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Gucci 401(k) participant sues over high fees, poor investments

A participant in the 401(k) for Gucci America Inc., Secaucus, N.J., sued the plan and corporate executives alleging that "unreasonable expenses" and "opaque, high-cost and poor-performing investments" represented a violation of their duties under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, claimed that the executives "mismanaged" the plan by using proprietary investment products from the plan's record keeper, Transamerica Retirement Solutions, and other Transamerica affiliates.

The plan executives "have failed to exercise even minimal oversight over Transamerica and have unduly relied upon Transamerica," said the lawsuit filed Sept. 15 in a U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J.

Transamerica was not named as a defendant in the case — Hay vs. Gucci America Inc. et al. The Gucci 401(k) plan had $97 million in assets as of year-end 2015, according to the latest Form 5500 report filed with the Department of Labor. The plan had been called the Gucci America Inc. Retirement and Savings Plan; it was renamed Kering Americas Inc. Retirement and Savings Plan.

Kering Americas, the plan sponsor and fiduciary since Jan. 1, 2016, is a unit of Paris-based Kering, whose luxury brands include Gucci, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and Brioni. Kering did not respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit accused the defendants of "failing to monitor" non-Transamerica investment options "to ensure that they provided adequate available returns and were not excessively priced." It also argued that defendants violated their fiduciary duties "by imprudently failing to monitor the fees charged directly and indirectly to the plan and its participants."

The lawsuit was filed by Shepherd, Finkelman, Miller & Shah and by the Law Offices of Sahag Majarian II.