A U.S. District Court judge in San Francisco rejected BlackRock's petition for summary judgment against a former employee's complaint that the company's 401(k) plan fiduciaries breached their ERISA duties.
The class-action lawsuit, filed in April 2017, accused the fiduciaries of emphasizing proprietary products in the plan. The investment options, the complaint added, underperformed comparable funds and charged higher fees than these funds. The original complaint said 93% of plan assets were invested in BlackRock-affiliated funds.
Judges can grant summary judgment if there are no "genuine" disputes about material facts, allowing the judges to rule "a matter of law," said the Tuesday opinion by Judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr., citing guidelines of federal rules of civil procedure.
"The court has not listed, or even attempted to list, every genuine dispute of material fact precluding the granting of summary judgment, because the existence of even one is enough to require denial of the motion," Mr. Gilliam wrote in the case of Baird et al vs. BlackRock Institutional Trust Co. et al.
Mr. Gilliam's ruling clears the way for a trial. The judge also rejected the plaintiff's request for a partial summary judgment concerning allegations that fiduciaries failed to follow the plan's investment policy statement.
The BlackRock Retirement Savings Plan, New York, had $2.71 billion in assets as of Dec. 31, 2019, according to the latest Form 5500.