A federal district court recently granted a motion to dismiss claims that defined contribution plan fiduciaries breached their fiduciary duties of loyalty and prudence, and violated ERISA’s anti-inurement and prohibited transaction rules, by using forfeited funds to satisfy a portion of the employer’s matching contribution obligations where the plan also permitted using such forfeitures to

A California district court recently denied a motion to dismiss claims that the fiduciaries of a 401(k) plan breached their ERISA fiduciary duties of prudence and loyalty by selecting underperforming, high-cost investments and causing the plan to pay excessive fees for services.  The decision is notable for illustrating how pleading standards in investment performance and

Defense counsel frequently lament the difficulties of defending 401(k) investment and recordkeeping fee litigation when different judges render conflicting rulings on motions to dismiss seemingly indistinguishable complaints.  Even when the judges purport to apply the same legal standards, the outcomes can differ.  For that reason, we thought it would be interesting to track the decisions

The Second Circuit recently held that in order to state a claim for a prohibited transaction pursuant to ERISA section 406(a)(1)(C), it is not enough to allege that a fiduciary caused the plan to compensate a service provider for its services.  Instead, “the complaint must plausibly allege that the services were unnecessary or involved unreasonable compensation.”  Cunningham v. Cornell Univ., 2023 WL 7504142 (2d Cir. Nov. 14, 2023).  Separately, the Second Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants in connection with the plaintiffs’ fiduciary breach claims that were premised on allegations of excessive recordkeeping fees, underperforming investment funds, and the defendants’ failure to transition to lower-cost share classes of certain mutual funds.

In late 2022, the U.S. Department of Labor (the “DOL”) issued final regulations (the “Final Rules”) which address the extent to which ERISA plan fiduciaries may consider environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) factors when making investment decisions and exercising shareholder rights, such as voting proxies, on behalf of ERISA-covered plans. For a detailed discussion of the Final Rules, see here.

Although the Final Rules generally became effective on January 30, 2023, certain special proxy voting-related rules are set to first take effect on December 1, 2023, and may require action by ERISA plan fiduciaries in advance of the effective date.

A recent Sixth Circuit decision emphasizes the importance of maintaining correct benefit plan delegations to avoid tussles over the correct standard of review for benefit claims.  In this case, the Sixth Circuit concluded that no deference was owed to a claim decision made by a company’s benefits department because the plan document neither named the benefits department as the entity with discretionary authority to decide claims nor permitted the benefits committee to delegate its discretionary authority to the benefits department.  The case is Laake v. Benefits Committee, Western & Southern Financial Group Co. Flexible Benefits Plan et al., 68 F.4th 984 (6th Cir. 2023).

The U.S. Department of Labor (the “DOL”) proposed changes to its Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program (the “VFCP”) in November for the first time since 2006.  The most significant change is the addition of a self-correction option for delinquent deposits of participant contributions and loan repayments.  The other changes clarify and expand certain existing aspects of

On November 22, 2022, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (the “DOL”) released final regulations (the “Final Rules”) that are intended to be more supportive of ERISA fiduciaries considering environmental, social, and governance factors (“ESG”) in investment decisions as compared to the Trump administration’s 2020 regulations (the “2020 Regulations”).  The Final Rules

On August 17, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that a Department of Labor (“DOL”) advisory opinion, which found that an insurance plan was not governed by ERISA, was unenforceable under the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”).  In doing so, the court ruled that the DOL advisory opinion constituted a “final