Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Blog

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

Category Archives: 401(k) Plans

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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

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 Rejects Demand for Jury Trial in 401(k) Investment Litigation

A South Carolina federal district court denied plaintiffs’ demand for a jury trial in an ERISA fiduciary-breach action.  The court held that, because federal courts in the Fourth Circuit and elsewhere have consistently held that ERISA claims are equitable in nature even when plaintiffs seek monetary relief, jury trials are unavailable.  The case is Williams … 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

District Court Partially Dismisses ERISA 401(k) Fee and Performance Claims for Lack of Standing

A federal district court in New York recently granted Omnicom Group Inc.’s (“Omnicom’s”) motion to dismiss, for lack of Article III standing, claims challenging the offering of investment options in Omnicom’s 401(k) plan in which the plaintiff participants did not invest.  The court denied Omnicom’s motion to dismiss, however, with respect to the remainder of … 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

District Court Denies Interlocutory Appeal for Novel Issue of “Hardwired” 401(k) Plans

A federal district court in Maryland recently declined to certify an interlocutory appeal to the Fourth Circuit on the issue of whether financial institutions can “hardwire” a preference for their own proprietary investment vehicles into their employees’ 401(k) plans.  David G. Feinberg, et al., & all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, v. T. Rowe Price Group, … Continue Reading

Tenth Circuit Addresses Damages for Excessive Recordkeeping Fee Claims

One of the multitude of recent cases challenging the recordkeeping fees of 401(k) plans recently made its way to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.  Ramos v. Banner Health, No. 20-1231, — F.3d —- (10th Cir. June 11, 2021).  Following a bench trial that resulted in a determination that the fiduciaries of Banner Health’s 401(k) … 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

[Podcast]: Cyber-theft of 401(k) Accounts

In this episode of the Proskauer Benefits Brief, partner Robert Projansky and special guest Garrett Fenton, senior attorney at Microsoft Corporation, discuss cyber theft of 401(k) plan accounts.  Tune in as we discuss why 401(k) plans are vulnerable to cyber security breaches, what kinds of cyber security frauds we are seeing in 401(k) plans, evolving litigation on … Continue Reading

District Court Dismisses ERISA Fee Litigation against 401(k) Plan for Failure to Exhaust

A federal district court in Georgia recently dismissed claims brought by a participant in the Rollins, Inc. 401(k) Plan (the “Plan”), on behalf of a putative class of all plan participants, alleging that defendants breached their fiduciary duties by charging excessive recordkeeping fees, selecting and retaining costly and underperforming funds in the Plan and failing … 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

DOL Information Letter Outlines Fiduciary Considerations for Including Private Equity Allocations in Defined Contribution Plan Investments

On June 3, 2020, the Department of Labor (the “DOL”) published an Information Letter confirming that investment options under a defined contribution plan (e.g., a 401(k) or 403(b) plan) may include a limited allocation to private equity.  Notably, the Letter does not discuss direct investment in private equity funds (for example, by adding a PE … Continue Reading

Department of Labor Finalizes New Safe Harbor for Electronic Delivery of Retirement Plan Disclosures

On May 21, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (the “DOL”) finalized its proposed regulation expanding electronic delivery for retirement plan disclosures.  On balance, the final regulation is generally consistent with the proposed regulation, although there are a number of key differences, including the addition of a new “direct email” delivery option not included in … Continue Reading

SECURE Act: Changes Exclusive to 401(k) Plans

The SECURE Act, included as part of the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020, was signed into law on December 20, 2019.  This post highlights changes that are exclusive to 401(k) plans.  For a chronological guide to key retirement plan issues raised by the new law, please click here. Increase to Maximum Default Deferral Rate for … Continue Reading

SECURE Act: Considering Implications of Changes to Required Minimum Distribution Rules

As previewed in our prior blog post, the recently enacted SECURE Act includes many changes that affect employer-sponsored benefit plans and require the attention of plan administrators.  Among these changes, effective for distributions made after December 31, 2019 (for individuals who reach age 70½ after that date), is the delay of the “required beginning date” … Continue Reading

New Year, New World: A Short Guide to the SECURE Act for Retirement Plan Sponsors and Administrators

The SECURE Act, included as part of the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020, was signed into law on December 20, 2019.  This new law contains many significant changes that may impact employer-sponsored benefit plans. Given the scope of the law and the number of changes, we will release a series of blog posts exploring the … Continue Reading

Final Hardship Distribution Regulations, Part Three: New Disaster Relief and Expanded Sources Available for Hardship Distributions

The IRS recently released final regulations making a number of changes to the rules applicable to hardship distributions from 401(k) and 403(b) plans.  Concluding our three-part series on the final regulations, this blog entry will focus on the following changes to the hardship distribution rules: (1) modifications to the list of safe harbor expenses that … Continue Reading

Final Hardship Distribution Regulations, Part Two: Implementation Considerations

As discussed in our prior blog entry, the IRS recently released final regulations making a number of significant changes to the rules applicable to hardship distributions from 401(k) and 403(b) plans.  As part of our continuing series on these final regulations, this blog entry will focus on two specific issues: (1) the elimination of the … Continue Reading
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