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Sixth Circuit Dismisses ERISA Stock Drop Action Against Cliffs Natural Resources

The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of ERISA stock drop claims by participants in the Cliffs Natural Resources’ 401(k) Plan. The participants alleged fiduciary breach claims based on public and non-public information arising out of the collapse in iron ore prices that caused the company’s stock price to decline 95%. With respect to the public information claim, the Court held that a “fiduciary’s failure to investigate the merits of investing in a publicly traded company” is not the type of “special circumstance” that can support a claim based on public information, and that plaintiffs also must plead “what, if anything, the fiduciaries might’ve gleaned from publicly available information that would undermine reliance on the market price.”

With respect to the non-public information claim, the Court rejected plaintiffs’ allegations that a prudent fiduciary could not have concluded that disclosing the inside information or halting additional contributions would do more harm than good. In so ruling, the Court determined that the plan fiduciaries could have concluded that divulging inside information would have caused the company’s stock price to collapse, further harming participants already invested in the fund. The Court also determined that closing the fund without explanation might be even more harmful: “It signals that something may be deeply wrong inside a company but doesn’t provide the market with information to gauge the stock’s true value.” The case is Saumer v. Cliffs Natural Resources, Inc., No. 16-3449 (6th Cir. Apr. 7, 2017).

© 2019 Proskauer Rose LLP.

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About this Author

Neil Shah, Proskauer Rose, Labor Rights Lawyer, ERISA Litigation Attorney,
Associate

Neil Shah is an associate in the Labor & Employment Law Department and a member of the Employee Benefits, Executive Compensation & ERISA Litigation Practice Center.

Rutgers University School of Law, Newark, J.D., 2009

 

cum laude

Order of the Coif

Managing Editor, Rutgers Law Review

Dean's Merit Scholarship

 

New York University, College of Arts & Science, B.A., 2006...

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