Fiduciary and Investment Issues
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Still No Right to Jury Trial – MIT 401(k) Plan Participants Not Entitled to Jury Trial of ERISA Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claims

The District of Massachusetts court struck the plaintiffs’ jury-trial demand in their ERISA complaint for damages and equitable relief against 401(k) plan fiduciaries. The court followed the “great weight of authority” in ruling that there is no right to trial by jury in ERISA actions for breach of fiduciary duty. Access the full article.

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Event | Benefits Emerging Leaders Working Group

Join us on March 7 in Chicago for our annual Benefits Emerging Leaders Working Group, which provides benefit professionals with tools to better serve employees in an ever-changing benefits landscape. Our presentations will tackle the latest benefits hot topics and best practice solutions and will be supplemented with important networking opportunities aimed to connect tomorrow’s benefit leaders with a broad network of professionals. Speakers from The Art Institute of Chicago, Alera Group Inc. and McDermott will lead interactive discussions around a range of topics, including: Affordable Care Act (ACA) Penalties – Marketplace Letters Investment Committee Meetings – Red Flags and Best Practices Developments in Parental and Caregiver Leaves – A Case Study Approach Legislative Rundown – What’s Happening in Washington Around the Horn – A Group Discussion Register Now.

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Eighth Circuit Rejects Cross-Plan Offsetting

A recent Eighth Circuit decision regarding “cross-plan offsetting” serves as an important reminder of how ERISA’s fiduciary duties impact both employers and fiduciaries who handle claims. The case involved the common practice of cross-plan offsetting, which occurs when a claims administrator resolves an overpayment to a provider by refusing to pay that provider for a future claim (or reducing the amount paid for that future claim)—even if the latter claim was made by a participant in an unrelated plan. Cross-plan offsetting allows claims administrators to quickly recover overpaid benefits without the time and expense associated with one-off recovery actions against providers. Defendant UnitedHealth Group (UnitedHealth) initially applied this practice among its in-network providers, but then expanded cross-plan offsetting to non-network providers beginning in 2007. This practice was challenged by two out-of-network doctors in the case at issue, Peterson v....

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Georgetown University Defeats Retirement Plan Fee Litigation and “If a Cat Were a Dog, It Would Bark”

Recently, the US District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a proposed class action lawsuit brought by former Georgetown employees under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) over fees and investments in its two retirement plans. Plaintiffs alleged that Georgetown breached its fiduciary duty of prudence under ERISA by selecting and retaining investment options with excessive administrative fees and expenses charged to the plans, and unnecessarily retained three recordkeepers rather than one. The court dismissed most of the claims on the grounds that plaintiffs had not plead sufficient facts showing that they had individually suffered an injury. Because they challenged defined contribution plans (as opposed to defined benefit plans), the plaintiffs had to plead facts showing how their individual plan accounts were harmed. In this case, the named plaintiffs had not invested in the challenged funds, or the challenged fund had...

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Ninth Circuit Clarifies “Actual Knowledge” for ERISA’s Statute of Limitations

Late last year, the Ninth Circuit held that in order to trigger ERISA’s three-year statute of limitations a defendant must demonstrate that a plaintiff has actual knowledge of the nature of an alleged breach. Accordingly, the court held that merely having access to documents describing an alleged breach of fiduciary duty is not sufficient to cause ERISA’s statute of limitations to begin to run. Instead, the court rejected the standard embraced by other courts and ruled that participants should not be charged with knowledge of documents they were provided by did not actually read. The Ninth Circuit’s decision underscores circuit split over what is sufficient to demonstrate the existence of actual knowledge for purposes of triggering ERISA’s three-year statute of limitations. Access the full article.

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Fridays With Benefits Webinar | ERISA Litigation – Are You Bullet-Proofed for the Inevitable?

What to expect in 2019 and how to prepare now. Join McDermott lawyers Judith Wethall, Ted Becker and Rick Pearl for an interactive discussion regarding ERISA litigation trends. Join our lively 45-minute discussion while we tackle the following items: Plaintiffs’ law firm’s solicitations Health & Welfare Fee Litigation Defined-Benefit Plan Litigation – Actuarial Equivalence lawsuits and greater concern about discretionary decisions Stock-Drop Cases – The Jander decision: Relaxing the Dudenhoeffer standard and the potential impact of a stock market decline 401k/403b – Fee/investment update ESOP transactions – New DOL and plaintiffs’ counsel’s theories Friday, January 11, 2019 10:00 – 10:45 am PST 11:00 – 11:45 am MST 12:00 – 12:45 pm CST 1:00 – 1:45 pm EST Register now. 

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Key Considerations with Alternative Investments for Pension Plans

Todd Solomon and Brian Tiemann presented on alternative investments for pension plans during the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) Conference in Chicago. They discussed various rules benefit plan investors should consider, including the “look-through” rule and the “significant” investment rule. They also addressed common hedge fund structural and operational issues, and problems if a fund holds ERISA plan assets. View the full presentation.

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First Circuit Holds Defendants Have Burden to Negate Loss Causation in ERISA Fiduciary Duty Cases

The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has solidified a circuit split on who has burden of proving loss causation in ERISA breach of fiduciary duty cases. The First Circuit joined the Fourth, Fifth and Eighth Circuits holding that once a plaintiff demonstrates a fiduciary breach, the defendant has the burden to negate loss causation. Other circuits, including the Sixth, Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Circuits, have held that a plaintiff bears to burden to establish loss causation. This issue is ripe for Supreme Court review. Access the full article.

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Court of Appeals Affirms “Paternalistic” Breach of Fiduciary Duties

The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit recently affirmed a Minnesota district court’s dismissal of a claim against Wells Fargo & Company (Wells Fargo) under ERISA. A former employee had alleged Wells Fargo breached fiduciary duties by retaining Wells Fargo’s own investment funds as a 401(k) option, and defaulting to those funds when plan participants failed to elect another option. In holding that the former employee failed to state a claim, the court in Meiners v. Wells Fargo & Co. reasoned that the plaintiff failed to plead facts showing the Wells Fargo investment funds were an imprudent choice. Specifically, the court found that the plaintiff’s allegations that an allegedly comparable fund performed better was not sufficient, especially given the other fund’s differing investment strategy. The court’s prior decision in Braden v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. established that plaintiffs could show that “a prudent fiduciary in like circumstances”...

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