A federal court judge in Tampa, Fla., has rejected an ERISA lawsuit by former employees of TrinNet Group Inc. who contended that a pair of TriNet 401(k) plans charged excessive record-keeping fees and retained poor investments.
"Plaintiffs have not put forth any evidence demonstrating that defendants breached their fiduciary duties," wrote U.S. District Court Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington on April 26 referencing the record-keeping complaint in the case of Huang et al. vs. TriNet HR III Inc. et al. "In fact, the undisputed record shows the opposite."
As for the plaintiffs' argument that fiduciaries retained poorly performing investments because they didn't adequately monitor the plan, the judge wrote that "there is substantial evidence that defendants prudently monitored the plan."
The judge granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment.
A motion for summary judgment is usually filed after the parties have completed discovery, giving a judge the opportunity to review details of a case. A motion to dismiss, usually requested soon after a complaint is filed, argues the plaintiff has failed to state a claim.
In fact, the judge had turned down the defendants' motion to dismiss the lawsuit in January 2022, writing that disputes between the parties "are better resolved at a later stage of the litigation."
The plaintiffs sued in September 2020, and they amended their complaint 12 months later.
Much of the judge's comments in granting the motion for summary judgment focused on the plaintiffs' expert witness. He "has not demonstrated that his methodology (for evaluating the TriNet plans) is reliable," she wrote. "His testimony is excluded."
TriNet is a professional employer organization that provides employee benefits and human resources services to small and medium-sized business.
The TriNet 401K Plan had $5.92 billion in assets, and the TriNet Select 401(k) Plan had $2.28 billion in assets as of Dec. 31, 2021, according to the latest Form 5500. Both are based in Bradenton, Fla.