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Joseph E. Clark is a senior counsel in the Labor & Employment Law Department and a member of the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group where he focuses on complex employee benefits litigation.

Joe represents a diverse range of clients from the time a claim is asserted through trial or arbitration, whether it is defending plan fiduciaries against class action claims of fiduciary breach or prohibited transactions or in connection with government investigations, or defending employers against multiemployer pension plan claims for withdrawal liability.  These clients include financial service providers, investment managers, Fortune 500 corporations, and benefit plan committees.

Outside of the context of litigation, Joe also advises fiduciary clients regarding their fiduciary responsibilities and employers regarding various withdrawal liability issues.

A co-editor of Proskauer’s Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation blog, Joe has authored pieces on employee stock ownership plans, excessive fee claims, fiduciary breach, investigation and determination of benefits claims, and best practices for plan drafting. He has also published several articles regarding these issues in BNA Insights.

The Fifth Circuit recently reversed a district court’s dismissal of claims that the fiduciaries of a 401(k) plan breached the duty of prudence under ERISA by offering participants retail share classes instead of cheaper institutional share classes, and causing the plan to pay allegedly excessive recordkeeping fees.  The decision is notable for articulating the level

A federal district court in Massachusetts dismissed ERISA fiduciary breach and prohibited transaction claims against 401(k) plan fiduciaries, ruling that the prohibited transaction claims were time-barred and the fiduciary breach claims—once limited by a settlement agreement in an earlier class action against MassMutual involving similar allegations (“Gordan”)—failed to plausibly state a claim.  The

A California district court recently denied a motion to dismiss claims that the fiduciaries of a 401(k) plan breached their ERISA fiduciary duties of prudence and loyalty by selecting underperforming, high-cost investments and causing the plan to pay excessive fees for services.  The decision is notable for illustrating how pleading standards in investment performance and

Defense counsel frequently lament the difficulties of defending 401(k) investment and recordkeeping fee litigation when different judges render conflicting rulings on motions to dismiss seemingly indistinguishable complaints.  Even when the judges purport to apply the same legal standards, the outcomes can differ.  For that reason, we thought it would be interesting to track the decisions

The decision in Bolton v. Inland Fresh Seafood Corp. of America Inc., No. 22-cv-4602 (N.D. Ga. Dec. 5, 2023)should serve as a reminder to all ERISA practitioners that, if litigating in courts of the Eleventh Circuit, participants must exhaust a plan’s claims procedures before commencing a lawsuit—regardless of the type of ERISA claim asserted.

In Su v. Fensler, No. 22-cv-01030, 2023 WL 5152640 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 10, 2023), the court granted the Department of Labor’s motion for a preliminary injunction to replace with an independent fiduciary the trustees of the United Employee Benefit Fund, who are accused of breaching their fiduciary duties by using Fund assets to engage

A third district court has dismissed with prejudice a complaint alleging that defendants breached their fiduciary duties under ERISA by offering 401(k) plan participants the option to invest in BlackRock LifePath Index Target Date Funds (the “Funds”).  Beldock v. Microsoft, Case No. 22-cv-1082 (W.D. Wash. Apr. 24, 2023).  Although the outcome of the court’s ruling here is consistent with earlier decisions, the rationale underlying the Beldock decision arguably goes further than in prior rulings, thus providing additional food for thought.

A district court in New York recently refused to enforce an arbitration provision in an ERISA fiduciary breach lawsuit challenging the valuation of an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (“ESOP”).  The ruling in Lloyd v. Argent, No. 22-cv-4129, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 219964 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 6, 2022), exposes the continued uncertainty as to the enforceability

In a pair of report and recommendations issued the same day, a Magistrate Judge in Wisconsin recently recommended that the district court (i) grant motions for reconsideration of prior denials of motions to dismiss claims challenging defined contribution plans’ fees, and (ii) grant the motions to dismiss in their entirety.  Underpinning the recommendations is the

In Matousek v. MidAmerican Energy Co., 2022 WL 6880771, __ F.4th __ (8th Cir. 2022), the Eighth Circuit joined the Sixth and Seventh Circuits in affirming dismissal of ERISA breach of fiduciary duty claims alleging that the plan fiduciaries allowed the plan to pay excessive recordkeeping and administrative fees and offered imprudent investment options.