall become an active Participant or earn
Credited Service under the Plan with respect to any period
commencing with such reemployment.” Before Plaintiff
was re-hired, he heard a “rumor” that
“Lockheed was going to be changing around their
plan.” Id. at 59:13-20; 121:21-122:5. On
February 22, 2006, Plaintiff sent an email to Lockheed
engineering manager Errol Modine in which he wrote the
following, in pertinent part:
[Department of Energy] is rebidding contracts for the
laboratories. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL)
was awarded back to the University of California over a year
or so ago. Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) was recently
awarded to a team consisting of Bechtel, University of
California, and several other lesser companies in terms of
percentage involvement. Lawrence Livermore National
Laboratory (LLNL) is to go out for bids later this year early
next with contract award to take place some time next year.
At issue for most of the vested employees is the potential
for changes to the retirement system. Based on LANL
information, any changes to the retirement system should not
affect current retirees and have minimal impact, at this
time, on employees currently vested in the retirement system.
The changes at LANL seem to be similar to those made at
[Lockheed] in the sense that the significant changes will
affect new employees or those coming back into the
Decl. of Clarissa A. Kang (“Kang Decl.”), at Ex.
Modine and Plaintiff engaged in an exchange of messages after
the February 22nd email, Modine never commented on whether
Plaintiff accurately described changes to Lockheed's
retirement plan. Id. Plaintiff did know, however,
that Modine was not involved in human resources at Lockheed
and did not have authority to speak on behalf of the Plan.
Guenther Depo., at 122:6-8.
Plaintiff's subsequent interview at Lockheed, he met with
a human resources representative and asked if Lockheed was
“bridging service.” Id. at 112:13-15. In
response, Plaintiff was given a “bridging form.”
Id. at 112:16-21; Kang Decl., at Ex. F. The form was
entitled “Application for Bridging of Prior
Service” and stated as follows:
If you have prior service with Lockheed, Martin Marietta,
General Electric, General Dynamics, Loral, Comsat or a
company acquired by one of these companies, you may be
eligible to have your prior service bridged with your current
period of employment. If you have periods of service that you
believe may be eligible for bridging, please complete the
information below. You should receive a written decision
within 60 days.
The determination of whether an employee's service will
be bridged for pension or other purposes is dependent upon
the employee's work history, ERISA regulations, the
provisions of the pension plans, merger agreements and
Kang Decl., at Ex G.
completed and submitted the bridging application on July 17,
2006. Id. That same day, Lockheed made an employment
offer to Plaintiff, and Plaintiff made a counter-offer to
request a higher salary and signing bonus. Depo. of Christy
Lim Yee (“Lim Yee Depo”), Dkt. No. 143, at
28:24-29:7. Lockheed made a revised offer on July 25, 2006,
which Plaintiff accepted. Id.; Kang Decl., at Ex. H.
He signed the acceptance letter and dated it
“7-25-06.” Kang Decl., at Ex. H.
received a letter by regular mail from Lockheed in response
to his bridging application, also dated July 25, 2006.
Assuming a rehire date of July 31, 2006, the July 25th letter
stated, in pertinent part:
Since you were vested in a pension benefit provided by the
Lockheed Martin Corporation Retirement Plan for Certain
Salaried Employees, your prior periods of Lockheed/Lockheed
Martin service will be bridged with your proposed Lockheed
It should be noted that if you are rehired by Lockheed
Martin, you will need to submit a new Application for
Bridging of Prior Service to ensure that any necessary
adjustments to your employment service date and pension
records are made.
Kang Decl., at Ex. I.
on the July 25th letter and his understanding of the term
“bridging, ” Plaintiff concluded he would
continue to participate in the Plan and earn additional
credited service for his prior employment if he returned to
Lockheed. Guenther Depo., at 47:6-48:7; 115:4-14. Other than
the July 25th letter, Plaintiff does not recall any other
communications stating he would receive credited service
under the Plan. Id. at 48:4-7.
re-starting employment with Lockheed in September, 2006,
Plaintiff submitted a new bridging application, dated
September 14, 2006, to account for his actual start date as
instructed by the July 25th letter. Kang Decl., at Ex. J.
Plaintiff also began checking his online pension account but
did not see any additional accumulation of credited service.
Guenther Depo., at 29:25-31:12 Plaintiff received a letter
from Lockheed dated November 7, 2006, in response to his
September 14th bridging application. This letter stated as
follows, in pertinent part:
For purposes of determining whether your prior periods of
Lockheed/Lockheed Martin service will be bridged with your
current period of employment, your rehire date is September
11, 2006. Since you were vested in a pension benefit provided
by the Lockheed Martin Corporation Retirement Plan for
Certain Salaried Employees, your prior periods of
Lockheed/Lockheed Martin service will be bridged with your
current Lockheed Martin service. Consequently, your accrued
benefit under the Capital Accumulation Plan has immediately
become vested because the combined total of your Lockheed
Martin controlled group service exceeds five years.
It should be noted that because you are not currently
participating in a Lockheed Martin defined benefit pension
plan, you are not entitled to a pension benefit from Lockheed