SALT LAKE CITY – A federal court in Utah has issued a preliminary injunction ordering the removal of the CEO and co-owner of Ascent Construction Inc. in Farmington as trustee of the company’s employee stock ownership plan after the U.S. Department of Labor learned he used more than $300,000 in the plan’s employee retirement funds to pay company business expenses.
On July 3, 2023, Judge Ted Stewart in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah granted the department’s motion for preliminary injunction to remove Bradley L. Knowlton. The court found the department acted quickly to protect employee contributions and ordered the appointment of an independent fiduciary to administer the plan.
“The removal of Bradley L. Knowlton is a necessary first step to make certain the retirement funds of Ascent Construction’s employees are managed in their best interests,” said Employee Benefits Security Administration Regional Director Klaus Placke in San Francisco. “We will continue to work hard to ensure the retirement these employees have worked toward.”
During its investigation, the Employee Benefits Security Administration discovered Knowlton withdrew more than $300,000 in employees’ retirement funds in 2021 and 2022 to cover Ascent’s business expenses and failed to pay over $30,000 to a beneficiary who had requested a distribution, all in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. In April 2023, the department learned that Knowlton was attempting to withdraw retirement funds again, the department’s Solicitor’s Office immediately sought and obtained a preliminary injunction.
“Workers should be able to trust that their retirement savings will be there for them when they need them,” added Regional Solicitor Marc Pilotin. “When those entrusted with handling workers’ savings decide to loot workers’ money for their own purposes, as was the case here, the U.S. Department of Labor will take swift action to remove them from their roles and work aggressively to ensure the stolen funds are restored.”
Founded in 2000, Ascent Construction Inc. was a commercial construction contractor licensed in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.
Employers and workers can reach EBSA toll-free at 866-444-3272 for help with problems related to private sector retirement and health plans. Learn more about EBSA.
Docket Number: Case 1:23-cv-00047-TS-DAO