(949) 344-2333 info@iaml.com

H. DOUGLAS HINSON, ESQ.

Partner at Alston & Bird LLP

Doug Hinson leads the firm’s ERISA Litigation Group. He has led the defense of numerous Fortune 500, government, private and non-profit clients in all types of ERISA class actions, including 401(k) fee and employer stock matters, welfare benefit terminations, defined benefit calculation and anti-cutback actions, and severance matters. In addition, Mr. Hinson has substantial experience and expertise in securities, complex commercial and insurance class action litigation. Mr. Hinson’s practice is national in scope. He has been recognized as a “national leader” in ERISA litigation by Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, The Best Lawyers in America© and The Legal 500publications, and is listed in Who’s Who in American Law and Super Lawyers magazine in both Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Mr. Hinson is the past chair of the Employee Benefits Committee of the Tort, Trial and Insurance Practice Section, and past chair of the CLE Committee of the Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, of the American Bar Association.

EXPERIENCE

  • Led the defense of one of the largest actuarial consulting firms in the U.S., in which the plaintiff contended that the defendant committed actuarial malpractice in estimating the savings from its 2012 pension reforms. The U.S. district court granted our motion for summary judgment on all counts, which the plaintiff did not appeal.
  • Camera v. Dell Inc., et al (United States District Court for the Western District of Texas). Mr. Hinson represented Dell and various individual fiduciaries of the Dell defined contribution plan in a matter involving Dell stock in the plan. The court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss, and affirmed its decision after the plaintiff filed an amended complaint.
  • Romero v. Nokia, Inc., et al, (United States District Court for the Northern District of California). Mr. Hinson defended Nokia and related individuals in an employer stock-drop case against Nokia based on publicly reported difficulties with Nokia’s transition to new products and a resulting drop in its stock price. The defendants prevailed on a motion to dismiss, and the plaintiff was persuaded not to appeal.
  • In re Nokia, Inc. ERISA Litigation (United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, affirmed by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals). Mr. Hinson recently won a motion to dismiss all claims brought by participants in the Nokia Retirement Savings and Investment Plan. The plaintiffs alleged that Nokia, Inc. and other Nokia, Inc. directors and officials engaged in breaches of the fiduciary duties of prudence and loyalty, the duty to communicate complete and accurate information to plan participants and beneficiaries, the duty to monitor, and co-fiduciary liability.
  • Zimlich v. Lender Processing Services, Inc. (United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida). Mr. Hinson obtained a complete dismissal with prejudice of all claims in this employer stock class action, and convinced the plaintiffs not to appeal.
  • Scott et al., v. Williams et al. (Supreme Court of Florida). Mr. Hinson represented the Governor, Attorney General, Chief Financial Officer and the State, both at trial and the appeal to the Supreme Court, in this case in which plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of Florida’s 2011 pension reform legislation. The Supreme Court found for our clients that the legislation is constitutional. This case impacts the pensions of over 500,000 state and municipal employees, and saves billions of dollars in the State budget over many years.
  • McCullough et al. v. National Association of Counties, et al. (United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida). Mr. Hinson represented the National Association of Counties (NACo) in a putative nationwide class action alleging that NACo breached fiduciary duties arising under ERISA and/or state law based on their endorsement of products and services offered by its co-defendant, Nationwide Retirement Solutions, Inc. The Court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss.
  • Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation v. Rolland Divin, et al. (United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia). Mr. Hinson represented former members of the Tom’s Foods Inc. Investment Committee against allegations regarding the retirement plan’s purchase of employer-issued bonds. The matter was settled on favorable terms while a summary judgment motion was pending.

EMPLOER STOCK-DROP CASES

  • Edgar v. Avaya, Inc. et al. (United States District Court for the District of New Jersey; United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit). Mr. Hinson obtained a dismissal of all claims against Avaya and several individual defendants in this putative 401(k) employer stock-drop class action. Dismissal was affirmed on appeal by the Third Circuit. This case paved the way for numerous early dismissals of employer stock-drop cases around the country.
  • Pedraza v. The Coca-Cola Company, et al. (United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia). Mr. Hinson obtained a complete dismissal of the Coca-Cola Company and various defendants in this and two identical 401(k) employer stock class actions.
  • In re Colonial BancGroup, Inc. ERISA Litigation (United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama). Mr. Hinson represented various officers and directors of Colonial BancGroup in an employer stock-drop putative class action filed in the wake of Colonial’s bankruptcy. The matter settled while a motion to dismiss was pending.
  • Allegheny Energy, Inc. ERISA Litigation (United Stated District Court for the District of Maryland). Mr. Hinson defended Allegheny Energy and various individual defendants in a putative class action related to employer securities in a 401(k) plan. The claims were settled on very favorable terms while our motion to dismiss was pending.
  • Ward v. Avaya, et al. (United States District Court for the District of New Jersey; United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit). Mr. Hinson obtained a dismissal of all claims against Avaya and several individual defendants in this putative 401(k) employer stock class action. Dismissal was affirmed on appeal by the Third Circuit.
  • Hill v. BellSouth Corporation, et al. (United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia). Mr. Hinson defended BellSouth and various individuals in this and two other class actions arising from investments in BellSouth stock through a 401(k) plan. After we defeated class certification, the matter settled on very favorable terms, with no cash payment to the class.
  • Schaubs v. Scientific-Atlanta, Inc., et al. (United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia). Mr. Hinson defended Scientific-Atlanta and various individuals in this class action alleging breach of fiduciary duty in connection with employer securities in a 401(k) plan. The plaintiffs abandoned all ERISA claims in the face of our motion to dismiss.
  • Martin v. AAIPharma, et al. (United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina). Mr. Hinson represented the defendants, who were alleged to be fiduciaries in this putative class action alleging breach of various fiduciary duties related to employer securities in a 401(k) plan. It settled on very favorable terms while our motion to dismiss was pending.
  • Brown v. Mirant Corporation, et al. (United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia). Mr. Hinson successfully resolved claims against Mirant and related individuals in this class action alleging breach of fiduciary duty in connection with employer securities in a 401(k) plan while our motion to dismiss was pending.
  • Darlington v. Louisiana-Pacific Corporation, et al. (United States District Court for the District of Oregon). Mr. Hinson defended Louisiana-Pacific and various individuals in this and another similar class action based on a decline in the value of employer securities in a 401(k) plan. This case is among the first in the country to have been brought without a companion securities class action. It settled on very favorable terms after we defeated the plaintiffs’ class certification motion.
  • Healthways, Inc. ERISA Litigation (United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee). Mr. Hinson represented Healthways, Inc., and related individuals in an employer stock putative class action. After defeating the first of two cases, the second case settled while our opposition to class certification was pending.

ESOPS

  • United States Sugar ERISA Litigation (United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida). Mr. Hinson represented the chairman and another member of the board of directors of United States Sugar in this putative class action involving claims of breach of fiduciary duties in connection with a private company ESOP and the company’s rejection of an unsolicited transaction proposal. After defeating many of the claims on a motion to dismiss, it settled on favorable terms while motions for summary judgment on the remaining claims were pending.
  • Herman v. NationsBank Trust Co. (the “Polaroid ESOP Litigation”) (United States Court for the Northern District of Georgia; United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit). Mr. Hinson successfully defended the ESOP trustee in this lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Labor alleging breach of fiduciary duty in connection with participant-directed voting on the Polaroid/Diamond Shamrock Tender Offer. The case was settled on favorable terms.
  • Atwood et al. v. Burlington Industries Equity, Inc. et al., 908 F. Supp. 319 (United States District Court for the District of North Carolina). Mr. Hinson defended an ESOP Trustee in a class action lawsuit by Burlington employees alleging numerous breaches of fiduciary duty arising from the Burlington Industries LBO.
  • Flake et al. v. Highwoods, et al. (United States District Court for the District of Kansas). Mr. Hinson successfully defended Highwoods (a REIT) and a prominent Kansas City developer (J.C. Nichols Company), as well as individual fiduciaries and directors, on both securities and ERISA class action claims based on disclosures related to Highwoods’ merger with J.C. Nichols. We obtained dismissal of certain ERISA claims and summary judgment against all others.

DEFINED BENFIT/CASH BALANCE PLANS

  • Delta Air Lines Pension Plan Litigation (United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia). Mr. Hinson defended Delta in this multidistrict class action lawsuit challenging the calculation of lump sum and annuity benefits under The Delta Pilots Retirement Plan. This matter settled on favorable terms while our motion for summary judgment was pending.
  • Parry, et al. v. SBC/Cingular Wireless, et al. (United States District Court for the District of Connecticut). Mr. Hinson defended Cingular in this multiparty class action asserting a variety of claims under Cingular’s defined benefit cash balance plan.
  • Cinotto v. Delta Air Lines, Inc. (United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia; United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit). Mr. Hinson represents Delta in this challenge to the freezing of a defined benefit plan. The district court dismissed the case, finding no improper cutback of benefits. The case is currently on appeal in the Eleventh Circuit.

RETIREE WELFARE BENEFITS TERMINATION

  • Savani v. Washington Group International, Inc., et al. (United States District Court for the District of South Carolina; United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit). Mr. Hinson successfully defended Washington Group and related individuals and entities in this challenge to termination of retiree health and welfare benefits, obtaining summary judgment on all claims. This matter is currently on appeal before the Fourth Circuit.

INVESTMENT/FEE BASED FIDUCIARY DUTY CLAIMS

  • Franklin et al. v. First Union Corporation et al., 84 F. Supp. 2d 720 (United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia). Mr. Hinson successfully defended two class action lawsuits alleging breaches of fiduciary duty in connection with the selection of investment options under a self-directed 401(k) plan and the sale by First Union’s 401(k) plan of spin-off stock. We won partial summary judgment on the first of the two lawsuits and settled all remaining claims.