The decision in Bolton v. Inland Fresh Seafood Corp. of America Inc., No. 22-cv-4602 (N.D. Ga. Dec. 5, 2023)should serve as a reminder to all ERISA practitioners that, if litigating in courts of the Eleventh Circuit, participants must exhaust a plan’s claims procedures before commencing a lawsuit—regardless of the type of ERISA claim asserted.

We have previously blogged on the flurry of class action lawsuits challenging 401(k) plan investments in the BlackRock LifePath Index Target Date Funds. District courts around the country—seven of them in total—have granted motions to dismiss claims by 401(k) plan participants because their copy-cat allegations of underperformance were insufficient to raise a plausible inference of imprudence. That is, until now. Last week, a federal district court judge in the Eastern District of Virginia became the first to conclude that the participants’ allegations of imprudence related to the BlackRock Funds were plausible. Trauernicht v. Genworth, No. 22-cv-532, 2023 WL 5961651 (E.D. Va. Sept. 13, 2023).

In a case of first impression in the Tenth Circuit, the Court recently joined the chorus of circuit courts in holding that a 401(k) plan participant alleging excessive investment management or recordkeeping fees must assert a “meaningful benchmark” in order to survive a motion to dismiss.  In addition to rejecting commonly pleaded “benchmarks” because they were not meaningful, the Court’s ruling is of particular significance because, unlike some other courts, it dismissed the participants’ “share-class claim”—ruling on a motion to dismiss that their allegation that cheaper share classes of the same mutual fund were available to the plan was demonstrably false.  The case is Matney v. Barrick Gold, No. 22-4045, 2023 WL 5731996 (10th Cir. Sept. 6, 2023).

A recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Wit et al. v. United Behavioral Health and Alexander et al. v. United Behavioral Health) exemplifies the challenge in balancing a desire to cover evolving treatments for mental health and substance abuse disorders against plan sponsors’ and insurers’ general authority