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Sunkist ordered to restore $1.6 million to retirement plans

October 31, 2013|By Ricardo Lopez | This post has been updated. See note below for details.
  • Investigators found that Sunkist mishandled employee retirement money
Investigators found that Sunkist mishandled employee retirement money (Mark Crosse / Associated…)

Sunkist Growers Inc., the Sherman Oaks-based citrus cooperative, has been ordered to restore more than $1.6 million to employee retirement plans, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday.

The Labor Department sued Sunkist after Employee Benefits Security Administration investigators found that the company had mishandled employee retirement money.

"Retirement plan assets represent workers' hard-earned savings, not a source of operating funds that companies can choose to use as they see fit," said Phyllis C. Borzi, Assistant Secretary of Labor for employee benefits security, in a statement.

The ruling was issued by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. 

The Labor Department said Sunkist and other company officials had mishandled retirement funds between January 2006 and April 2011.

Investigators also found that the company was reimbursed by the plans based on projected expenses determined at the beginning of the year, rather than when expenses actually occurred. The retirement plans were not repaid in cases of overpayment, the Labor Department said. 

An email and phone message left with Sunkist were not immediately returned Thursday.

[Update, 2:40 p.m. PDT Oct. 31: Sunkist said the court order was part of a settlement with the Labor Department resulting from an audit “with which Sunkist cooperated completely.” Sunkist said the disputed practices resulted from the company’s misunderstanding of certain rules under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, which sets standards for pension plans in private industry.] 


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