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Judge dismisses Washington University ERISA lawsuit

A U.S. District Court judge has dismissed a claim by participants in a 403(b) plan run by Washington University in St. Louis that plan fiduciaries violated ERISA rules.

The participants had argued that fiduciaries of the Washington University Retirement Savings Plan had, among other things, caused the plan to overpay for record-keeping and administrative services and caused participants to pay higher fees because the plan offered retail shares instead of cheaper institutional shares for many investment options.

"Plaintiffs failed to allege a breach of fiduciary duties based upon plan participants' payment or purportedly excessive fees and record-keeping fees," said U.S. District Court Judge Ronnie L. White on Sept. 28, granting the university's motion to dismiss the complaint, which was filed in June 2017 and sought class-action status.

"Plaintiffs fail to allege that the process of choosing the investment options was flawed other than the mere inference of fiduciary wrongdoing," the judge wrote in the case of Davis et al. vs. Washington University in St. Louis et al. "These allegations are insufficient to allege a breach of fiduciary duties based upon excessive fees."

Todd M. Schneider, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys, said in an email: "We were disappointed with the result reached by the court. We are weighing our options and next steps." He is founder and partner of Schneider Wallace Cottrell Konecky Wotkyns.

The plan had $4.7 billion in assets as of Dec. 31, 2017, according to its latest Form 5500 filing.