Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Blog

The View from Proskauer on Developments in the World of Employee Benefits, Executive Compensation & ERISA Litigation

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Tulio Chirinos

Associate

Tulio D. Chirinos is an associate in the Labor & Employment Law Department and a member of the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group.

Tulio works on a wide variety of ERISA litigation matters, including fee litigation cases, breach of fiduciary duty claims and ERISA benefits claims. He also represents management in litigation of employment-related matters, including claims of unlawful discrimination, harassment and retaliation.

Tulio is the author of several ERISA-related articles, including several focusing on ERISA fee litigation that appeared in the Benefits Law Journal and Bloomberg BNA. He was also a contributing author to Chapters 21 and 34 of the fifth edition of BNA’s ERISA Litigation treatise, published in 2014 and Chapter 34 of the sixth edition to be published in November 2017.

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Seventh Circuit Provides Hope for ERISA Plan Sponsors and Fiduciaries Defending Investment Fee & Performance Litigation

The Seventh Circuit recently provided a ray of sunshine in what has largely been a gloomy stretch for plan sponsors and fiduciaries defending ERISA breach of fiduciary duty claims based on allegedly excessive investment and administrative fees and investment underperformance.  In this particular case, Oshkosh emerged victorious with the Seventh Circuit affirming the dismissal—at the … Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Rules that DOL Advisory Opinion Is Subject to Judicial Review and Invalidates DOL Advisory Opinion on Health Insurance

On August 17, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that a Department of Labor (“DOL”) advisory opinion, which found that an insurance plan was not governed by ERISA, was unenforceable under the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”).  In doing so, the court ruled that the DOL advisory opinion constituted a “final … Continue Reading

Sixth Circuit Upholds Dismissal of Some Investment Fee and Performance Claims But Allows Mutual Fund Share Class Claim to Proceed to Discovery

The Sixth Circuit recently issued a mixed opinion in a 401(k) plan investment litigation.  The Court upheld the dismissal of the plaintiffs’ fiduciary-breach claims relating to the investment management fees and performance of several of the plan’s investment options, but reinstated a claim for breach of fiduciary duty based solely on the plan fiduciaries’ alleged … Continue Reading

Defendants Secure Motion to Dismiss Victories in Three Post-Hughes Decisions

In April, we wrote here about the discouraging trend of opinions allowing commonly asserted breach of fiduciary duty claims in 401(k) and 403(b) plan investment litigation to survive motions to dismiss.  While it may be too soon to declare a reversal of that trend, three recent decisions dismissing these types of claims present some hope … Continue Reading

Sixth Circuit Rejects Arbitration for Proposed Fiduciary Breach Class Action

The Sixth Circuit, in a matter of first impression for that Circuit, held an arbitration clause contained in an individual employment agreement did not apply to ERISA fiduciary breach claims brought on behalf of a defined contribution plan.  The case is Hawkins et al. v. Cintas Corp., No. 21-2156, __ F.4th __, 2022 WL 1236954 … Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit Revives Second Excessive Fee 401(k) Plan Litigation

On Friday, for the second week in a row, the Ninth Circuit reversed dismissal of a 401(k) plan excessive fee litigation challenging the offering of retail share classes of mutual funds instead of cheaper institutional share classes.  As with its decision reviving the other 401(k) plan litigation (discussed in detail here), the Ninth Circuit declined … Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit Revives Fee Challenge to Salesforce.com 401(k) Plan

On Friday, the Ninth Circuit became the first circuit court to rule in a 401(k) plan fee and investment litigation following the Supreme Court’s January 2022 decision in Hughes v. Northwestern University, 142 S. Ct. 737 (2022).  In Davis v. Salesforce.com, Inc., No. 21-15867 (9th Cir. Apr. 8, 2022), the Ninth Circuit, without discussing Hughes, … Continue Reading

[Podcast]: Key ERISA Fee and Investment Litigation Developments and the Impact of Hughes v. Northwestern University

In this episode of The Proskauer Benefits Brief, Myron D. Rumeld, partner and co-chair of Proskauer’s ERISA Litigation group and senior associate Tulio D. Chirinos, review the current state of affairs with respect to the litigation challenging the fees charged and investments offered in defined contribution plans; and The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Hughes v. Northwestern … Continue Reading

District Court Enforces 403(b) Plan Arbitration Clause With Class Action Waiver But Allows For Plan-Wide Non-Monetary Relief

A federal district court in Florida sent a proposed ERISA breach of fiduciary duty class action to individual arbitration on the basis of a plan arbitration clause that allowed for individual relief and plan-wide injunctive relief.  The case is Holmes v. Baptist Health South Florida, Inc., No. 21-cv-22986, 2022 WL 180638 (S.D. Fla. Jan. 20, … Continue Reading

District Court Declines to Dismiss 401(k) Fee Litigation Case in First Decision Post-Hughes

In the first decision since the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hughes v. Northwestern Univ., No. 19-1401, 595 U.S. ___ (U.S. Jan. 24, 2022) (discussed further here), a Georgia federal district court held in favor of plaintiffs and declined to dismiss allegations that defendant’s 401(k) plan included costly and underperforming funds and charged excessive recordkeeping fees. … Continue Reading

The Supreme Court Declines to Establish Pleading Standard for Defined Contribution Plan Excessive Fee Litigation

To the disappointment of many in the ERISA community, the Supreme Court issued a six-page opinion on January 24th that declined to opine on most of the issues that were before the Court in Hughes v. Northwestern University, No. 19-1401 (U.S. Jan. 24, 2022). In a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Sotomayor, in which Justice … Continue Reading

District Court Dismisses Investment and Recordkeeping Claims Against 401(k) Plan Fiduciaries

A Kentucky federal district court ruled that a participant in CommonSpirit Health’s 401(k) plan failed to state plausible claims for breach of fiduciary duty related to the fees and performance of actively managed target date funds and recordkeeping fees. The court first rejected plaintiff’s claim that the plan fiduciaries should have offered a passively managed … Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Holds Participants Lack Standing To Challenge Plan Investment Options

The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal, for lack of standing, of a fiduciary breach representative action against American Airlines and its 401(k) plan investment committee.  Ortiz v. American Airlines, Inc., No. 20-10817, 2021 WL 3030550 (5th Cir. July 19, 2021).  As discussed in an earlier post, two former American Airlines employees brought this suit in … Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit Enforces Forum Selection Clause in 401(k) Plan

On April 1, 2021, the Ninth Circuit became the third circuit court to conclude that a forum-selection clause in an ERISA 401(k) plan is enforceable.  The Ninth Circuit thus denied a petition for mandamus seeking to overturn a district court decision transferring an ERISA action from the Northern District of California to the District of … Continue Reading

Second Circuit Rules ERISA Fiduciary-Breach Claims Are Outside the Scope of General Employment Arbitration Agreement

In response to the deluge of ERISA class action breach of fiduciary duty claims, plan sponsors and fiduciaries have increasingly sought to compel individual arbitration of such claims pursuant to arbitration clauses in employment agreements or plan documents.  As discussed in an earlier blog post, the Ninth Circuit previously enforced such an arbitration provision when … Continue Reading

American Airlines 401(k) Plan Not Required To Offer Stable Value Fund

Among the many claims brought by plaintiffs challenging investment offerings in defined contribution plans is the claim that plans should offer stable value funds in lieu of more conservative capital preservation funds, such as money market funds and deposit accounts that are insured by the U.S. government.  Plaintiffs have argued that stable value funds are … Continue Reading

U.S. Supreme Court Holds ERISA Defined Benefit Plan Participants Without Monetary Losses Lack Article III Standing to Assert Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claims

Earlier today, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a decision by the Eighth Circuit holding that ERISA plan participants lack Article III standing to sue for breach of fiduciary duty to recover investment losses in a defined benefit fund that was not underfunded.  The Court concluded that the participants lacked a concrete stake in the dispute … Continue Reading

Seventh Circuit Upholds Dismissal of 403(b) Plan Lawsuit Against Northwestern University in Apparent Split with Third Circuit

Since the beginning of 2016, the ERISA plaintiffs’ bar has filed nearly two dozen complaints targeting university-sponsored 403(b) plans.  The majority of these lawsuits assert that plan fiduciaries breached their duties and engaged in prohibited transactions by (1) “packing” a plan with too many investment options that underperformed and were more expensive relative to other … Continue Reading

Minimizing the Risk of ERISA Litigation in a Turbulent Economic Climate

As recent history has shown, ERISA claims seeking recovery of investment losses tend to proliferate during times of market volatility.  The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic presents a unique opportunity for plaintiffs to search for and bring fiduciary-breach claims based on the underperformance of company stock funds and other available investment options in 401(k) and 403(b) plans.  … Continue Reading

D.C. Circuit Rules that ERISA Plan Participant’s Release Extends to Fiduciary Breach Claims On Behalf of The Plan

On March 24, 2020, the D.C. Circuit Court upheld a district court ruling that an ERISA plan participant’s broad release of claims includes breach of fiduciary duty claims against ERISA plan fiduciaries, notwithstanding the release’s carve-out for any “claims for vested benefits.”  The ruling extinguishes a participant’s class action claims under ERISA sections 502(a)(2) and … Continue Reading

401(k) Plan Participant Cannot Pursue Claims on Behalf of Plans in Which She Did Not Participate

A federal district court in Ohio concluded that a 401(k) plan participant could assert fiduciary breach and prohibited transaction claims only on behalf of the plan in which she participated, and not on behalf of other plans.  In this case, the plaintiff was a participant in Andrus Wagstaff, PC’s 401(k) plan, and she alleged that … Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit Overturns Precedent and Sends ERISA Claims to Individual Arbitration

In a case of first impression, the Ninth Circuit overturned 35 years of precedent and ruled that ERISA class action claims brought on behalf of an ERISA plan are subject to individual arbitration. The Court also enforced the arbitration agreement’s class action waiver and sent plaintiff’s putative ERISA class action to individual arbitration with relief … Continue Reading

Plaintiffs Lack Standing to Bring ERISA Fee Litigation Case

A federal district court in Georgia dismissed claims by participants in Delta Air Lines, Inc.’s 401(k) plan who alleged that Delta breached its ERISA fiduciary duties by allowing the plan to invest in funds that allegedly charged excessive fees and unperformed against comparable funds. Consistent with rulings in other jurisdictions, the court held that plaintiffs … Continue Reading

ERISA’s Six-Year Statute of Repose for Fiduciary-Breach Claims Can Be Tolled

The Eleventh Circuit ruled that ERISA’s six-year statute of repose can be tolled by the parties even though it is a statute of repose. During pre-litigation negotiations between the U.S. Department of Labor and a trustee of an employee stock ownership plan, the parties signed a series of tolling agreements, which delayed the filing of any … Continue Reading
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