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Whatever Happened to the Class of 2016? Lessons Learned from ERISA Class Action Lawsuits

Broadridge fi360 Solutions

Nov. 18, 2021
Recorded Online

The latest wave of ERISA class-actions involving excessive fees and underperformance claims over the last decade have resulted in an estimated $1 billion-plus in settlements, and untold millions in legal costs for plan fiduciaries.  Out of the several hundred class-action complaints that have been filed since 2016, Fi360’s two presenters, Blaine Aikin, AIFA®, CFP®, CFA, and Duane Thompson, AIFA®, look to this seminal year for lessons that can be applied today in improving fiduciary practices.  Aikin and Thompson look closely at key datasets for trends.  Are the class-actions moving downstream to smaller plans?  Are pension advisers increasingly being named as defendants?  Some clues can be found comparing 2016 to 2021 filings, but there are no easy answers.  Eight of the 52 cases filed in 2016 remain pending.  One is on appeal to the Supreme Court with roughly a dozen pending cases put on hold by district judges awaiting this widely anticipated decision that may result in a tougher pleading standard for plaintiffs going forward and a clearer resolution to the question of whether the use of higher share classes of the same fund is imprudent.  Although only a handful of the 2016 complaints have resulted in bench trials, and only two Supreme Court decisions impacting the fiduciary standard since 2015, there are many ‘clues’ coming out of non-financial settlement conditions and other filings from the 2016 class-actions that should help ERISA fiduciaries – including their advisors -- better understand how to improve their own fiduciary decisions, including monitoring processes.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the core investment and administrative malpractice claims in ERISA lawsuits alleging fiduciary breaches by plan sponsors (and in some cases, their advisors)
  • Apply best practices to proactively ‘stay ahead of the curve’ in response to recent ERISA court decisions and settlements


Blaine Aikin, AIFA®, CFA, CFP®, Founder and Principal, Fiduciary Insights

Blaine Aikin is an expert on investment fiduciary responsibility with more than 30 years of experience applying best stewardship practices to manage investments overseen by governments, companies, non-profit institutions, and investment advisors. He worked in leadership positions for the U.S. Treasury, served as Budget Officer for Prince William County Virginia, was Chief Investment Officer for Allegiance Financial Advisors, and managed product development and management for PNC Advisors.

Prior to founding Fiduciary Insights in 2019, Blaine served as CEO and Executive Chairman of Fi360 and CEFEX. He continues to provide thought leadership and consulting services to Fi360 Broadridge Solutions.

He is a well-known speaker and author of numerous articles on fiduciary responsibility and investment management, including a monthly column in InvestmentNews magazine. He has been named to Investment Advisor magazine's IA25 list of the most influential people in the investment advisory community and one of the ten most influential individuals in the 401(k) industry by RIABiz. He served as a Director of the CFP Board of Standards from 2013 through 2016, Chair of CFP Board in 2017, and now serves on the Professional Standards Committee of the international Financial Planner Standards Board.

Duane Thompson, AIFA®, Senior Policy Analyst, Broadridge Fi360 Solutions

Duane is senior policy analyst at Broadridge Fi360 Solutions, a leading provider of fiduciary-focused software, data and analytics for financial advisors. He monitors and reports on current trends in federal and state regulation affecting market conduct rules in the financial services industry from a fiduciary perspective, as well as class-action litigation involving ERISA plans. He also is a contributor to Fi360’s Prudent Practices for Investment Advisors.

Previously Duane was managing director of the Financial Planning Association's Washington, D.C., office, the largest trade association in the country for financial planners, and has more than 25 years of government relations experience in both Washington and state capitals around the country. As FPA's chief lobbyist, Duane was responsible for overseeing the organization’s advocacy programs, including public relations work in Washington, D.C. He also managed the association’s highly successful national pro bono program.

Before joining FPA, Duane lobbied on state legislative issues for the International Franchise Association. Previous to that he served as press secretary to the late Rep. Michael Strang, R-Colo., and in the Reagan White House press office. He also was elected as a Colorado delegate to the 1995 White House Conference on Small Business.

Duane holds the Accredited Investment Fiduciary Analyst® designation, a Master's in journalism from the University of Missouri, and a Bachelor of Arts in history and studio art from Principia College. He resides in Sedona, Arizona.

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