Settlement details have emerged from the U.S. District Court
for the Eastern District of Virginia in Employee Retirement Income Security Act
(ERISA) litigation involving the National Rural Electric Cooperative
The NRECA is a national service organization that represents
more than 1,000 rural electric cooperatives around the United States. One of
NRECA’s primary functions is to administer three ERISA plans covering member
cooperatives’ employees—a health and welfare plan, a traditional pension plan
and a 401(k) plan.
The litigation arose after participants in the 401(k) plan
accused the association and plan fiduciaries of engaging in prohibited transactions
with respect to the plan in violation of ERISA, to the detriment of the plan
and its participants. The complaint alleges the plan’s administrative costs are
grossly excessive. It notes that the plan is one of the 75 largest defined
contribution (DC) plans in the United States, out of more than 650,000. As a
result, it says, the defendants have access to the most competitive pricing and
services in the marketplace.
“While fiduciaries of similarly sized plans typically incur
administrative expenses well under $100 per participant, the plan’s
administrative costs are wildly out of scale at more than $400 per
participant,” the complaint states.
It now appears the parties in the lawsuit have reached a
settlement agreement, including a cash payment to the plan of $10 million to be
divided among current and former participants according to a detailed plan of
allocation to be established by an independent, court-approved fiduciary. The
settlement agreement permits as much as a third of the gross settlement amount
to be paid as attorney fees.
Other stipulations in the settlement involve requiring fee
reviews and analyses to occur on at least a triannual basis. These are likewise
to be conducted and overseen by an independent fiduciary and consultant. The settlement
agreement further mandates that NRECA will undergo a formal request for
proposals (RFP) process for recordkeeping services at least once every six
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