Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Blog

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

Category Archives: Fiduciary

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Seventh Circuit Affirms Dismissal of ERISA Stock-Drop Case

Since the Supreme Court’s ruling in Fifth Third Bancorp v. Dudenhoeffer, courts around the country have overwhelmingly rejected ERISA fiduciary-breach claims by 401(k) plan participants seeking relief related to investments in company stock funds.  The Seventh Circuit recently continued that trend by affirming the dismissal of claims brought by participants in the Boeing 401(k) plan, … 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

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

DOL’s Latest ESG Proposal: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

On October 14, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (the “DOL”) published in the Federal Register a new proposed regulation (the “Proposed Rules”)[1] on fiduciary responsibility in selecting ERISA plan investments and exercising shareholder rights (proxy voting). The Proposed Rules reflect an effort to “warm” what the current DOL perceives as … Continue Reading

DOL Will Not Enforce Trump Administration’s ERISA “ESG” Investing and Proxy Voting Rules

On March 10, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor (the “DOL”) issued a statement that it intends to revisit its final rules issued late last year on “Financial Factors in Selecting Plan Investments” (summarized here) and “Fiduciary Duties Regarding Proxy Voting and Shareholder Rights” (summarized here), which some viewed as restricting “do-good” or “ESG” investing … Continue Reading

Biden Administration Requests Review of DOL’s Final “ESG” Rules for ERISA Fiduciaries – What Does that Mean for the DOL’s Final Proxy Voting Rules?

On October 30, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (the “DOL”) issued a final rule on “ESG” investing (summarized here) which requires ERISA plan fiduciaries to base investment decisions on financial factors alone, prohibits fiduciaries from selecting investments based on non-pecuniary considerations, and which could restrict “do-good” or “ESG” investing (the “ESG Rule”).  However, the … Continue Reading

Delegating Fiduciary Responsibilities Related to ESOP Results in Dismissal of ERISA Stock-Drop Claims

Among the many lawsuits Boeing confronted following the disclosure of problems with the 737 Max was a class action brought by participants in the Boeing Voluntary Investment Plan who invested in the Boeing ESOP.  The plaintiffs alleged that the Boeing defendants breached their ERISA fiduciary duties by concealing problems with the 737 Max, which allegedly … Continue Reading

DOL Issues Final “ESG” Rule Restricting ERISA Fiduciary Consideration of Non-Pecuniary Investment Factors

On October 30, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (the “DOL”) issued a final rule on factors for selecting plan investments, which restricts “do-good” or “ESG” investing.  In response to public comments, the final rule rolls back some of the restrictions and burdens from its proposed rule issued in June (summarized here), but it reaffirms … Continue Reading

To Vote, or Not to Vote, That is the DOL’s Proxy Voting Question for ERISA Fiduciaries

On September 4, 2020, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) published a proposed rule (the “Proposed Rule”) that would confirm its position that ERISA’s fiduciary duties of prudence and loyalty apply to an ERISA plan fiduciary’s exercise of shareholder rights, including proxy voting, proxy voting policies and guidelines, and the selection and monitoring of proxy advisory … Continue Reading

New DOL Fiduciary Rule Package: What You Really Need to Know

The U.S. Department of Labor’s (the “DOL”) new “fiduciary rule” package, issued on June 29, 2020, and published in the Federal Register on July 7, 2020, has three important components: The DOL has formally reinstated its “five-part test” initially set forth in its 1975 regulation for determining whether a person is a “fiduciary” by reason … 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

[Podcast]: ERISA Plan Asset “Hard-Wired” Conduit Feeders

For a number of ERISA, tax and other regulatory reasons, it may be desirable for the manager or sponsor of an investment fund or other structure to utilize what is often referred to as a plan asset “hard-wired” conduit feeder.  Tune in to this podcast as partner Ira Bogner and senior counsel Adam Scoll discuss more about these structures, … Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of ERISA Claims Against Health Insurers

The Ninth Circuit agreed that the employer-members of Montana’s Chamber of Commerce failed to state a claim for breach of fiduciary duty under ERISA § 502(a)(2) and violations of ERISA’s prohibited transaction rules under ERISA § 502(a)(3) against health insurers as a result of alleged misrepresentations in the marketing and negotiation of the insurers’ fully insured health … 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

[Podcast]: Fixing Retirement Plan Overpayments

In this episode of the Proskauer Benefits Brief, Paul Hamburger, co-chair of Proskauer’s Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group, and associate Katrina McCann discuss how to fix retirement plan overpayments, based on (1) the type of plan (i.e., defined contribution or defined benefit plan), (2) whether the overpayment was with respect to a lump sum or ongoing payments, … Continue Reading

New DOL FAB Further Delays Enforcement of Fiduciary Rule, But Does Not Undo The Rule In Its Entirety

On May 7, 2018, the DOL issued a Field Assistance Bulletin (“FAB”) addressing the Department’s enforcement policy on the fiduciary rule that was recently vacated by the Fifth Circuit.  Although the DOL has elected not to continue defending the rule before the Fifth Circuit, the FAB leaves the rule’s status in a holding pattern. Rather … Continue Reading

Clawbacks: Recent Litigation Targeting Insurers and Pharmacy Benefit Managers

While the term “co-pay” might suggest a sharing of costs between patients and their health plans, a recent study by the University of Southern California Schaeffer Center found that almost a quarter of patients are paying more than the full price for their prescription drugs under their insurance plans due to “clawbacks.”  A prescription drug … Continue Reading

Confusion Ensues After Appeal Over Fiduciary Rule in D.C. Circuit Dropped

On March 23, 2018, the National Association for Fixed Annuities (“NAFA”) and the Department of Labor filed a Joint Stipulation of Dismissal of litigation involving the Department’s fiduciary rule in the District of Columbia Circuit.  NAFA had appealed a district court decision that dismissed NAFA’s challenge to the fiduciary rule.  The decision to drop that … Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Vacates DOL Fiduciary Rule

In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit vacated the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule, including the expanded definition of “investment advice fiduciary” and the associated exemptions. The decision nullifies the Department’s 2016 regulation—at least in the Fifth Circuit, which includes Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and arguably nationwide—but is not … Continue Reading
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