ERISA is the underpinning of the law and rules that govern qualified plans. This section covers updates and revisions to the law and the growing number of lawsuits under ERISA, outlines best practices and provides insights into how advisors can understand ERISA’s nuances, use them to help clients and win more business.


By Jenny Kiffmeyer4/4/2014 • 0 Comments

The ERISA Advisory Council, the entity that advises the Secretary of Labor on issues of concern with respect to employee benefit plans, voted at its March 26, 2014, meeting to focus on three key issues for 2014 — two of which relate specifically to qualified retirement plans. READ MORE

By Fred Barstein4/3/2014 • 0 Comments

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments April 2 in the Fifth Third Bank stock drop case. The heart of the issue is the duty of plan fiduciaries when managing company stock as a plan investment on behalf of their employees and whether the so-called Moench presumption of prudence should continue to exist. READ MORE

By Fred Barstein4/2/2014 • 0 Comments

Are plan fiduciaries which offer funds with a wide range of fees immune from excessive fee lawsuits? Until the recent 8th Circuit opinion in Tussey v. ABB, the answer seemed to be yes, as evidenced by the Hecker case. READ MORE

By Fred Barstein3/31/2014 • 0 Comments

New York Times business columnist Gretchen Morgenson gave a shout out March 30 to attorney Jerome Schlichter for his work in lowering 401(k) plan fees. Over the past eight years, Schlichter’s lawsuits have resulted in six settlements totaling $125 million, with five more cases pending. READ MORE

By Fred Barstein3/26/2014 • 0 Comments

Judging by his State of the Union address, retirement issues are front and center for President Obama. Increasingly, state governments are following suit, with at least 16 of them now considering variations on the auto-IRA theme. Now it looks like we can add the U.S. Supreme Court. Just as the Fifth Third stock drop case is set for oral arguments next week, the Court has asked the Solicitor General and the DOL to submit a brief on the Tibble case. Many believe the Court’s invitation indicates an interest to hear the case. READ MORE

By Fred Barstein3/20/2014 • 2 Comments

In a decision that exonerates Fidelity from liability, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld parts of a lower court’s ruling in Tussey v. ABB but reversed other parts — including the $13.5 million in attorney’s fees and costs awarded to Jerome Schlichter’ s firm. READ MORE

By Fred Barstein3/3/2014 • 2 Comments

Last week, a federal court in the Southern District of New York dismissed a proposed class action lawsuit by a 401(k) plan sponsor against Morgan Stanley acting as the plan’s broker. At the heart of the claim were payments made by the record keeper to MS to be part of the broker dealer’s Alliance Partner program. The plaintiff alleged that even though MS was not acting as a fiduciary, the payment was a prohibited transaction since the fees received were unreasonable because MS did not do any work on the plan. READ MORE

By Fred Barstein12/23/2013 • 0 Comments

Perhaps portending a trend in stock drop cases, Regions Financial agreed to pay $22.5 million to settle a lawsuit by their employees over company stock and bond funds offered by a subsidiary. Employees alleged that company stock, which fell precipitously, was too risky to be offered in the company’s 401(k) plan, as were bond funds offered by a former subsidiary, Morgan Keegan. READ MORE

By Fred Barstein12/17/2013 • 0 Comments

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision to allow class action status by Lockheed 401(k) participants. The plaintiffs, who were represented by Jerome Schlichter, were able to win class action status by splitting the classes into those who invested in the same funds, overcoming the 7th Circuit’s Spano decision. READ MORE

By Fred Barstein12/16/2013 • 0 Comments

As expected, the U.S. Supreme Court has accepted the Fifth Third Bancorp case involving a stock drop claim. In a September 2012 ruling, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revived a class action suit addressing the question of whether a plan fiduciary should enjoy a “presumption of prudence” in stock drop cases. READ MORE

By Fred Barstein12/3/2013 • 0 Comments

Last week, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Boeing’s request to appeal a lower court’s order granting class certification to Boeing’s participants in the Spano v. Boeing case. Boeing has 170,000 participants in their 401(k) plan. READ MORE

By Fred Barstein11/26/2013 • 2 Comments

Seeking to resolve an issue that one legal expert claims has been festering for 20 years, the Solicitor General has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a stock drop case in hopes of resolving a judicial split. READ MORE

By Fred Barstein11/18/2013 • 0 Comments

A new poll of more than 2,500 advisors conducted by the Financial Services Institute shows a clear and growing sentiment against the DOL’s proposed redefinition of fiduciary initiative. More than 90% of the advisors polled did not favor the DOL’s proposal. That number is up from 72% in February 2012. READ MORE

By Fred Barstein11/14/2013 • 0 Comments

At SIFMA’s annual meeting this week, SEC Chair Mary Jo White declined to specify a clear timeline for when her agency would release the much-anticipated uniform fiduciary rule. However, she reiterated that the rulemaking effort is a high priority on which she is personally spending time. White also commented that just because an advisor charges a commission, that does not mean there is a conflict. READ MORE

By NAPA Net Staff10/31/2013 • 1 Comments

While calling it her office’s “highest priority” and saying it was near completion, Assistant U.S. Secretary of Labor Phyllis Borzi declined to say on Tuesday exactly when her agency will submit a long-awaited proposal for revising the definition of fiduciary, a rule that could restrict the kinds of advice plan advisors can give to their clients. READ MORE

By Fred Barstein10/17/2013 • 0 Comments

The $35 million settlement brought by the Schlichter law firm in the Nolte v. Cigna case was officially approved by a federal court in Illinois earlier this week. The move follows a recent $30 million settlement in a case brought by the same law firm. READ MORE

By Fred Barstein10/2/2013 • 0 Comments

The Beesly v. International Papers lawsuit — whose plaintiffs were represented by Jerry Schlichter’s law firm — has been settled for $30 million. The same judge who recently ruled on the Spano case, which was allowed to go forward after an amended complaint about class action certification was filed, presided over the IP case. READ MORE

By Fred Barstein9/23/2013 • 0 Comments

Attorney (and FRA/PlanTools blogger) Thomas Clark reports a major victory for plaintiffs in Spano v. Boeing Co., one of the original 401(k) excessive fee cases filed in 2006 by Jerome Schlichter. The court granted the amended motion for class action in the case, which will now be allowed to proceed. READ MORE

By Fred Barstein9/16/2013 • 0 Comments

According to the benefits consulting firm Schneider Downs, the EBSA’s Office of Chief Accountant will be looking into the professional standards and compliance work of 400 ERISA auditors. Letters are expected to be sent out to plan sponsors requesting copies of the work papers; they will have 15 days to respond. READ MORE

By Fred Barstein8/13/2013 • 0 Comments

A federal district court in Connecticut ruled that the DC plan administrator is a fiduciary related to its revenue sharing practices regarding funds in a group annuity it manages. As part of the arrangement, ING has the ability to change, add and eliminate investments, and only has to notify the plan sponsor. The court dismissed ING’s motion for summary judgment and ordered the trial to proceed on Sept. 3. READ MORE

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