Jenner & Block

Firm Team Secures Important 7th Circuit Victory for Northwestern University

On March 25, Jenner & Block obtained a significant win for client Northwestern University when three-judge panel from the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit unanimously affirmed the lower court’s dismissal with prejudice of a proposed class action that accused the university of mismanaging workers' retirement savings.  The case was argued on May 23, 2019.
 
More than 20 universities have been sued over alleged mismanagement of their retirement plans in recent years.  Northwestern is the first university to have its dismissal affirmed on appeal. 
 
In their initial complaint, the plaintiffs objected to, among other things, the mix of investment options available in the plans.  The Seventh Circuit panel determined that the Northwestern fiduciaries had valid reasons for using two different recordkeepers and offering the challenged investment options.  In their opinion, the Seventh Circuit further concluded that plaintiffs’ “amended complaint appears to reflect plaintiffs’ own opinions on ERISA and the investment strategy they believed is appropriate for people without specialized knowledge in stock or mutual funds,” which defendants “cannot be faulted for” leaving to the choice of the participants.
 
The team was led by Partner Craig C. Martin, and included Partners Amanda S. Amert, Brienne M. Letourneau, and Matthew E. Price; Associates Alexis E. Bates and Monika N. Kothari; and Paralegals Mary F. Patston and Tyler N. Stilley.