Supreme Court refuses to hear appeals in excessive fees case

3rd Circuit Court of Appeals decision allows plan participants to sue plan providers directly

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to consider two appeals in a case that accused John Hancock Life Insurance Co. of charging excessive fees on annuity insurance contracts in 401(k) plans.

By refusing to consider appeals in the case, the Supreme Court let stand an April ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia that in essence allows 401(k) participants to sue plan providers directly, instead of making them sue individual employers in many lawsuits, according to a story in the Chicago Tribune.

The 3rd Circuit decision partially reversed a lower court decision by finding that former plan beneficiaries could pursue ERISA claims without first demanding that fund trustees take action and adding the trustees as parties, the story reported. It did concur with the lower court that beneficiaries of 401(k) plans could not sue under the Investment Company Act of 1940 because they didn’t invest in the funds during their lawsuit and so couldn’t represent similar plaintiffs, the story reported.

The plan participants and John Hancock appealed the 3rd Circuit’s decision, but neither appeal was heard.

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