The U.S. Supreme Court announced Friday it would hear oral arguments in an ERISA case, Hughes et al. vs. Northwestern University et al, in which participants in two 403(b) plans allege being charged excessive record-keeping fees and high investment option fees.
The court provided no comment other than to say Justice Amy Coney Barrett took no part in the deliberation. The case will be argued when the court resumes work in October, although no date has been set.
The plaintiffs submitted their request for court review in June 2020 after having suffered defeats at the District Court and appeals court levels. They asked the Supreme Court to hear their appeal, arguing that the ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Chicago, conflicted with ERISA opinions by other federal appeals courts, thus creating a so-called circuit split.
The plaintiffs filed their initial complaint in August 2016 and an amended complaint in December 2016. They accused the fiduciaries of ERISA violations relating to, among other things, having too many record keepers and too many investment options as well as charging excessively high fees.
The Chicago appeals court ruled in March 2020 that a Chicago federal judge's dismissal of the participants' claims in May 2018 was correct.
"We find no error" in the District Court judge's decision, the appeals court judges wrote.
"Any plan participant could avoid what plaintiffs consider to be the problems with those products ... simply by choosing other options," U.S. District Court Judge Jorge L. Alonso wrote in dismissing the case.