Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Blog

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

Category Archives: Defined Contribution Plan Investment Litigation

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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

“Divane Intervention”: ERISA 401(k) Plan Investment Claims Dead On Arrival

A federal district court in Illinois recently dismissed “excessive fee” and “imprudent investment” claims against the plan fiduciaries of the CareerBuilder 401(k) plan fiduciaries, relying largely on the Seventh Circuit’s decision in Divane v. Northwestern University, 953 F.3d 980 (7th Cir. 2020).  (Our blog on the Divane decision is available here.)  In the case against … 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

A Good 403(b) or a Bad 403(b)? A Question IRS Auditors Look to Answer

In each case, the answer depends on whether the document and operation are in compliance with the many technical requirements for section 403(b) plans. IRS officials have recently indicated that the IRS expects to launch audit initiatives this summer targeting section 403(b) plan compliance, so now is a good time for employers with section 403(b) … Continue Reading

[Podcast]: Key Considerations for ERISA Plan Fiduciaries When Delegating Investment Authority

In this episode of The Proskauer Benefits Brief, partner Ira Bogner and senior counsel Adam Scoll discuss the key considerations for ERISA plan fiduciaries when delegating investment authority over plan assets.  We will break down some of the material ERISA issues that may apply when an ERISA plan hires a separate account investment manager or invests in a private investment … Continue Reading

Record-Keeper Defeats Second Round of Robo-Adviser Fee Litigation

As we reported here, record-keepers for large 401(k) plans have thus far been successful in defending ERISA fiduciary-breach litigation over investment advice powered by Financial Engines.  These lawsuits generally claim that fees collected by record-keepers for investment advice were unreasonably high because the fees exceeded the amount actually paid to Financial Engines.  Plaintiffs in Chendes v. … Continue Reading

First Round of Robo-Advisor Fee Litigation Goes to Record-Keepers

Since 2016, record keepers for large 401(k) plans have been defending litigation over investment advice provided by the Financial Engines investment advice algorithm.  (This kind of arrangement is commonly referred to as “robo-advice.”) The lawsuits claim, in essence, that fees collected by record keepers for investment advice were unreasonably high, because the fees exceeded the … 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

District Court Dismisses Allegations That Stable Value Fund is Too Conservative

A district court in Rhode Island dismissed claims by participants in the CVS Employee Stock Ownership Plan that plan fiduciaries imprudently invested plan assets in the plan’s stable value fund. Plaintiffs argued that the stable value fund had an excessive concentration of investments with ultra-short durations and excessive liquidity, both of which caused the fund … Continue Reading

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

A federal district court in California granted defendants’ motion to dismiss claims asserted by Chevron 401(k) plan participants that the plan fiduciaries breached their ERISA fiduciary duties by selecting underperforming investment options and permitting the plan to pay excessive fees. As a preliminary matter, the court dismissed plaintiffs’ duty of loyalty claims because they failed … Continue Reading

Fidelity Prevails In ERISA Float Litigation

The First Circuit joined the Eighth Circuit in finding that Fidelity’s practice of earning overnight “float” interest on the cash paid out to 401(k) participants redeeming shares in mutual funds did not violate ERISA’s duty of loyalty or prohibition on self-dealing.  In so holding, the Court observed that under the terms of the trust agreements … Continue Reading

No Fiduciary Status For 401(k) Plan Service Provider

John Hancock Life Insurance Company is the most recent 401(k) plan service provider to prevail in a case by the plaintiffs’ bar asserting ERISA fiduciary breach claims based on allegations that it charged excessive 401(k) plan fees and received excessive revenue sharing payments.  Santomenno v. John Hancock Life Ins. Co., No. 2:10-cv-01655 (WJM), 2013 WL … Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit Rules on Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claim in Investment Options Case

In Tibble v. Edison Int’l, 10-cv-56406, 2013 WL 1174167 (9th Cir. Mar. 21, 2013), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that 401(k) plan fiduciaries breached their duty of prudence in selecting investment options for the plan and unreasonably relied on a consultant’s advice because they could not prove that either they– or the consultant … Continue Reading
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