U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit
Employment — ERISA
Section 206(d)(1) of ERISA does not prevent the attachment or garnishment of funds after a pension plan has paid them to retirees.
ERISA differs from statutes that do cover who can access funds after payment. For example, the Veterans Benefits Act, 38 U.S.C. §5301(a), prohibits attachment of benefits ‘either before or after receipt by the beneficiary.’ And the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §407(a), provides that ‘none of the moneys paid or payable or rights existing under this subchapter shall be subject to execution, levy, attachment, garnishment, or other legal process, or to the operation of any bankruptcy or insolvency law.’ Because that language covers funds ‘paid’ as well as money ‘payable’, the Supreme Court concluded that it applies to funds that can be traced to Social Security benefits. Philpott v. Essex County Welfare Board, 409 U.S. 413 (1973). Likewise 45 U.S.C. §231m(a), part of the Railroad Retirement Act and the subject of Hisquierdo v. Hisquierdo, 439 U.S. 572 (1979), has a broad temporal reach. The Fourth Circuit in Smith relied on Hisquierdo but missed the point that ERISA is worded differently from the Social Security Act and the Railroad Retirement Act.”
On Motion to Set a Remedy for Civil Contempt of Court, Easterbrook, J.