A class-action lawsuit was filed today against Agilent Technologies Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and their deferred profit-sharing plans for shutting down a fixed-income investment option and forcibly transferring participant assets to a riskier balanced fund in May 2000. The suit filed by Brentley Coates, a 35-year employee of Agilent, which was spun off of Hewlett-Packard in 1999 claimed that liquidation of the fixed-income portfolio violated the plans fiduciary duty under ERISA. Alfred Sigmon, an attorney representing Mr. Coates, said his client lost one-third of the value of his portfolio.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of 1,500 plan participants in the U.S. District Court for Northern California, alleged that H-P had required that assets be gradually shifted into fixed income when participants were between ages 55 and 65. This policy become voluntary in 1990, but Mr. Coates said eliminating the fixed-income option was imprudent. The plans, with approximately $3 billion in assets, were frozen in 1993.
Agilent officials declined to comment; officials at H-P could not be reached for comment by press time.