Curtiss-Wright Corp. v. Schoonejongen, 514 U.S. 73, 6 (1995)

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Opinion of the Court

curred rather than dissented, however, because, in the court's words, "neither [Curtiss-Wright's] board nor any other person or entity within [Curtiss-Wright] with the power to act on behalf of 'the Company' ratified [the new SPD provision]." Ibid.

Curtiss-Wright petitioned for certiorari on the questions whether a plan provision stating that "[t]he Company" reserves the right to amend the plan states a valid amendment procedure under 402(b)(3) and, if not, whether the proper remedy is to declare this or any other amendment void ab initio. We granted certiorari on both. 512 U. S. 1288 (1994).


In interpreting 402(b)(3), we are mindful that ERISA does not create any substantive entitlement to employer-provided health benefits or any other kind of welfare benefits. Employers or other plan sponsors are generally free under ERISA, for any reason at any time, to adopt, modify, or terminate welfare plans. See Adams v. Avondale Industries, Inc., 905 F. 2d 943, 947 (CA6 1990) ("[A] company does not act in a fiduciary capacity when deciding to amend or terminate a welfare benefits plan"). Nor does ERISA establish any minimum participation, vesting, or funding requirements for welfare plans as it does for pension plans. See Shaw v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 463 U. S. 85, 90-91 (1983). Accordingly, that Curtiss-Wright amended its plan to deprive respondents of health benefits is not a cognizable complaint under ERISA; the only cognizable claim is that the company did not do so in a permissible manner.


The text of 402(b)(3) actually requires two things: a "procedure for amending [the] plan" and "[a procedure] for identifying the persons who have authority to amend the plan." With respect to the second requirement, the general "Definitions" section of ERISA makes quite clear that the term

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