"Defendants have vigorously denied and continue to deny the allegations, claims, and contentions of the class representatives, deny that they are liable at all to the class, and deny that the class or the plan have suffered any harm or damage for which defendants could or should be held responsible," said the settlement document filed by attorneys for the plaintiff.
"Defendants maintain that the Plan has been managed, operated, and administered at all relevant times in full compliance with ERISA," the document said.
The settlement calls for establishing a self-directed brokerage account within six months after a federal judge approves the agreement.
The plan has offered only T. Rowe Price funds. "The brokerage window will allow plan participants, for the first time, to invest in a wide range of non-T. Rowe Price investment funds, including mutual funds and exchange-traded funds, offered by other mutual fund families," the document said.
"This will allow participants to invest outside of T. Rowe Price in those situations where they believe there are better options elsewhere," said the document, adding that T. Rowe Price must offer this option for at least 10 years.
The settlement document also noted that T. Rowe Price in January 2019 paid certain participants $6.6 million to settle ERISA allegations based on this lawsuit, which was filed in February 2017.
The 2019 payment covered plan participants who had account balances at the end of 2011, 2012 and 2013.
"Defendants made this payment in an attempt to mitigate their liability for plaintiffs' claims that defendants violated ERISA's self-dealing proscriptions by causing plan assets to be used to pay fees for the use of T. Rowe Price's own mutual funds in the plan," the document said.
"The payment was intended to put the plan on an equal footing, for the years 2011-2013, with other plans offering T. Rowe Price funds that received credit for record-keeping fees," the document said.
The original lawsuit accused T. Rowe Price and fiduciaries of offering only T. Rowe Price investments to the exclusion of less-expensive investments offered by other asset managers.
The T. Rowe Price U.S. Retirement Program, Owings Mills, Md., had assets of $3.9 billion as of Dec. 31, 2020, according to the latest Form 5500.