After nine years of litigation, Boeing has agreed to pay $57 million to settle a class action lawsuit alleging its 401(k) plan offered bad investment options and charged excessive fees.
Attorneys for the 190,000 current and retired Boeing employees represented in the class said the payout was the second highest in an excessive 401(k) fee case. A preliminary settlement was reached on the eve of trial in August and the amount was disclosed on Thursday.
“This settlement, the culmination of over nine years of litigation, signifies our commitment to improving the 401(k) savings plans that Americans rely on for a secure retirement,” Jerry Schlichter, the lead plaintiffs’ attorney, said in a news release.
Including the Boeing payout, Schlichter’s firm has so far collected $271.5 million from class actions alleging nine large U.S. companies of violating the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) in their management of retirement plans.
Boeing has the second-largest retirement plan among U.S. companies, with $44 billion in worker and retiree savings, behind IBM with $48 billion of assets. Lockheed Martin has paid the biggest single settlement to date, a $62 million payout announced in July.
The Boeing plaintiffs alleged the aerospace giant breached its fiduciary duties under ERISA by allowing the 401(k) plan recordkeeper, CitiStreet, to charge employees and retirees excessive fees; by failing to obtain bids; and by including expensive and risky investment options in the plan, causing a loss of retirement assets to employees and retirees.
Boeing denied the allegations but has made a number of changes to its plan, including replacing mutual funds with lower-cost investment options.
“This settlement is a reasonable approach to avoid the additional expense of continued litigation,” Tony Parasida, Boeing’s senior vice president of human resources, said in a note to employees. “It’s not an admission of wrongdoing, and Boeing maintains that it has prudently managed and overseen the [plan] at all times.”
The parties have asked a federal judge in Illinois to approve the settlement. Other companies that have settled ERISA suits filed by Schlichter’s firm include Ameriprise Financial, Cigna, and Kraft Foods.