No Damages Awarded for ERISA Plan Fund Mapping Claims
Mapping in a 401(k) plan occurs when an investment option is removed and the participant’s investment in that option is transferred to a different investment option (absent direction from the participant). On remand from the Eighth Circuit, the district court in Tussey v. ABB Inc., No. 2:06-cv-04305 (W.D. Mo. July 9, 2015), held that plan fiduciaries abused their discretion when they mapped participants’ investments from a balanced fund to the plan trustee’s managed allocation fund. In so ruling, the court found that the trustee and plan sponsor had entered into an improper cross-subsidization agreement whereby the trustee was paid above-market rates for providing services to the plan in exchange for providing various administrative services to the plan sponsor at a loss.
As a result of this conflict, the court held that the plan’s decision to map funds was “motivated in large part” to benefit the trustee and the plan sponsor, rather than the plan participants. Despite this finding, the court declined to award plaintiffs damages. The court held that because the plan’s investment policy statement contemplated the addition of a managed allocation fund to the plan’s investment options, the proper measure of damages was the “difference between the performance of the [balanced fund] and the minimum return of the subset of managed allocation funds the ABB fiduciaries could have chosen without breaching their fiduciary obligations.”
Although the court on remand allowed discovery on this damages calculation, neither party presented evidence regarding the performance of any alternative managed allocation fund. As a result, the court held that the plaintiffs had failed to satisfy their burden of proof on the issue of damages.