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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Update on Lawsuits Challenging the U.S. Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule

As we previously reported, there are five pending lawsuits challenging the U.S. Department of Labor’s new fiduciary rule.  Our Client Alert on the new rule outlines the significance of the rule and the implications of the expanded definition of “fiduciary” for investment advisors and other related service providers. First, with respect to the litigation pending … Continue Reading

Pension Consultant Found Not to be an ERISA Fiduciary

The Tenth Circuit held that a pension plan consultant, who misstated the amount of monthly pension payments that a pension plan participant would receive in retirement, was not a fiduciary under ERISA. Plaintiffs Trent and Wendy Lebahn, who were participants in the National Farmers Union Uniform Pension Plan, claimed that the Plan, its Pension Committee … Continue Reading

Update on Lawsuits Challenging the U.S. Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule

As we previously reported here, there have been five lawsuits challenging the U.S. Department of Labor’s new fiduciary rule.  (Our Client Alert on the new rule is available here.) On July 8, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) filed its first formal response to these lawsuits in The National Association for Fixed Annuities v. … Continue Reading

Lawsuits Filed Challenging The USDOL’s Final Fiduciary Rules

On April 6, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor released its Final Rule addressing when a person providing services to an employee benefit plan or individual retirement account (IRA) is considered to be providing investment advice that is subject to ERISA’s fiduciary standard.  As discussed in our Client Alert, available here, the rule expanded the … Continue Reading

U.S. DOL To Issue Final Rule and Exemptions on Fiduciary Standards

Today, the U.S. Department of Labor will release its highly-anticipated Final Rule and Exemptions addressing when a person providing investment advice with respect to an employee benefit plan or individual retirement account is considered to be a “fiduciary” under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 and the Internal Revenue Code.  According to a … Continue Reading

Eighth Circuit Holds Service Provider Is Not A Plan Fiduciary In Excessive Fee Case

Continuing a trend in other Circuits, the Eighth Circuit held that a service provider that was contracted to provide the 401(k) plan’s investment options does not act as an ERISA fiduciary when, consistent with the terms of a contract it negotiated at arms’ length, it passes through operating expenses to participants.  The Court also rejected the plan’s … Continue Reading

The U.S. Department of Labor’s New Proposed Rules Defining Fiduciary Investment Advice

On April 14, 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued its highly anticipated re-proposed regulation addressing when a person providing investment advice with respect to an employee benefit plan or individual retirement account (IRA) is considered to be a fiduciary under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and the Internal Revenue … Continue Reading

U.S. Department of Labor Issues Proposed Fiduciary Rules

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Labor issued its highly anticipated re-proposed regulation addressing when a person providing investment advice with respect to an employee benefit plan is considered a fiduciary under ERISA.  The DOL stated that it believes its proposal is necessary because the current regulatory scheme no longer adequately protects plans, participants, beneficiaries, and … Continue Reading

Settlement Reached in Stock-Drop Case

A class of former LandAmerica Financial Group employees agreed to a $5 million settlement of stock-drop claims arising from LandAmerica’s 2008 bankruptcy, and have submitted the agreement for court approval.  LandAmerica filed for bankruptcy following the 2008 collapse of its title insurance subsidiary. … Continue Reading

Fiduciary Breach Claim Based On Oral Representation Can Proceed

A federal district court in New Jersey held that oral misrepresentations may support a breach of fiduciary duty claim under ERISA.  Plaintiff Richard Lees was hired by American Re–Insurance Company, although he was paid by another entity called SMS.  When American sought to transfer Lees to its payroll, Lees allegedly agreed to the transfer only … Continue Reading

Service Provider Not A Fiduciary In Negotiating Its Contract

A federal district court in Iowa dismissed a putative class action complaint brought by several 401(k) plan sponsors who alleged that Principal Life Insurance Company breached its fiduciary duties to the plans by charging excessive fees in connection with certain investment options and services provided to plan participants.  The court determined, among other things, that … Continue Reading

401(k) Plan Participant Waived ERISA Stock-Drop Claim

The D.C. Circuit affirmed the decision of a district court that Plaintiff Patrick Russell, a 401(k) plan participant, had knowingly waived his right to assert an ERISA stock-drop claim based on, among other things, the alleged imprudence of maintaining an employer stock fund as an investment option.  Russell argued that the district court erred by … Continue Reading

How to Settle an ERISA Breach of Fiduciary Duty Case and Sleep at Night: A Checklist for Plan Trustees to Consider

Plan trustees often look to settle ERISA fiduciary breach claims brought against them as a way to put the past behind them.  Assuming there is enough fiduciary liability insurance coverage available to pay the proposed settlement sum, the trustees may be prepared to put aside their desire to vindicate themselves for a challenged course of … Continue Reading

Plan Sponsors’ Decision to Change Form of Employer Contributions Not A Fiduciary Function

The Second Circuit recently held that Morgan Stanley and others were not de facto ERISA fiduciaries by virtue of having authority and means to fund company contributions with stock rather than cash. In so ruling, the Court explained that at the time of the decision to fund contributions with company stock, the stock was not … Continue Reading

District Court Finds Fiduciaries Have No Duty to Investigate False Sale Allegations for ESOP Investment

In Malcolm v. Trilithic, Inc., 2014 WL 1324082, No. 1:13-cv-00073 (S.D. Ind. Mar. 31, 2014), the Southern District of Indiana held that plan fiduciaries were under no duty to investigate allegations that a false sale had been included in the company’s records as a way of “puff[ing] up [its] receivables account and profitability” to present … Continue Reading

View From Proskauer: ERISA Plan Fiduciaries—Are Your Conversations With Counsel Privileged?

  It is generally understood that communications between clients and lawyers are privileged and that the substance of those conversations may not be divulged to third parties except in the rarest of circumstances.  In the employee benefits world, however, plan sponsors and fiduciaries are often surprised to learn that this cardinal rule does not always … Continue Reading

Fiduciary Breach Claims Barred by ERISA’s Six-Year Statute of Limitations

The Eleventh Circuit recently dismissed a participant’s fiduciary breach claims against SunTrust’s 401(k) plan fiduciary committee members on the ground that the claims for imprudently selecting certain investment options was time barred by ERISA’s six-year statute of limitations. Fuller v. Suntrust Banks, Inc., 2014 WL 718309 (11th Cir. Feb. 26, 2014). Plaintiff Barbara Fuller argued … Continue Reading

No Fiduciary Status For 401(k) Plan Service Provider

The Third Circuit affirmed dismissal of plaintiff Nicholas Danza’s claims that Fidelity breached its fiduciary duties and engaged in prohibited transactions by charging excessive service fees for reviewing and qualifying Domestic Relations Orders (DROs) for a 401(k) plan. Danza v. Fidelity Management Trust Co., 2013 WL 3872118 (3d Cir. July 29, 2013) (unpublished).  Danza filed suit … Continue Reading

Employers’ Discretion Over Whether to Pay Contributions Does Not Confer Fiduciary Status

In Int’l Painters and Allied Trades Indus. Pension Fund v. Clayton B. Obersheimer, Inc., 2013 WL 594691 (D. Md. Feb. 13, 2013), a district court rejected plaintiffs’ contention that company officers were acting as ERISA fiduciaries in connection with the company’s delinquent contributions to a pension plan because they exercised discretionary control over the unpaid … Continue Reading

Are Your Conversations Privileged under ERISA?

Under ERISA, plan participants and beneficiaries have the right to obtain information pertaining to their benefit entitlements and the operation of the plans in which they participate. Sometimes these rights compromise the protections of the attorney-client privilege. Under the fiduciary exception, “an employer acting in the capacity of ERISA fiduciary is disabled from asserting the … Continue Reading
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