Company President, Officer Can’t Use Bankruptcy To Avoid Liability For Using Plan Money For Company Operations

John Dombek III and John Dombek Jr. cannot use personal bankruptcy to avoid complying with a federal court order to restore $69,521 in health-care premiums and retirement plan contributions withheld from the paychecks of employees at several companies that are part of the JJD Industries in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).  The recent judgement against the two men in Solis v. John Dombek Jr., John Dombek III, Wisconsin Tool & Stamping Co. 401(k) Profit Sharing Plan & Trust, J.D. Acquisition 401(k) Profit Sharing Plan and Trust, and the JJD Industries Group Health Plan is a reminder to business owners, management and others with discretionary control over employee contributions or other plan assets of the importance of ensuring that all employee contributions withheld from pay and other plan assets are used only for appropriate plan expenses and timely deposited in trust or otherwise appropriately  applied.  Businesses owners and managers should treat these and other similar judgmentsas a wake-up call to meet employee benefit funding obligations, not to use plan monies for company operations and to take other required steps to make sure that retirement, health and other employee benefit plans moneys and other responsibilities are properly handled.

Company Leaders Ordered To Restore Misdirected Monies

A Chicago federal court ordered the two men to make restitution of $69,521 of employee contributions withheld from employee pay that the court ruled the Dombeks mismanaged by failing to ensure the timely deposit of these funds with the plans.  See

Dombek III, who is president of the JJD Industries Group, and Dombek Jr. were co-fiduciaries of the Wisconsin Tool & Stamping Co. 401(k) plan and have been ordered to restore $22,164.45 in unremitted contributions and lost opportunity costs to the plan. Dombek III is also liable for an additional $2,222.78 in unremitted contributions and lost opportunity costs to the J.D. Acquisition 401(k) plan.

Dombek III must also restore $45,134.08 in unremitted contributions and lost opportunity costs to the JJD Industries sponsored group health plan. The company contracted with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois to provide health and dental benefits to the employees of its related companies, including Wisconsin Tool & Stamping Co., J.D. Acquisition Corp., Akorat Metal Fabricators Inc./Smithco Fabricators Inc. and Pavo Inc./Injection Plastics Corp. The companies paid their premiums separately, and premiums were partially funded through weekly employee payroll deductions.

The judgment also bars Dombek Jr. and Dombek III from serving as fiduciaries or service providers to any employee benefit plan subject to ERISA for a period of five years. An independent fiduciary will oversee the termination of the 401(k) plans of both Wisconsin Tool & Stamping and J.D. Acquisition, as well as the distribution of plan assets to eligible participants.

The Dombeks will not be able to claim bankruptcy protection to avoid liability for the judgments.  Dombek Jr. and Dombek III both previously had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. The Labor Department filed separate complaints to determine the dischargeability of these obligations and seek the enforcement of any monetary judgment against both individuals to restore the funds to the employee benefit programs. On October 5 and October 16, 2012, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted the Labor Department’s motions for default judgment, finding that the debts Dombek Jr. and Dombek III owed to the plans were not dischargeable in bankruptcy.

Business Leaders Risk Personal Liability When Employee Contributions Used In Company Operations

The judgement is another reminder to business owners and leaders not to allow employee contributions or other plan assets to be used to pay company expenses or otherwise misdirected.  The judgment is one many enforcement actions that the Department of Labor regularly takes against businesses and business leaders that allow plan assets to be used for company operations or other improper purposes.

“Failing to administer health insurance premiums properly demonstrates a total lack of concern for employees and their families,” said Steve Haugen, director of the Chicago Regional Office of the Labor Department’s Employee Benefit Security Administration. “Incorporating employees’ voluntary salary contributions into the general assets of a company and failing to forward them to the retirement plan are violations of both the law and the trust workers have placed in their employers.”

The judgement shows that owners, operators and managers of businesses that exercise discretion and control over the funding, investment or administration of employee benefit plans or their assets face significant liability for failing to properly fulfill their responsibilities with respect to their employee benefit plans.  Businesses, their owners, board members, officers, and other members of management making decisions about the maintenance, funding, administration, termination, hiring or appointment of fiduciaries or service providers or other matters impacting the employee benefit plan should ensure that they understand the potential implications and responsibilities associated with these activities for themselves and their companies.  Individuals who have authority or responsibility for employee benefit plans who also perform or take part in the performance of other company management functions also should pre-educate themselves about when ERISA may require that their plan responsibilities be put before otherwise applicable responsibilities to their company, appropriate processes for documenting decisions and activities, and other procedures to help position activities to mitigate exposures and promote defensibility.

For Help or More Information

If you need help reviewing and updating, administering or defending your employee benefit, human resources, insurance, health care matters or related documents or practices or with other employee benefits, human resources, health care or insurance matters, please contact the author of this update, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Council, immediate past Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current Co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Vice-Chair of the ABA TIPS Employee Benefits Committee, a council member of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, and past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer is recognized, internationally, nationally and locally for her more than 24 years of work, advocacy, education and publications on leading health and managed care, employee benefit, human resources and related workforce, insurance and financial services, and health care matters. 

A board certified labor and employment attorney widely known for her extensive and creative knowledge and experienced with these and other employment, employee benefit and compensation matters, Ms. Stamer continuously advises and assists employers, employee benefit plans, their sponsoring employers, fiduciaries, insurers, administrators, service providers, insurers and others to monitor and respond to evolving legal and operational requirements and to design, administer, document and defend medical and other welfare benefit, qualified and non-qualified deferred compensation and retirement, severance and other employee benefit, compensation, and human resources, management and other programs and practices tailored to the client’s human resources, employee benefits or other management goals.  A primary drafter of the Bolivian Social Security pension privatization law, Ms. Stamer also works extensively with management, service provider and other clients to monitor legislative and regulatory developments and to deal with Congressional and state legislators, regulators, and enforcement officials about regulatory, investigatory or enforcement concerns. 

Recognized in Who’s Who In American Professionals and both an American Bar Association (ABA) and a State Bar of Texas Fellow, Ms. Stamer serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of Employee Benefits News, the editor and publisher of Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update and other Solutions Law Press Publications, and active in a multitude of other employee benefits, human resources and other professional and civic organizations.   She also is a widely published author and highly regarded speaker on these matters. Her insights on these and other matters appear in the Bureau of National Affairs, Spencer Publications, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, Modern and many other national and local publications.   You can learn more about Ms. Stamer and her experience, review some of her other training, speaking, publications and other resources, and registerto receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer here.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

About Solutions Law Press

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©2012 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.

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