Curtiss-Wright Corp. v. Schoonejongen, 514 U.S. 73, 13 (1995)

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

Opinion of the Court

designating "[t]he Company" (read in light of corporate law) provides them. But either way, this is simply a species of a larger dilemma companies face whenever they must designate who, on behalf of the company, may take legally binding actions that third parties may later have an interest in challenging as unauthorized. Cf. R. Clark, Corporate Law 3.3.2 (1986). It is not a dilemma ERISA addresses. ERISA, rather, follows standard trust law principles in dictating only that whatever level of specificity a company ultimately chooses, in an amendment procedure or elsewhere, it is bound to that level.


Having determined that the Curtiss-Wright plan satisfies 402(b)(3), we do not reach the question of the proper remedy for a 402(b)(3) violation. On remand, the Court of Appeals will have to decide the question that has always been at the heart of this case: whether Curtiss-Wright's valid amendment procedure—amendment "by the Company"— was complied with in this case. The answer will depend on a fact-intensive inquiry, under applicable corporate law principles, into what persons or committees within Curtiss-Wright possessed plan amendment authority, either by express delegation or impliedly, and whether those persons or committees actually approved the new plan provision contained in the revised SPD. See 2 W. Fletcher, Cyclopedia of the Law of Private Corporations 444, pp. 397-398 (1990) (authority may be by express delegation or it "may be inferred from circumstances or implied from the acquiescence of the corporation or its agents in a general course of business"). If the new plan provision is found not to have been properly authorized when issued, the question would then arise whether any subsequent actions, such as the executive vice president's letters informing respondents of the termination, served to ratify the provision ex post. See id., 437.10, at 386.


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