July 13, 2015 – In the long-running Tussey v. ABB lawsuit, a court found ABB breached its fiduciary duties, but a procedural error by plaintiffs handed ABB the win.
On remand, a district court weighing whether fiduciaries to a 401(k) plan abused their discretion when making an investment lineup change found they did, but since plaintiffs in the case failed to prove damages using the appropriate calculation, judgement was entered in favor of the fiduciaries.
The decision was made in the long-running case Tussey v. ABB in the 8th Circuit. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the district court’s opinion concerning the ABB PRISM plan’s switch from the Vanguard Wellington fund to the Fidelity Freedom target-date funds shows clear signs of hindsight influence regarding the market for target-date funds at the time of the redesign and the investment options’ subsequent performance. The court added that it could not be certain that the district court would have come to the same conclusion had it used the correct standard of deference to the fiduciaries in deciding whether the change was appropriate in relation to plan and investment policy statement (IPS) terms. The appellate court vacated the district court’s judgment and damages award and remanded for further consideration using the abuse of discretion standard set forth in Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. v. Bruch.
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