A landmark ERISA case about employer-sponsored retirement plans was settled last week for $61 million, after six years of litigation and more than $1 million in expenses on the part of the plaintiffs. The settlement, which involves General Electric and large class of plaintiffs, is being called the largest ever in an ERISA case alleging that a retirement plan improperly offered proprietary funds.

The settlement in the case, Haskins, et al. v. General Electric, et al., still must be approved by the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts and will be heard on Oct. 17. However, the settlement has been agreed to by both sides, with the papers citing the many years litigation can take and the uncertainty and risk that the plaintiffs face. The actual damages were calculated at $283 million but the settlement, which is about 21.4% of such damages, is at the higher end of the range for similar ERISA class action suits, according to court documents.

The lawsuit class could include as many as 250,000 GE employees who participated in the retirement plan through the period in question (Jan. 11, 2011, through June 30, 2016) a group that is estimated to have invested billions of dollars in the plan annually.

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