Lockheed Martin Corp. and its workers and retirees agreed to delay a trial over its retirement plans by a day to see whether the dispute can be settled out of court.
A U.S. judge granted the delay “so that the parties can determine whether the case can be resolved short of a full trial,” said Jennifer Allen, a spokeswoman for Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed, in an e-mail Monday.
Lockheed is fighting claims its mismanagement of retirement benefit plans left workers with worse returns on company stock than investors who bought it on the open market. The workers accused the aerospace and defense contractor's in-house investment manager of charging them excessive fees and underdelivering on performance.
About 120,000 employees and retirees participate in Lockheed's retirement plans, which have $26 billion in assets, said Jerome Schlichter, a lawyer for the workers from Schlichter Bogard & Denton. The company calls the plans “among the nation's largest and most complex.”
The start of the trial in U.S. District Court in East St. Louis, Ill., was delayed until Tuesday after Judge Michael Reagan, who is hearing the case without a jury, warned he wouldn't consider any settlement proposals once the first witness is called.
“The parties have battled over virtually everything,” Mr. Reagan said in a two-page order dated Sunday. Citing his own obligation to ensure any resolution is fair to the suing workers and free from collusion, he said: “If a proposed settlement occurs, the court will consider it only in light of all the evidence presented.”
Mr. Reagan said the case, filed in 2006, is the oldest on his docket.
Mr. Schlichter, who has brought several similar cases including one to be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court, declined Monday to say whether settlement talks are underway.
In the Lockheed case, employees and retirees claim they were charged “unreasonable and excessive” fees that weren't incurred solely for their benefit and weren't disclosed, according to an amended complaint filed in 2011.
Lockheed and its investment management company are also accused of mismanaging employee 401(k) plans, including by offering a fund that didn't benefit people saving for retirement.
The company has denied the allegations.
“We believe that all allegations of improper management of our 401(k) savings plans are false,” Ms. Allen said in Monday's statement. “We remain committed to defending against the allegations.”