Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Blog

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

Tag Archives: Fiduciary

[Podcast]: Key Considerations for ERISA Investors in Private Investment Funds

In this episode of The Proskauer Benefits Brief, partner Ira Bogner and senior counsel Adam Scoll discuss the key considerations for ERISA investors in private investment funds, as well as a plan fiduciary’s overarching fiduciary duties and responsibilities that are related thereto. One of the first key considerations is to determine the plan asset status of the … 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

As DOL Fiduciary Rule is Officially Vacated, Focus Shifts to SEC

After nearly a decade in the making, the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule appears to be officially dead.  On June 21st, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued its mandate that finalized its earlier decision vacating the rule—discussed here.  Along with the regulation that expanded the definition of investment fiduciary, the mandate … 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

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

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

Tenth Circuit Upholds DOL’s Authority to Impose New Conditions for PTEs and Leaves Door Open for Changes to Fiduciary Rule

The Tenth Circuit recently affirmed the Department of Labor’s authority to impose new conditions for exemption from prohibited transaction rules with respect to the sale of annuity contracts. The case related to the Department’s decision, as part of the 2016 “fiduciary rule,” to make sales of fixed indexed annuities ineligible for Prohibited Transaction Exemption 84-24, … Continue Reading

Claims Against Investment Adviser in ERISA Fee Litigation Case Dismissed

A federal district court in North Carolina dismissed claims by BB&T Corp.’s 401(k) plan participants that Cardinal Investment Advisors, LLC, the plan’s outside investment advisor, breached its ERISA fiduciary duties by allowing the plan to invest in BB&T proprietary funds. The proprietary funds, according to plaintiffs, charged excessive fees and underperformed non-proprietary funds. The court dismissed the … Continue Reading

U.S. DOL Proposes Delay of Conflict of Interest Rule and Related Exemptions

On March 1, 2017, the U.S. Department of Labor proposed a 60-day delay of the conflict of interest rule and related exemptions (currently set to be applicable on April 10, 2017). The Department opened two comment periods related to the rule: A 15-day comment period (ending March 17, 2017) on whether enforcement of the rule … 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

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

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

U.S. District Court Rules that Float Income Earned by Fidelity Is Not a Plan Asset

Four class actions were consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts challenging whether float income earned on monies pending a transaction was a “plan asset.” In re Fidelity ERISA Float Income, No. 13-10222, 2015 WL 1061497 (D. Mass. March 11, 2015). Plaintiffs argued that if float was a plan asset, then … 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

Fourth Circuit Rejects Widow’s Claim for Equitable Relief

The Fourth Circuit recently rejected fiduciary breach and equitable estoppel claims for life insurance coverage by Leslie Moon, the widow of a deceased employee, who claimed that the employer’s actions resulted in Mr. Moon’s failure to convert his life insurance to an individual policy following the onset of his disability.  In so ruling, the Court … 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
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