Judge sides with plaintiffs in Tibble v. Edison ruling

A U.S. District Court judge in Los Angeles this week has ruled for the plaintiffs in the decades-long fiduciary lawsuit Tibble v. Edison.

The judge on Wednesday sided with employees who claimed their firm, Edison International, failed in its fiduciary duty by not moving retirement plan participants to lower-fee institutional mutual fund share classes.

The ruling by Judge Stephen Wilson was issued 10 years after plan participants filed their original complaint against Edison International — the parent of Southern California Edison Co., which offered the Edison 401(k) Savings Plan. The plaintiffs argued that the company and its plan managers did not properly monitor the 17 funds on the company’s 401(k). Instead, employees said, they were offered more costly retail share classes of the 17 mutual funds, rather than institutionally priced ones.

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The plan, based in Rosemead, Calif., had $384.2 million in assets as of Dec. 31, according to its latest Form 5500 filing.

The judge said he accepts the parties’ agreement that damages were $7.52 million from 2001 to January 2011. Damages past 2011, the judge said, will be “based not on the statutory rate, but by the 401(k) plan’s overall returns in this time period.”

The case has had a long legal journey, including a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court in May 2015. The Court had handed the decision back to the lower courts, but opinioned that: “because a fiduciary normally has a continuing duty to monitor investments and remove imprudent ones, a plaintiff may allege that a fiduciary breached a duty of prudence by failing to properly monitor investments and remove imprudent ones. Such a claim is timely as long it is filed within six years of the alleged breach of continuing duty.”

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