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Settlement reached in Tussey vs. ABB fiduciary breach case

After more than 12 years in court, a $55 million settlement has been reached in an ERISA breach case involving ABB Inc., Cary, N.C., and participants in two ABB 401(k) plans.

In settlement papers filed Thursday in a U.S. District Court in Jefferson City, Mo., attorneys for both parties asked the court to grant preliminary approval to the settlement agreement; approve the class notices for distribution to the settlement class; and order any interested party to file any objections to the settlement within a time limit set by the court and contained in the settlement agreement.

The parties also requested the court schedule a final fairness hearing to receive "evidence, argument, and any objections relating to the parties' settlement agreement" and, following the hearing, enter an order granting final approval of the agreement and dismiss the action with prejudice.

At issue in the case that was originally filed in late 2006, were the plans mapping participants to the Fidelity Freedom Funds target-date series from Vanguard Group's Wellington Fund. Plan participants had accused ABB of a mapping decision that was "based on self-interest rather than what was best for the plans," according previous court documents.

In 2012, the plaintiffs obtained a $36.9 million judgment, which was then appealed in two separate actions to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, and twice remanded to the District Court for further proceedings, a news release from the plaintiffs' law firm, Schlichter Bogard & Denton, noted Thursday.

Founding partner Jerome Schlichter said that ABB and Fidelity spent 13 years and $50 million fighting the case.

The plaintiffs previously obtained a court order extensively reforming the 401(k) plan to reduce fees. In the settlement, the plaintiffs' losses will be addressed with damages, according to the news release.

In 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition to hear the case.

In an emailed statement ABB spokesman Michael Edmond Isaac said, "ABB believes it is a fair and reasonable settlement and is ready to move forward."

—Hazel Bradford contributed to this report.