Eichholz law firm ordered to repay pension, retirement funds - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Law firm ordered to repay pension, retirement funds

Former Savannah attorney Benjamin S. Eichholz Former Savannah attorney Benjamin S. Eichholz

Former Savannah attorney Benjamin S. Eichholz and the Eichholz Law Firm P.C. have been ordered to restore losses and interest to the firm's retirement and pension plans.

The order comes after a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor, after an investigation was conducted by the DOL's Employee Benefits Security Administration.

EBSA's investigation found that Eichholz and his firm violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and resulted in losses to the plans of more than $1 million, according to the DOL.

Under the judge's order, Eichholz and his mother, Harriet B. Eichholz, forfeited their right to any cash benefits from the plans.

Eichholz and the firm will restore $15,053 to the plans and transfer $32,206 in plan assets to an independent fiduciary, according to the Dept. of Labor.

In December 2009, Eichholz pleaded guilty to obstructing EBSA's investigation. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $50,117 to the plans, according to the DOL.

The lawsuit was filed in 2010 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia-Savannah Division.

It accused the defendants of improperly transferring and lending plan assets to prohibited individuals or organizations, such as the firm, Eichholz, his former wife, and companies he owned or controlled.

The judgment also permanently bars Eichholz and the firm from acting as fiduciaries of any plan subject to ERISA, it appointed an independent fiduciary to administer the plans, and it requires the defendants to reimburse the plan for those fees and expenses, according to a DOL news release.

The independent fiduciary has taken over the plans' assets and is responsible distributing them to the participants and beneficiaries.

Eichholz and the firm must also pay a civil penalty equal to 20 percent of the applicable recovery amount.

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