Cases & Investigations

ERISA Lawsuit: University Employees are Paying Excessive Retirement Plan Fees

CASE STATUS: Under Investigation

Step 1: Are you an employee or former employee (or a dependent of an employee or former employee) of any of the following universities?

  • Baylor University
  • California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
  • Princeton University
  • Southern Methodist University
  • Syracuse University
  • Tulane University
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Notre Dame
  • Washington University

Step 2: Have you participated in a retirement plan provided by any of these universities?

Step 3: If you answered “yes” to the first two steps, fill out the form on this page. You may be able to participate in a class action lawsuit.

If you worked at any of the universities listed above, participated in the university’s retirement plan, and are interested in discussing a possible class action, please contact Todd Collins at or (215) 875-3040 or Ellen Noteware at or (215) 875-3051.

About the case

Berger Montague is investigating whether fiduciaries or service providers for university retirement plans have violated federal law concerning retirement plans by causing plan participants to pay excessive, unnecessary fees or by including among the plan options certain poorly-performing investments.

Sometimes universities provide retirement plans for their employees that charge excessive fees. Some plans hire not one but two recordkeepers, which can cause the plan-and the employees and former employee who participate-to miss out on economies of scale and pay more than they should.

In addition, some plans offer investment options that perform poorly in comparison to comparable investments (benchmarks). And some plans make available to participants higher cost (investor class) mutual funds instead of lower cost (institutional class) funds, even though lower cost funds are available.

Causing plan participants to pay too much, or offering plan participants poorly-performing investment options, may violate the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”).

What is ERISA?

ERISA is a federal law that sets standards for most retirement plans in private industry in order to protect individuals who are participants in those plans.

ERISA imposes fiduciary duties-the highest duties known to law-on the people who run retirement plans. It gives plan participants the right to sue where those fiduciaries fail to put the participants’ interests first.

Previous ERISA 401(k) settlements

Berger Montague has settled numerous ERISA 401(k) class action lawsuits:

  • Diebold v. Northern Trust Investments, N.A.: In August 2015, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois approved class action settlements totaling $60 million in cases brought by Berger Montague and other attorneys against The Northern Trust Company and Northern Trust Investments, N.A. on behalf of 401(k) and pension plans that invested in Northern Trust’s collective trusts. Plaintiffs alleged that Northern Trust breached its fiduciary duty by keeping for itself an excessive amount of the revenue generated by the collective trusts through the practice of securities lending. (Securities lending involves lending securities owned by the collective trusts to short sellers and others, who provide collateral that is then invested, supposedly in the interest of the retirement plans that invest in the collective trusts).
  • In re: Eastman Kodak ERISA Litigation: In October 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York approved a $9.7 million settlement on behalf of the participants and beneficiaries of the Eastman Kodak Employees’ Savings and Investment Plan and the Eastman Kodak Employee Stock Ownership Plan (the “Kodak Plans”). On behalf of plaintiffs and the participants of the Kodak Plans, Berger Montague charged that the Kodak Plans’ fiduciaries continued to invest in Kodak’s common stock, even though it was apparent that Kodak was an imprudent investment. The stock price collapsed, and Kodak eventually filed for bankruptcy.
  • Glass Dimensions v. State Street Bank & Trust Co.: In May 2014, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts approved a $10 million settlement on behalf of retirement plans that invested in a collective trust established by State Street Bank & Trust Co. under a master securities lending agreement. Berger Montague served as co-lead counsel in this class action case that involved more than 900 retirement plans invested in more than 250 collective investment funds. Plaintiffs alleged that State Street Bank & Co. breached their fiduciary duties and engaged in prohibited transactions under ERISA by charging excessive fees (50% of all net income derived) for the securities lending services the company provided.
  • Lequita Dennard v. Transamerica: In October 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa approved a $3.8 million settlement on behalf of current and former Transamerica Corp. employees who claimed the company did not live up to its fiduciary duty under ERISA with its 401(k) plan. Employees alleged that Transamerica breached its fiduciary duty under ERISA-which requires those that administer 401(k) plans to act in the best interest of the plan participants-when it offered investment options that benefited the company, charging employees excessive investment management and administrative fees.

Do I have to pay to consult with an attorney?

We are happy to talk with you about your potential claims free of charge. If we agree to represent you in a lawsuit, we will do so on a contingent basis, which means the attorneys advance all of the costs of the litigation, and the attorneys get paid only if we win a recovery on behalf of you and the other retirement plan participants.

Please contact us to discuss the details of your case. You may:

  1. Use the contact form on this page
  2. Email

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Lead Attorneys

Todd Collins Headshot

Todd S. Collins

Managing Shareholder
Ellen Noteware Headshot

Ellen T. Noteware


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