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Clark v. Duke Univ.

United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina

April 13, 2018, Decided; April 13, 2018, Filed

1:16-CV-1044

Opinion

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Catherine C. Eagles, District Judge.

In this ERISA action, the plaintiffs contend that the defendants breached their fiduciary duties to the plan by failing to investigate and include low-cost recordkeeping services and funds with reasonable fees and by including imprudent investment funds. They seek certification of a class made up of current and former participants of the plan. Because the plaintiffs have established [*3]  Article III standing and meet the class certification standards set forth in Rule 23(a) and Rule 23(b)(1), the Court will grant the motion for class certification.

BACKGROUND

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act imposes fiduciary duties "on those responsible for the administration of employee benefit plans and the investment and disposal of plan assets." Tatum v. RJR Pension Inv. Comm., 761 F.3d 346, 355 (4th Cir. 2014). A fiduciary who breaches ERISA-imposed duties is personally liable for any losses to the plan resulting from the breach. 29 U.S.C. § 1109(a). ERISA authorizes any plan participant to bring an action on behalf of the plan for a breach of fiduciary duty, including the right to seek associated monetary and injunctive relief. 29 U.S.C. §§ 1109(a), 1132(a)(2).

The plaintiffs are participants and beneficiaries in the Duke Faculty and Staff Retirement Plan. Doc. 72 at ¶¶ 13-17; Docs. 70-2, -3, -4, -5, -6. The defendants are Duke University, the Duke Investment Advisory Committee, and individuals members of the advisory committee.

The plaintiffs assert that the defendants breached their fiduciary duties to the Plan by failing to monitor and control the Plan's recordkeeping services, allowing the Plan to engage in related prohibited transactions with its recordkeepers, failing to prudently monitor the Plan [*4]  fund options resulting in the inclusion of funds with overly high expenses and fees and of two allegedly imprudent funds, and violating the Plan's Investment Policy Statement by including and retaining the CREF Stock Account fund in the Plan. See Doc. 72 at ¶¶ 229-63. The plaintiffs allege that the defendants' breach resulted in higher Plan recordkeeping costs and the inclusion of lower performing, higher fee funds as compared to available alternative investments, all of which reduced the value of Plan's investments. Id. The plaintiffs seek equitable and injunctive relief, including that the defendants:

■ "make good to the Plan all losses to the Plan resulting from each breach of fiduciary duty,"

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2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 62532 *

DAVID CLARK, et al., Plaintiffs, v. DUKE UNIVERSITY, et al., Defendants.

Prior History: Clark v. Duke Univ., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 164370 (M.D.N.C., May 11, 2017)

CORE TERMS

named plaintiff, recordkeeping, funds, class member, invested, proposed class, breaches, defendants', imprudent, fiduciary duty, commonality, inclusion, fiduciaries, plaintiffs', class certification, undisputed, monetary, breach of fiduciary duty, class representative, plan participant, parties, losses, statute of limitations, certification, conflicts, questions, expenses, options, bids