Curtiss-Wright Corp. v. Schoonejongen, 514 U.S. 73, 3 (1995)

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Cite as: 514 U. S. 73 (1995)

Opinion of the Court

Justice O'Connor delivered the opinion of the Court. Section 402(b)(3) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 88 Stat. 875, 29 U. S. C. 1102(b)(3), requires that every employee benefit plan provide "a procedure for amending such plan, and for identifying the persons who have authority to amend the plan." This case presents the question whether the standard provision in many employer-provided benefit plans stating that "The Company reserves the right at any time to amend the plan" sets forth an amendment procedure that satisfies 402(b)(3). We hold that it does.


For many years, petitioner Curtiss-Wright voluntarily maintained a postretirement health plan for employees who had worked at certain Curtiss-Wright facilities; respondents are retirees who had worked at one such facility in Wood-Ridge, New Jersey. The specific terms of the plan, the District Court determined, could be principally found in two plan documents: the plan constitution and the Summary Plan Description (SPD), both of which primarily covered active employee health benefits.

In early 1983, presumably due to the rising cost of health care, a revised SPD was issued with the following new provision: "TERMINATION OF HEALTH CARE BENEFITS . . . . Coverage under this Plan will cease for retirees and their dependents upon the termination of business operations of the facility from which they retired." App. 49. The two main authors of the new SPD provision, Curtiss-Wright's director of benefits and its labor counsel,

D. Mollen; and for the National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh, Pa., by Robert N. Eccles.

Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the American Association of Retired Persons by Steven S. Zaleznick and Mary Ellen Signorille; and for the National Association of Securities and Commercial Law Attorneys by Jonathan W. Cuneo, Kevin P. Roddy, Steve W. Berman, Bryan L. Clobes, and Henry H. Rossbacher.


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