Benefits & Executive Compensation News

Anheuser-Busch Facing $16 Million Fee Bid Over SeaWorld Pension

Oct. 21, 2019, 3:00 PM

The attorneys who won a $52 million judgment against Anheuser-Busch Cos. asked a federal judge in Missouri for $16.2 million in attorneys’ fees for their work securing pension benefits for former SeaWorld theme park workers.

This fee award is reasonable after nearly 10 years of litigation, which included 4,216 attorney hours expended, and that judgment for past-due payments, the attorneys told the judge. They said the deal also allows for nearly $13 million in increased future payments.

According to the attorneys, this is an “unusual situation” in which they secured a complete victory that gives class members “every dollar” they were owed by their pension plan. The thoroughness of the victory should be considered when determining the fees owed, they said in an Oct. 18 motion.

The lawsuit accused Anheuser-Busch of underpaying the pension benefits of about 800 former SeaWorld theme park workers after their company was sold off in connection with the beermaker’s merger with InBev.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled for the SeaWorld workers in 2017, holding that they were entitled to larger pensions under a plan provision governing changes in corporate control following the InBev merger.

In September, Judge Stephen M. Limbaugh Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri calculated Anheuser-Busch’s liability at $52 million for the past-due pension payments. Limbaugh also ordered the company to pay certain retirees higher monthly pension payments going forward, which Limbaugh said would cost the beermaker more than $71,000 per month.

The SeaWorld workers are represented by Tucker Ellis LLP, Jacobson Press PC, and Stone Leyton & Gershman PC.

Anheuser-Busch is represented by Dowd Bennett LLP and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP.

The case is Knowlton v. Anheuser-Busch Cos., LLC, E.D. Mo., No. 4:13-cv-00210-SNLJ, motion for attorneys’ fees 10/18/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jacklyn Wille in Washington at jwille@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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