Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Blog

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

Tag Archives: Fiduciary

Seventh Circuit Provides Hope for ERISA Plan Sponsors and Fiduciaries Defending Investment Fee & Performance Litigation

The Seventh Circuit recently provided a ray of sunshine in what has largely been a gloomy stretch for plan sponsors and fiduciaries defending ERISA breach of fiduciary duty claims based on allegedly excessive investment and administrative fees and investment underperformance.  In this particular case, Oshkosh emerged victorious with the Seventh Circuit affirming the dismissal—at the … Continue Reading

Sixth Circuit Upholds Dismissal of Some Investment Fee and Performance Claims But Allows Mutual Fund Share Class Claim to Proceed to Discovery

The Sixth Circuit recently issued a mixed opinion in a 401(k) plan investment litigation.  The Court upheld the dismissal of the plaintiffs’ fiduciary-breach claims relating to the investment management fees and performance of several of the plan’s investment options, but reinstated a claim for breach of fiduciary duty based solely on the plan fiduciaries’ alleged … Continue Reading

Defendants Secure Motion to Dismiss Victories in Three Post-Hughes Decisions

In April, we wrote here about the discouraging trend of opinions allowing commonly asserted breach of fiduciary duty claims in 401(k) and 403(b) plan investment litigation to survive motions to dismiss.  While it may be too soon to declare a reversal of that trend, three recent decisions dismissing these types of claims present some hope … 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

U.S. Department of Labor Steps into the Cybersecurity Discussion

Formally wading into the cybersecurity discussion for the first time, on April 14, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) posted on its website a suite of new guidance, including Tips for Hiring a Service Provider with Strong Cybersecurity Practices, Cybersecurity Program Best Practices, and Online Security Tips for Participants and Beneficiaries. By way of … Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit Enforces Forum Selection Clause in 401(k) Plan

On April 1, 2021, the Ninth Circuit became the third circuit court to conclude that a forum-selection clause in an ERISA 401(k) plan is enforceable.  The Ninth Circuit thus denied a petition for mandamus seeking to overturn a district court decision transferring an ERISA action from the Northern District of California to the District of … Continue Reading

What Happens Abroad, Apparently Does Not Stay Abroad – DOL Revokes Trump Administration Guidance That Provided Relief to QPAMs for Convictions Under Foreign Law

On November 3, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of the Solicitor of Labor (the “DOL”) issued an opinion letter (the “2020 Letter”) to the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (“SIFMA”) stating that it would not view a conviction under foreign law as a disqualifying event under Prohibited Transaction Class Exemption 84-14 (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

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

Arbitrator To Decide Whether ERISA Fiduciary Claims Should Be Arbitrated

A federal district court in Texas referred to arbitration a 401(k) plan participant’s ERISA breach of fiduciary duty action based on allegations that certain plan investment options charged excessive fees.  In a two-page order, the court instructed the arbitrator to determine whether the arbitrator or a court should determine whether the class action waiver provision … Continue Reading

Best Practices in Administering Benefit Claims #7 – Understanding Attorney-Client Privilege in the Benefits Claims Process

When a plan administrator is attending to a benefit claim and thinks it is time to call in an attorney, are those discussions privileged and protected from disclosure to claimants?  In this week’s blog, we take a look at some of those communications between attorneys and plan administrators and examine whether or not they are … Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit Overturns Precedent and Sends ERISA Claims to Individual Arbitration

In a case of first impression, the Ninth Circuit overturned 35 years of precedent and ruled that ERISA class action claims brought on behalf of an ERISA plan are subject to individual arbitration. The Court also enforced the arbitration agreement’s class action waiver and sent plaintiff’s putative ERISA class action to individual arbitration with relief … Continue Reading

SDNY Rejects Class Standing and Fiduciary Breach Claims In Connection With Alleged Double-Charging Scheme

A New York federal district court concluded that a defined benefit plan participant lacked standing to seek relief on behalf of plans other than the one in which he was a participant. In this case, plaintiff claimed that defendants breached ERISA fiduciary duties and engaged in prohibited transactions by charging undisclosed markups for securities trades. … Continue Reading

Third Circuit Resuscitates Claims Against University 403(b) Plan Fiduciaries

Over the past several years, the ERISA plaintiffs’ bar has targeted university-sponsored 403(b) plans, arguing that the plan fiduciaries breached their fiduciary duties and engaged in prohibited transactions in connection with offering certain investment options and the administrative fees associated with such plans. Among other things, they have argued that the plan fiduciaries offered too … 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

Georgetown Prevails In ERISA Fee Litigation Case

A federal district court in the District of Columbia dismissed ERISA fiduciary-breach claims by participants in Georgetown’s 403(b) retirement plans that were predicated on allegations that the trustees invested in funds that allegedly charged excessive fees and underperformed relative to alleged comparable funds, and that the fund paid excessive recordkeeping fees.  To begin with, the … Continue Reading
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