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Judge rejects claims that American Century 401(k) plan fiduciaries violated ERISA

A federal judge ruled in favor of American Century Cos., rejecting claims by participants in a company 401(k) plan that plan fiduciaries violated their duties governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

The plaintiffs — one current and one former participant — claimed plan managers improperly favored proprietary investments, mismanaged the plan lineup and "imprudently" monitored fees, among multiple complaints.

"The court finds plaintiffs have not proven by a preponderance of evidence that defendants breached their fiduciary duties to the plan," wrote Greg Kays, chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo., in his opinion Wednesday.

"Plaintiffs have not met their burden here, as they failed to establish a single instance in which the (investment) committee members placed American Century's interest over those of plan participants," Mr. Kays wrote. "It is not disloyal as a matter of law to offer only proprietary funds."

Participants sued American Century and plan fiduciaries in June 2016. In February 2017, Mr. Kays rejected the company's petition to dismiss the case, leading to a trial in September 2018.

"The record and (trial) testimony demonstrates committee members made careful investigations of investment decisions and acted in the best interests of the plan participants," Mr. Kays wrote in the case of Wildman et al. vs. American Century Services LLC et al.

"Plaintiffs also presented no evidence that any of the committee members benefited in their role as American Century employees based on the plan's lineup or performance," Mr. Kays added.

The American Century Retirement Plan had assets of $745.95 million as of Dec. 31, 2017, according to the latest Form 5500 filing.