Participants in Ascension Health's defined benefit plans have agreed to a preliminary settlement in a complaint that alleged the Catholic hospital network has underfunded pension plans by $440 million.

If the terms of the deal are ultimately accepted by a U.S. District Court in Detroit, the case would be the first "church plan" claim to be settled, according to Thomas Clark, an attorney with the Wagner Group, in a post on Fiduciary Matters.

Religious institutions that sponsor retirement plans are exempted from ERISA's requirements of typical plan sponsors.

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Nick Thornton

Nick Thornton is a financial writer covering retirement and health care issues for BenefitsPRO and ALM Media. He greatly enjoys learning from the vast minds in the legal, academic, advisory and money management communities when covering the retirement space. He's also written on international marketing trends, financial institution risk management, defense and energy issues, the restaurant industry in New York City, surfing, cigars, rum, travel, and fishing. When not writing, he's pushing into some land or water.