Devlin v. Scardelletti, 536 U.S. 1, 4 (2002)

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4

DEVLIN v. SCARDELLETTI

Opinion of the Court

he had not successfully moved to intervene in the litigation. We now reverse.

I

Petitioner Robert Devlin, a retired worker represented by the Transportation Communications International Union (Union), participates in a defined benefits pension plan (Plan) administered by the Union. In 1991, on the recommendation of the Plan's trustees, the Plan was amended to add a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for retired and active employees. As it turned out, however, the Plan was not able to support such a large benefits increase. To address this problem, the Plan's new trustees sought to freeze the COLA. Because they were concerned about incurring Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) liability by eliminating the COLA for retired workers, see 29 U. S. C. 1054(g)(1) (1994 ed.) (providing that accrued benefits "may not be decreased by an amendment of the plan"), the trustees froze the COLA only as to active employees. Because the Plan still lacked sufficient funds, the new trustees obtained an equitable decree from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland in 1995 declaring that the former trustees had breached their fiduciary duties and that ending the COLA for retired workers would not violate ERISA. Scardelletti v. Bobo, 897 F. Supp. 913 (Md. 1995); Scardelletti v. Bobo, No. JFM-95-52 (D. Md., Sept. 8, 1997). Accordingly, in a 1997 amendment, the new trustees eliminated the COLA for all Plan members.

In October 1997, those trustees filed the present class action in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, seeking a declaratory judgment that the 1997 amendment was binding on all Plan members or, alternatively, that the 1991 COLA amendment was void. Originally, petitioner was proposed as a class representative for a subclass of retired workers because of his previous involvement in the issue. He refused to become a named representative, however, preferring to bring a separate action in

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