U.S. District Court Allows ERISA Claims for Breach of Fiduciary Duties to Proceed Against Pension Fund’s Investment Advisers

Plaintiffs are participants in the Inductotherm Companies Master Profit Sharing Plan (Plan).  Their Complaint, arising out of poor performance of the Plan, alleges 22 separate claims against three sets of defendants: (i) Inductotherm Industries, Inc. and the Plan’s trustees, (ii) investment managers Financial Services Corporation, its wholly-owned subsidiary FSC Securities Corporation (FSC Securities) and the Wharton Business Group (Wharton), and (iii) American International Group (AIG) and certain SunAmerica companies, all of which were alleged to be affiliated with SunAmerica Money Market Fund, in which certain Plan assets were invested.  AIG is also the parent corporation of Financial Services Corporation.  The Complaint includes sixteen claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) for breach of fiduciary duties, two common law claims of fraudulent concealment, three claims involving violations of federal and state laws regulating securities, and a claim under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).  See “Is That Your (Interim) Final Answer? New Disclosure Rules Under ERISA To Impact Many Hedge Funds,” Hedge Fund Law Report, Vol. 3, No. 33 (Aug. 20, 2010); “How Can Hedge Fund Managers Accept ERISA Money Above the 25 Percent Threshold While Avoiding ERISA’s More Onerous Prohibited Transaction Provisions? (Part Three of Three),” Hedge Fund Law Report, Vol. 3, No. 24 (Jun. 18, 2010).  In a decision that sheds light on how hedge funds that have pension fund investors might fare in lawsuits arising out of poor performance, the District Court held that FSC Securities and Wharton were plan fiduciaries and that the Complaint against them stated valid causes of action for violations of ERISA.  We summarize the Court’s decision, with emphasis on the investment manager defendants.

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