A former employee of Abbott Laboratories sued the company and its record keeper, Alight Solutions LLC, accusing plan fiduciaries and Alight of violating their ERISA duties because her 401(k) account was looted by an impostor.
Heide K. Bartnett alleges that $245,000 was transferred from her account without her knowledge, blaming the defendants for allowing the money to be transferred to an internet address in India before she could take steps to stop the fraud.
Although she contacted Abbott in January 2019, a few days after learning about the unauthorized withdrawal, "Ms. Bartnett continued to call several times a week, hoping that the defendants would be able to retrieve or return the funds looted from her account," said the April 3 complaint, Bartnett vs. Abbott Laboratories et al. filed in a U.S. District Court in Chicago.
The complaint described a lengthy effort by Ms. Bartnett and her attorney to get her money back. In April 2019, she received $59,494 from one bank for which the impostor set up an alternate account.
She continued to pursue her efforts with Abbott, resulting an "unsatisfactory resolution," the complaint said. Abbott representatives told her $48,991 had been recovered as the taxes withheld from the fraudulent withdrawal, which was then returned to her account.
"In or about December 2019," Abbott Laboratories contacted Ms. Bartnett's attorney, making a "take-it-or-leave-it offer to restore just 10% of the funds that had been stolen from Ms. Bartnett's plan account," the complaint said.
The complaint accused both Abbott Laboratories and Alight Solutions of failing to act promptly to detect and prevent the unauthorized pillaging of Ms. Bartnett's retirement account.
It also accused Alight of violating the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act by, among other things, failing to alert Ms. Bartnett promptly about the unauthorized withdrawal, failing to "adequately train call center representatives" to spot suspicious activity and failing to implement "adequate security measures" to prevent unauthorized account activity.
Alight declined to comment on the lawsuit but said it takes seriously the security of data and accounts it oversees and takes an "aggressive approach" in preventing fraud.
Abbott Laboratories did not immediately respond to questions.
The Abbott Corporate Benefits Stock Retirement Plan had assets of $9.24 billion as of Dec. 31, 2018, according to the complaint.