DOL Sues Vegetable Broker to Recover More than $3.7 Million in Pension Assets

The U.S. Department of Labor has sued fiduciaries of the Orrin H. Cope Produce Inc. Employees' Profit Sharing Plan to restore more than $3,780,000 in plan assets improperly used to benefit the company.

"The Labor Department will take legal action to protect workers' benefits whenever, and wherever, violations occur," said Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. "Our suit puts plan officials on notice that the department will not tolerate the diversion of workers' hard-earned retirement assets for the benefit of employers."

The lawsuit, filed by DOL’s Office of the Solicitor in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Miami division, alleges that Orrin H. Cope, Linda D. Cope, and Orrin H. Cope Produce Inc. made four withdrawals from the plan between July 2007 and March 2008, and transferred the funds to Orrin H. Cope Produce Inc.

The DOL lawsuit alleges that these transfers were prohibited transactions in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. According to the lawsuit, each of the fiduciaries is liable for the breaches of the other, as they knowingly participated in the breaches, failed to monitor each other as each performed their fiduciary duties, and failed to take reasonable steps to remedy the known breaches of the other.

The suit asks the court to appoint an independent fiduciary to manage the plan, as well as require the defendants to restore to the plan all losses with interest that resulted from their improper actions.

Orrin H. Cope Produce Inc. is a vegetable broker located in Miami-Dade County, Fla.

The case was investigated by the Employee Benefits Security Administration's Atlanta Regional Office.

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