A federal judge in Indianapolis has dismissed a lawsuit against Cook Group Inc. and fiduciaries by a 401(k) plan participant who alleged ERISA violations linked to the plan's record keeping.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard L. Young on June 16 dismissed the lawsuit "with prejudice," meaning the plaintiff cannot refile the complaint in his court.
The plaintiff filed two amended complaints in addition to the June 2022 original lawsuit, and he offered 16 different record keepers as comparative evidence in allegations of ERISA violations. "None of which are meaningful benchmarks for the Cook plan," the judge wrote.
Citing another court's ruling, the judge added that "'in court as in baseball, three strikes and you're out,'" for his ruling in Mateya vs. Cook Group et al.
The plaintiff said Cook should have replaced its record keeper, Fidelity Investments, because other record keepers were cheaper. Fidelity isn't a defendant.
The plaintiff "did not undertake an analysis of the services each plan provided and only alleged the prices each plan charged to participants," the judge wrote. "This is insufficient to state a claim."
The judge also criticized several "methodological errors," which rendered torpedoed the plaintiff's comparisons.
"These errors prevent any like-for-like comparisons between the different plans, which fatally undermines any inference that Fidelity's fees were unreasonable," the judge wrote.
For example, the plaintiff compared a seven-year average of the Cook plan's record-keeping fees vs. single-year fees from other plan's record keepers. Here, the plaintiff "fails to allege any meaningful comparisons that would plausibly indicate the (plan's) advisory committee breached its duty of prudence by failing to remove Fidelity," the judge wrote.
Bloomington, Ind.-based Cook Group is a privately held conglomerate whose businesses include medical devices, life sciences, aviation services, property management and resorts.
Cook Group Inc. Profit Sharing Plan, Bloomington, Ind., had $1.29 billion in assets as of Dec. 31, 2021, according to the latest Form 5500.