In Golden Star Inc. v. MassMutual Life Ins. Co., 2014 WL 2117511 (D. Mass. May 20, 2014), a district court addressed two issues that have become hotly contested in 401(k) plan fee litigation: (1) whether and when a plan provider’s possession or exercise of discretion over fees confers fiduciary status; and (2) whether, to be a fiduciary with respect to plan investments, a plan provider must not only possess, but actually exercise discretion over the investment options offered by the plan.
MassMutual offered plaintiff Golden Star (the plan sponsor and named fiduciary) recordkeeping and other services for its 401(K) plan. MassMutual defined the menu of investment options offered, and Golden Star selected the options to be offered in its plan from that menu. The mechanism for these investments was separate accounts owned by MassMutual as an insurer; MassMutual would pool the investments of several 401(K) plans investments into these separate accounts and then invest the accounts into mutual funds, or other selected investment options. The group annuity contract between Golden Star and MassMutual allowed MassMutual to assess management fees on the separate accounts of up to 1% of the market value.