$100M ERISA Class Action Filed Against Columbia University

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Santa Clara, CA: An ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) class action lawsuit has been filed against Columbia University alleging it breached its obligation under ERISA to prudently invest its employees' retirement savings.

In a class complaint alleging one hundred million dollars in damages, Plaintiff Jane Doe, a faculty member at Columbia University and a participant of the University's retirement plans, sued on behalf of herself and a class of 27,000 current and former Columbia University employees who participated in Columbia University's retirement plans. The complaint alleges that the University breached its fiduciary duties under ERISA. Columbia University, as well as University Vice President of Human Resources Dianne Kenney, who administers the deficient plans, are named as Defendants.

According to the complaint, Columbia University retained expensive and poor-performing investment options that consistently underperformed their benchmarks. This caused its 401(k) plans and their participants to suffer hundreds of millions of dollars in losses of retirement savings. As a result, the University's 401(k) plan included $4.6 billion of investment options that were primarily poor to mediocre performers. Among the plans' poor-performers, the complaint points to the plans' retention of the TIAA-CREF Stock Account R3, which, it alleges, has historically underperformed its benchmarks and other lower-cost investments that were available for inclusion in its retirement plans.

In addition to retaining poorly performing funds, the lawsuit charges that the University's plans offer excessively duplicative investments to beneficiaries. According to the complaint, this selection of funds violates the industry principle that too many choices harm participants, and can lead plan participants to "decision paralysis" and selection of inferior investments. In addition, the plans charge excessive fees for recordkeeping, administrative, and investment services, and retain excessively expensive retail share class options despite the lower-cost options available to their plans.

Plaintiffs are represented by Sanford Heisler, LLP.

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