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Articles Tagged with 401K Lawsuits

New York Life Settles Self-Dealing Allegations
New York Life Insurance Company has settled a 401(K) lawsuit accusing the company of self-dealing in its 401(k) plans. The case involved a MainStay-branded S&P 500 index mutual fund that plaintiffs believe was retained out of the insurer’s self-interest even as participants saved less money than they would have if they had been able to invest in non-proprietary funds that were less expensive.

The lawsuit alleged that class members had paid about $3.9M in excessive fees. The plaintiffs accused the mutual life insurer of committing breach of fiduciary duty under ERISA.

New York Life and its subsidiaries own and run the MainStay funds.

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A plaintiff who is a participant in Wells Fargo’s 401(K) plan is suing the bank. The individual claims that the company’s cross-selling scandal has caused its stock price to drop significantly and this has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to the retirement plan.
It was just last month that regulators imposed a $185M fine on Wells Fargo for setting up 2.1 million credit card accounts and unauthorized deposits for banking customers so as to satisfy sales quotas. Some employees allegedly set up debit cards for customers without their knowledge, even assigning them PIN numbers.
Although Wells Fargo is settling with the Los Angeles City Attorney, the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, it is not denying or admitting to the allegations. 

Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. has arrived at a nearly $31M settlement with plaintiffs of a class action securities case. They are accusing the retirement service provider of charging excessive fees in its retirement plans. The 401k lawsuit involved MassMutual’s $200M Agent Pension Plan and its $2.2B Thrift Plan. The settlement includes a $30.9M payment and non-monetary provisions that would benefit participants of the plan.

The case is Dennis Gordan et al v. Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. et al, and plaintiffs include ex-plan participants and current ones. They are accusing defendants of breaching their fiduciary duty under ERISA through the charging of excessive administrative fees and offering a costly and unnecessarily risky fixed-income choice, as well as investments that were expensive despite not performing well.

The non-monetary provisions of the settlement include the hiring an independent consultant to make sure that plan participants are not asked to pay excessive fees for record-keeping services or record-keeping fees based on asset percentages, a review of all investment options, and the consideration of a minimum of at least three finalists when making an investment selection.

The settlement has been submitted to a district court for preliminary approval. MassMutual has not admitted to liability or fault despite settling.

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SEC Seeks to Limit JP Morgan’s Ability to Raise Client Money
An Over $200K settlement between J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and regulators has stalled because of efforts by federal regulators to limit the firm’s ability to raise money for clients. The move is an attempt to place a wider variety of consequences on financial firms accused of breaking regulations.

J.P. Morgan had settled allegations accusing it of failing to make proper disclosures when marketing its investment products to clients over the products offered by competitors. Now, the SEC wants the firm to say yes to limits on its ability to sell bonds or stocks through private placements for several years. Such a restriction could hamper its private bank’s efforts to raise funds for hedge funds and other clients through a key channel or sell bonds or stocks privately to rich investors and other sophisticated investors.

While banks are allowed to conduct private placement offerings, firms that violate the rules that these securities are under will lose privilege unless they are given a waiver.

Lawsuit Accuses Intel of Investing 401K Monies Improperly
An ex-Intel Corp. employee is suing company officials for breach of fiduciary duty. According to Christopher M. Sulyma, the company invested defined 401K participants’ retirement funds in high risk, costly private equity funds and hedge funds.

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The nation’s highest court has just made it easier for workers to sue their 401k plans for charging excessive fees for investments. The case is Tibble v. Edison International, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously for the ex-workers of Edison International.

The plaintiffs contended that the plan fiduciaries’ decision to choose six retail-class mutual funds (out of the forty selected for the retirement plan) was based on the higher fees that these funds charged, compared to institutional class funds that were also allegedly available to investors. Under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), retirement plans that are sponsored by an employer have a fiduciary obligation to choose investments that are appropriate and remove any that cease to meet the criteria set up in the investment policy statement.

Five years ago, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California awarded the plaintiffs a $370,732 judgment over damages involving the high fees in three of the retail share class funds at issue. The claims against the other three funds are the ones that went to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and now the Supreme Court.

In a civil case that is still underway, a number of Ameriprise Financial Inc. workers are suing their employer for what they claim was $20 million in excessive costs that resulted because the company put their 401(k) contribution in proprietary funds. The complaint, filed in September in the U.S. District Court in Minnesota last September, has been seeking class action status.

The 401k plan under dispute was launched in 2005 and the class action securities lawsuit is looking to represent everyone that the plan has employed since then. Over 10,000 members may qualify to become part of the class. The group is led by several former and current Ameriprise plan participants.

Also named as defendants in this civil suit are Ameriprise’s 401(k) investment committees and employee benefits administration. According to the plaintiffs, the defendants violated their fiduciary obligation to the retirement plan, which included investments involving mutual funds and target date funds from RiverSource Investment LLC (an Ameriprise subsidiary that is now called Columbia Management Investment Advisers LLC). The plaintiffs say that about $500 million in plan assets went into Ameriprise Trust Co. and RiverSource yearly.

The plaintiffs claim that the investment that their money went into resulted in fees generated for Ameriprise Trust, RiverSource, and its affiliates. The Ameriprise workers say that the plan suffered over $10 million in losses due to excessive fees and expenses. They also believe that RiverSource was behind in their benchmarks, suffered outflows in the billions of dollars in 2006 and 2005, and was given poor ratings by Morningstar Inc.

The plaintiffs believe that defendants selected the more costly funds with the poorer performance stories to create revenue for ATC and RiverSource and that this also benefited Ameriprise. They say that Ameriprise violated its fiduciary duty, under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, to the retirement fund.

The plaintiffs are seeking disgorgement of all revenues, restitution, and all the money that was lost. They want the court to make sure the plan’s losses are paid back and participants are placed in the position they would have been in if only the plan had been administered correctly.

401K Plan Lawsuits
There are fiduciaries and owners of businesses that could find themselves in legal hot waters in the wake of the Department of Labor regulations that now require that the hidden, excessive fees in 401(k) plans be disclosed. Unbeknownst to participants, these fees have been reducing retirement plan balances. Also, the government is now pushing for full disclosure of all fees and wants retirement plan offerings to be provided to employees at the lowest costs possible.

There have ben other employees of other companies that have also filed their 401(k) fees class action lawsuits. For example, just last December, Walmart settled a $13.5 million class action complaint with its employees. The lawsuit blamed the company and Bank of America‘s Merrill Lynch unit for passing along expenses and high fees that were unreasonable to some two million workers.

Ameriprise workers sue over company’s own 401(k) funds, Investment News, September 29, 2011

Ameriprise workers seek class-action suit on 401(k), Star Tribune, September 29, 2011

More Blog Posts:

Ameriprise to Sell Securities America Even as it Finalizes Securities Settlement with Investors of Medical Capital Holdings and Provident Royalties Private Placements, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, April 26, 2011

Ameriprise Broker Arrested for Defrauding Investors – Clients Say He Cashed Checks Made Out to Ameriprise, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, July 7, 2007
Bank of America to Pay $335M to Countrywide Financial Corp. Borrowers Over Allegedly Discriminating Lending Practices, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, December 21, 2011 Continue Reading ›

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