Previously, we discussed the Seventh Circuit’s August 2022 decision applying the context-specific language in the Supreme Court’s Hughes v. Northwestern decision to affirm the dismissal of an excessive fee case brought against the Oshkosh Corporation. On September 22, 2022, a federal judge in the Northern District of Illinois dismissed a similar excessive fee case brought against the Exelon Corporation. In Baumeister, et al. v. Exelon Corp., plaintiffs claimed breach of fiduciary duty by Exelon’s 401(k) plan fiduciaries based on the failure to monitor recordkeeping, investment advisory, and investment management costs under Exelon’s 401(k) plan. The district court dismissed the case, stating that, similar to Albert v. Oshkosh, the plaintiffs’ pleadings did not include sufficient context-specific facts to rise to the level of plausibility required to survive a motion to dismiss.
Philip L. Mowery joined the Chicago office of Vedder Price in the Executive Compensation & Employee Benefits group in 1988 and became a Shareholder in 1995.
He counsels a variety of corporations in the manufacturing and service industries on all aspects of employee benefits law, including the design, tax qualification, legal compliance, interpretation and communication of retirement plans and welfare benefit plans.
In January 2022, the Supreme Court held in Hughes v. Northwestern University, 142 S. Ct. 737, that courts must apply a context-specific inquiry to determine whether plan participants state plausible breach of fiduciary duty claims against plan fiduciaries for violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”) when selecting and monitoring investment funds and recordkeeping services under a plan. In so doing, the Supreme Court reversed the Seventh Circuit’s decision in Divane v. Northwestern University, 953 F.3d 980 (7th Cir. 2020) (now known as Hughes), stating “The Seventh Circuit erred in relying on the participants’ ultimate choice over their investments to excuse allegedly imprudent decisions by [Northwestern fiduciaries].” 142 S. Ct. at 742. Hughes is pending before the Seventh Circuit on remand.…