Judges affirm AUL Insurance owed no fiduciary duty to 401(k) plan

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of an insurance company on a 401(k) plan trustee’s lawsuit that the insurance company's revenue-sharing practices breached a fiduciary duty under the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.

“This case presents a challenge to the practice known in the 401(k) services industry as ‘revenue sharing’– an arrangement allowing mutual funds to share a portion of the fees that they collect from investors with entities that provide services to the mutual funds, the investors, or both. … As the existence and extent of revenue sharing has become more widely known, some have expressed concern that the practice unduly benefits mutual funds and 401(k) service providers to the detriment of plan participants. This concern has fueled a number of lawsuits alleging that the practice violates the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA),” Judge Diane Wood wrote in Robert Leimkuehler, as trustee of and on behalf of the Leimkuehler Inc. Profit Sharing Plan, and on behalf of all others similarly situated v. American United Life Insurance Co., 12-1081, 12-1213, & 12-2536.

Leimkuehler Inc. operates a 401(k) plan for its employees and American United Life Insurance Co. provides services to the plan. Plan participants’ contributions in mutual funds are deposited into a separate account that AUL owns and controls. AUL uses the funds in that account to invest in whatever mutual funds the plan participants have selected.

Robert Leimkuehler as trustee sued alleging AUL’s revenue-sharing practices breached a fiduciary duty to the plan under ERISA. The District Court granted AUL’s motion for summary judgment, finding AUL didn’t owe any fiduciary responsibility to the plan with respect to its revenue-sharing practices and that it wasn’t a “functional fiduciary” under 29 U.S.C. Section 1002(21)(A).

“We therefore confirm that, standing alone, the act of selecting both funds and their share classes for inclusion on a menu of investment options offered to 401(k) plan customers does not transform a provider of annuities into a functional fiduciary under Section 1002(21)(A)(i),” Wood wrote.

The judges also noted that AUL’s control over the separate account can support a finding of fiduciary duty only if Leimkuehler’s claims arise from AUL’s handling of the separate account.

“They do not. As we noted earlier and as Leimkuehler concedes, AUL selects share classes and decides how much it will receive in revenue sharing when it designs its investment-options menu. Those steps occur well before a Plan participant deposits her contributions in the separate account and directs AUL where to invest those contributions. Because the actions Leimkuehler complains of do not implicate AUL’s control over the separate account, the separate account does not render AUL a fiduciary under the circumstances of this case,” Wood wrote.

The judges also affirmed the denial of AUL’s motion for attorney fees or costs under ERISA or under the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d).


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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues